How To Make A Relationship Last (More Than Chemistry)

Posted in   Blog, Relationship Building And Communication, The MamaSutra   on  September 15, 2023 by  The MamaSutra minutes remaining

You know those movie scenes where two starry-eyed lovers lock eyes across the room and bam! — instant electrifying connection? Yeah, we’ve been fed that narrative a thousand times. But for real? For long lasting relationships? Attraction is your appetizer, shared values are the main course.

I recently had a discovery call with someone who opened up about his journey through multiple marriages. He candidly shared that in his younger years, he placed a significant emphasis on attraction, almost missing out on something crucial. As it turns out, the real magic, the secret sauce, all boiled down to aligning values.

It’s a story that resonates deeply. 

Contrary to what we might be led to believe, long term relationships aren’t built solely on chemistry and attraction. A solid foundation is formed with values that align, goals that sync, and aspirations that harmonize.

I’ll go through everything that makes for a long term relationship so that you can create the relationship of your dreams. Here’s exactly how to make a relationship last.

The MamaSutra's Touch Lab Cheat Sheet lasting relationships

What Makes A Relationship Last

When we chat about what keeps a relationship strong, it’s easy to jump straight to thinking about attraction and sex. But, you know what? The real magic that keeps two people together isn’t all about what happens behind closed doors. It’s about all those other moments – how we talk to each other, the little ways we show we care, and rooting for each other’s dreams. It’s about feeling safe enough to be real with your partner and knowing they stand with you. Sure, sex is a big part of intimacy, but the glue that really holds us together is that deep, emotional connection and the everyday choice to stick by each other.

Think about it.

The real secret to a fulfilling sex life isn’t just about mastering techniques or following a checklist; it’s about the connection and trust you build with your partner outside the bedroom. It’s about knowing them, loving them, and feeling so deeply rooted in trust that maintaining a sexual relationship becomes a natural, effortless extension of that bond. That’s the part they totally skip in sex ed classes, but it’s golden. 

When we start seeing sex not just as an act but as the beautiful by-product of a healthy, loving relationship, everything changes. It shifts from something you do to a celebration of the connection you’ve nurtured. This context matters because it transforms how we approach intimacy, making it richer and more meaningful.

This is not to say hook-ups are “bad.” It’s important to approach discussions around hookup culture with a non-judgmental mindset. Everyone’s experiences and needs are unique. Looking through the lens of sex as the outcome of a deep emotional connection and trust, hookups can appear to lack the depth and sustained intimacy many people crave. This isn’t to dismiss or judge those who find value or pleasure in more casual encounters; it’s an invitation to examine what we seek from our sexual experiences and relationships. 

For some, hookup culture might feel liberating or perfectly suited to their current needs. For others, it might feel lacking because it is basically bypassing the emotional depth and trust that can shift sex into a more profound and fulfilling experience. The key is to make sure that individuals feel empowered and informed to make choices that align with their own values, desires, and understanding of intimacy.

Beyond the Spark

Sure, sparks flying around like a fireworks display is a great kickoff to any love story. It’s the heartbeat-racing, butterfly-inducing magic that scribbles the first lines of a romance novel. But honey, let me tell you, the blockbuster love story unfolds in the unison of shared dreams, echoed laughter over silly inside jokes, and that warm, fuzzy feeling when you realize, “Hey, this person gets me!” And where you can really be yourself without the performance of being who or what you think they want.

Let’s dive into a vital aspect he highlighted and explore how we can all benefit from this revelation:

Attraction Isn’t Everything

Attraction is undoubtedly magnetic, but it’s not the only force at play in a long lasting relationship. Enjoy those hot dates and the swoon-worthy moments but remind yourself to look beyond. While it may seem surprising coming from a sexologist, let me tell you this: sex, though significant, isn’t the be-all and end-all of a relationship. 

