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Why do some relationships fail when others succeed? How do some couples manage to keep the spark alive after decades of marriage, while others who were madly in love break up? We look at the keys to a successful relationship, and how you can make sure you focus on what really matters in the long term.

Become a team player

When we’re only thinking about our own needs and feelings, we’re forgetting that relationships are a team sport. This makes it difficult to understand your partner’s frustrations or be willing to compromise for the sake of the relationship. Remember that you’re in this together and work towards what is best for the team – even if that means making a few personal sacrifices. In fact, research by the University of California found that couples who use the word ‘we’ instead of pronouns like ‘me’ and ‘I’ were happier, calmer and all-round better for each other.

Learn how to spend time apart too

Your relationship may be a huge part of your life, but unless you make room for personal growth and development, too, it can start to feel a little like a cage. Having alone time and the space to enjoy your own hobbies and interests (and allowing your partner to do the same!) is a big key in a successful relationship.

Show affection and appreciation even when you don’t really feel like it

Yes, you may have had a stressful day at work, or simply gotten out of the wrong side of the bed that morning, but that’s not your partner’s fault. It’s when we don’t really feel like making those little gestures and showing some affection that it goes the furthest. Take a breath, put on a smile, and be nice – it’ll probably end up making you feel better too!

Keep the sizzle alive

Many, many couples and therapists will tell you that your sex life (or lack thereof) is often the first area where cracks in the relationship start to become apparent. Keeping things interesting and exciting isn’t always easy, but letting your partner know you find them attractive and appealing is vital – especially if you’ve been together for some time. Find ways to reignite the spark that works for you, whether that’s putting on a slightly racier movie than you’d normally watch, or visit a tantalizing website like Allure Sensuality Emporium together to get your creative sexy-time juices flowing!

Work at resolving conflicts rather than avoiding them

No-one likes having those difficult conversations about emotions or the deeper issues in a relationship. They make us feel exposed and vulnerable, so it’s not hard to understand why it’s so tempting to put them off or avoid them altogether. When we do though, we’re almost inevitably setting ourselves up for a massive blowup later – the kind that can damage a relationship irreparably.

The good news is that with just a little bit of practice – making sure to really listen to what your partner is saying and trying to see it from their perspective – it gets easier very, very quickly.

Have fair and realistic expectations

Every relationship has its ups and downs – that’s a part of life, and it’s unrealistic to expect otherwise. Your partner won’t always be as supportive as you’d like them to be, you will have disagreements, and circumstances beyond your control may have an effect on your partnership. Make sure to check in with yourself from time to time and make sure what you’re asking of your partner is reasonable – and if you’re treating them the way you’d like to be treated.

Keep trying new things

In a new relationship, we welcome opportunities to try new experiences, visit new places, try different foods, or even take cooking or dancing classes together. Reminiscing and looking back on these experiences and memories as your relationship matures is great – but it’s important to keep finding new things to try too. The great thing about having a partner in the first place is having someone to go on adventures with – so keep exploring!

Show your gratitude

No-one likes to feel unappreciated or taken for granted – so keep that in mind when dealing with your partner. If you make sure to thank them for the little things, especially the ones they perform routinely, they’ll almost certainly respond in kind. Knowing you’re valued and that the effort you put in is appreciated is immensely rewarding and helps create a firm foundation of mutual respect – and that will always be the basis for any successful relationship.