Vulnerability, which goes well with realistic and reasonable expectations (see first question). Feeling safe to be vulnerable about
Dani Janae, Writer
I never farted in front of my ex and our relationship crashed and burned just over a year in, so maybe let em rip.
In all seriousness, I think mutual respect and independence are the key to keeping a relationship together. Be cute together and apart, don’t be the couple that is never seen apart and when they are its an ordeal.
Super important, don’t say “I love you” when you don’t mean it. Wait until you really feel it and deal with the awkwardness that will probably come with it.
Heather Hogan, Senior Writer
Getting lucky enough to find someone who is willing to work as hard at it as you are — not just in the beginning, not only when working on it is working out which sex toys to buy together or whether or not bath tub sex is really even worth trying to figure out (it’s not), not only when working on it is dirty dishes and did you eat the last of my Cheerios and you forgot to lock the front door again and it’s your turn to call the landlord. I also mean working at it when you are raw and exhausted and in deep pain and external forces are conspiring against you and you’re crying and they’re crying and you can’t even make it through one conversation without one of you leaving the room.
In that dark night or week or month or year, having lucked into someone who never stops trying to see the good in you that they fell in love with, and will come back to the table again and again and again and sit on the same side with you and never stop working with you to forge a mutually beneficial path forward, and help heal each other, because you are doing that same thing for them. There’s no test for that. You can know what traits to look out for when you’re scouting for that kind of partner — self-aware, emotionally mature, takes responsibility for their actions and the pain they cause, knows how to apologize, is committed to self-betterment, etc. — but I think so much of finding someone who’s wiling to sharpen and soften all those skills inside the hard parts of a relationship is a lot of luck. And sometimes you don’t know until you know.
(I also think there’s something to be said for both people in a relationship working to be the kind of person someone wants to stay on a team with.)
Jehan Roberson, Writer
I think you have to stay open to discovering something new about yourself and about your partner. I think it’s so hard to keep relationships going because they require a baseline of vulnerability that’s hard to maintain, but I think it’s necessary.
Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya, Writer
Ahahahaha what does it say about me/my relationship history that the thing that first came to mind was DON’T LIE. Ok yes, don’t lie to your partner, but also that’s a horribly low bar for a relationship so it is not my real answer to the question.
I think a major factor for a relationship staying together is y’all’s relationships to OTHER people. You have to like their friends or at least make an effort, and they have to like your friends or at least make an effort. Beyond that, you should have a healthy mix of couples friends and your own friends. You should feel comfortable being with friends without your partner, and they should be comfortable spending social time away from you. It’s a nice sentiment for you to be dating your best friend…but you should also have a best friend who you are not dating. So I guess the success of a relationship also sort of depends on healthy FRIENDSHIPS. Wow, that’s cute.
Malic White, Writer
Letting each other change (and supporting each other through those changes) is vital if you want to stick together. If you resist your partner’s changing career, interests or beliefs, they’re clinging to your past self instead of support who you are in the moment. When you’re stuck in the past, a relationship’s future becomes impossible.
You have to really be able to be honest with yourself about both who you are and who they are. I think people force it because they WANT to end up together, but you’re going to grow and change. Also, don’t date someone who wants drama for the hell of it. Life is going to throw drama at you; a partner is someone who should be by your side as you get through it all. Not someone who wants a HUGE EXPLOSIVE ROMANCE WITH DRAMA.
Rachel Kincaid, Managing Editor
I am perhaps not the expert you want to consult in this situation as I’m really doing a Divorced Bird thing right now and for the foreseeable future, but reaching this point has given me a lot of opportunity to reflect on how our closest and most intimate relationships function! One thing I think about a lot is the disparity in how we treat the people we love most and spend the most time with as opposed to newer, shinier people that we don’t feel as secure with — usually the latter group really gets our best selves, the selves that are patient and generous and forgive and explain and give the benefit of the doubt. We often come home from a day of extending the most grace we’re capable of to our bosses, our friends, our clients, and then relax into our absolute worst selves around our families and our partners — irritable, snappy, defensive, checked out. It’s easier to do that because there’s trust there; we know they’ve already seen us at our worst in really vulnerable and meaningful ways, and they haven’t left, and because we have years of little annoyances and resentments and small (or big) betrayals that make us feel justified in it.
Even if we are justified! I think a difference in how we act with people outside our most immediate circle is that we are often willing to fake it when we aren’t feeling it; we’re tired or in a bad mood or still irritated at our work friend for RTing that bad take, but for the sake of the relationship, we’ll still keep our coffee date with them and summon up a good mood. One of the best things about a solid longterm relationship is that you don’t have to do that, and can relax into your bad mood, and I’m definitely not arguing for bottling up your feelings or suppressing actual issues in your relationship. But I think making the active choice, and it is something you have to actually try to do, to try to be our best selves to our partners even when we don’t feel like it in the same way that we do to the people in our lives we “have to” be nicer to goes an incredibly long way to making respect, trust and genuine love and intimacy possible in the long term, and it affirms for your partner that they’re a priority to you and encourages them to reciprocate with the same effort!
Renea Baek Goddard, Writer
Assuming best intentions from each other. That’s just a start, but it makes a huge difference. There will still be fights, there will still be rough patches, there will still be relationship issues, but starting from that simple rule, and going back to it as much as you can, makes it so much easier to work almost anything out. In my experience, relationships tend to fall apart after a build-up of resentment that stems from hurt feelings and insecurities. Don’t let it get to that point. Develop a habit of avoiding defensiveness and start assuming good intentions. React to your partner like they mean no harm. And just as important: be honest and open with them like they’re assuming the same thing about you, too.
Reneice Charles, Writer
It’s been my experience that the one reliable thing that ensures relationships will hold up is both people wanting the relationship to continue, and being equally committed to the work it takes to make that happen. I’ve seen relationships thrive with differing degrees of love, attraction, intimacy, and so many other things but as soon as there’s a disparity in partners wanting and choosing the work and the relationship it’s in danger.
Stef Schwartz, Vapid Fluff Editor
I am a workaholic and a perfectionist so in my most hopeless heart of hearts I always believe there is something I could have done to make a relationship work. I’m also a 36 year old woman who is medium nice and I’ve yet to be in a relationship that has lasted more than six months. When I figure that out, I will let you know.
Something I have recognized in my friends’ relationships that I am jealous of is this one particularly intangible quality where the two bring out the best in each other, creatively, socially and otherwise. Those are the relationships that tend to last. There’s just this spark when those two people find one another and it just makes SENSE and you can tell they feel totally comfortable and also inspired by each other; that is something I hope to find some day… but do not expect to, as love is a lie and each and every one of us will indubitably die alone.
Vanessa Friedman, Community Editor
Love is a choice you make every single day. Some people do not find this particularly romantic – I think there’s an idea out there that love just HAPPENS to you and it’s magic and not something you have to nurture to ensure it grows and thrives. That’s… a lie. Love is a verb, an action. Love is the foundation of a relationship and then life gets in the way and that’s what makes things messy… if you keep doing love, and choosing actions based on your foundation of love, you’ll be much more likely to stay together. That’s my hot take, and personally, I think that’s the most romantic thing in the world.