Sex (frequency, interest, mismatched libidos, etc) will naturally fluctuate throughout the lifespan of your relationship. What’s equally important, and indeed will be put to the test time and again, is the depth of your bond outside the bedroom. This foundational connection is what sustains a relationship through the ebb and flow of life. Stay aware and curious enough to play detective, grab your magnifying glass and go on a values-hunt.

Think of it like shopping for the perfect pair of jeans. You’re not just looking for the ones that look gorgeous on the hanger, you’re looking for the ones that feel just right, that fit like they were made for you, showcasing your spectacular self in all your glory.

Sex And Intimacy In A Long Term Relationship

Communication, love, and trust are the bottom line for making a relationship last. Surprised it’s not sex? Yeah, when we educate about sex we need context and long term vision. Without it, we’re just making it as tactical as learning how to swim or drive. Sex is the outcome, not the main event. 

Ok this might seem like it’s coming from left field but here’s the deal. The real tip about making longer lasting relationships is great, accurate sex education. Most of us haven’t really thought twice about what we learned in sex ed, if we even got it. Some folks argue teens aren’t ready for it, forgetting they were probably figuring out their own sexuality at that age. The big miss? Thinking sex is just about the mechanics. That’s why we’re Googling “sexless marriage” or “how do I please my partner.” But here’s the secret: the best sex comes from a deep, genuine connection, whether that’s with someone else or just with yourself.

This is what we should be teaching our children (and learning ourselves). 

  1. Open Communication: It’s simple. Talk and listen like it’s the glue holding you together—because it is. It’s about being real with each other, sharing the good, the bad, and the awkward.
  2. Trust: This is the bedrock. It’s about feeling safe enough to be your true self, knowing your partner’s with you. This is the “in good times and in bad.”
  3. Love: Love is a verb, not just a feeling. It’s making a conscious effort to show up for each other, choosing each other, every single day, through the highs and the lows.
  4. Intimacy: It’s more than just being physical; it’s feeling close on every level. Really friends – you actually like each other. You feel seen and known, and love each other all the more for it.
  5. Connection: This is what it’s all about—feeling understood and valued by your partner. It’s laughing together, dreaming together, and facing challenges together.
  6. Freedom from…: Being in a strong relationship means you’re free from judgment and negativity. You get to be yourself, fully and without doubt.
  7. Freedom to…: It also means you’re free to grow, change, and chase your dreams, with your partner cheering you on every step of the way. 
Mature couple cooking in the kitchen together in rustic farmhouse

When we approach relationships with these core elements, even the concept of divorce shifts. It’s not seen as a failure but as a path you might take, with your partner’s support, just not together. It’s about recognizing that love and respect don’t necessarily end because a relationship does. This perspective fosters a healthier view on relationships and their natural progression, whatever form they may take.

By diving into what really makes us tick in relationships, we start to see why that old-school sex ed misses the mark. It’s not just about the physical stuff—it’s about building those deep, meaningful connections that light up every part of our lives, including our sex lives. It’s time for a shift, from viewing sex as just an act, to understanding it as a vital part of our human experience, enriched by real connection and love.

How To Make A Relationship Last

I’ve worked with countless couples on developing intimate relationships and I tend to give the same advice over and over again. When it comes to a committed relationship, it’s the small moments of concerted effort that can be the difference between a long term relationship and a situationship. Here is my top advice for a healthy relationship that last a long time:

  1. Address Resentment Early: The moment you sense resentment creeping in, take it as a cue to bring it to light. This proactive approach prevents small issues from festering into larger problems.
  2. Welcome Constructive Feedback: When your partner voices concerns, resist the urge to defend or dismiss. Instead, pause and see if you can find the kernel of truth in their words, aiming for a resolution or mutual understanding.
  3. Initiate Open Conversations: If there’s something on your mind, approach your partner with honesty and vulnerability. A simple, “I need to discuss something important with you, but I’m unsure how to start. Is now a good time?” can open the door to meaningful dialogue.
  4. Foster a Safe Communication Space: Cultivate an environment where both partners feel safe to express thoughts and feelings without fear of judgment or retaliation. Trust and love are the bedrock of any strong relationship.
  5. Be Mindful of Secrecy: Notice if you’re withholding information out of fear of disapproval or whatever reason. Treating your partner like a parental figure to whom you can’t be honest weakens the foundation of your relationship. Transparency is key.
  6. Prioritize Emotional Intimacy: Make regular efforts to connect on an emotional level, sharing your dreams, fears, and joys. This deepens your bond and ensures you both feel seen and understood.
  7. Plan Regular Non-Sexual Touch: It’s crucial to include non-sexual touch regularly—think hugs, hand-holding, or a gentle caress. Make it routine that it doesn’t lead to sex; you’re maintaining a physical connection. Putting these moments on your calendar ensures they’re a priority. Not all physical intimacy must lead to sex; strengthen your bond for those times when sex isn’t on the table, because it’s going to happen and that’s okay. It also helps make rekindling sexual intimacy more natural when the time is right.
  8. Maintain Individuality: While being a unit is important, nurturing your own interests, friendships, and hobbies is vital. It keeps the relationship fresh and allows both partners to grow individually.
  9. Practice Gratitude: Regularly express appreciation for each other, not just for what they do but for who they are. This fosters a positive atmosphere and strengthens your connection.
  10. Embrace Conflict as Growth: We get the idea from Hollywood and Disney that a wedding is the happy ending but in long-term relationships, you’re bound to be disappointed by your partner and disappointing to your partner. And practice strategies early in your relationship for conflict resolution so that you can view disagreements not as obstacles but as opportunities for growth. 
  11. Celebrate Each Other: Not just the successes (though that’s great too): Be your partner’s biggest cheerleader. Don’t fall into the lack of appreciation gap I see some couples do. Voice, your love and admiration, regularly, as well as celebrate, victories, big or small.  You want a bond of mutual support and admiration.
  12. Practice Forgiveness: Holding onto grudges can poison a relationship. Practice forgiveness – it’s about freeing your own heart, not condoning the past.
  13. Set Goals Together: Having shared visions or goals can steer your relationship towards a common future, enhancing your bond and teamwork.
  14. Check-in Regularly: Make time for regular check-ins with each other to discuss your feelings, the relationship’s health, and any adjustments you might want to make. I like to use anniversaries as a moment to evaluate the year, reset, and recommit. 

To make a relationship last, you need more than just spending time together. It’s in the quality time, where you’re able to safely practice open communication and demonstrate a deep commitment to respecting each other’s needs. This is why relationships are so magical! They can be a container for personal growth as you learn how to really love both yourself and your partner.

Next Steps For Making A Relationship Last

If you’re embarking on a new relationship or seeking to strengthen an existing one, consider this powerful insight. Dig beneath the surface, beyond the “rizz”, and explore the compatibility of values. Look for someone who aligns with your beliefs, aspirations, and principles.

Reflect and Reframe

Reflect on your own journey. Have there been times when you allowed their looks to overshadow their essence? It’s never too late to reframe your approach. Embrace the wisdom of shared values and allow them to guide your path toward lasting relationships.

Remember, attraction might be what draws us in, but ultimately, it’s the shared values that hold us close. By prioritizing this often-overlooked aspect, you’re nurturing a connection that goes beyond fleeting infatuation.

xxoo

Lanae

P.S. Not really sure what your own values are? Want something to help you break all this down? I’ve got a values clarification PDF that’s set to be your trusty guide. Consider it a personal roadmap to a romance.

About the Author The MamaSutra

Dr. Lanae St.John is a Diplomate of the American Board of Sexology and certified sex coach with a background in sexology and a passion for helping people improve their sexual health and relationships. She is the author of "Read Me: A Parental Primer for "The Talk"" and the upcoming "You Are the One: How stopping the search and looking inside will lead you to your romantic destiny," and is committed to staying up-to-date on the latest research and trends in the field. Dr. St.John aims to share her knowledge and expertise in a relatable and approachable way through her blog on themamasutra.com.

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