When it comes to creating successful relationships, you need certain critical traits in place. Traits not just merely "present," but existing in a real and genuine way that emanates from each partner through their own want (not because someone is complaining). The moment "give and take" becomes forced, resentment and disconnection surface and your relationship suffers.
To create a successful relationship that truly lasts, here's what every couple needs:
1. Acceptance. Too many people talk about tolerance, but great couples don't "tolerate" each other's quirks and differences—they accept them. They celebrate their similarities AND their unique differences. They recognize that if you can find someone who addresses 60 percent of your wants and needs, you're truly lucky/blessed. Acceptance makes you and your partner both feel safe to share your true selves. You don't fear judgment, because you aren't being judged.
2. Honesty and trust. Being honest is mostly an individual decision, based on self-worth, self-confidence, and knowing you/your actions are accepted -- even with flaws and mistakes. Trust follows when each person has undeniable faith that they can believe the other person—unequivocally.
3. Respect. Many people confuse attention with respect. Attention is great, and it shows love, desire, connection, and passion. Respect is a deeper level of connection, where you value the person at an innate level, without the promise of reciprocation.
4. Loyalty. In today's temporary relationship-driven society, loyalty has largely turned situational—meaning that many people have only become as loyal as their current wants, needs, desires and opportunities. With acceptance, honesty, trust and respect in place, loyalty is largely automatic. If your partner feels attracted to someone else, experiences a level of disconnection, or has a change of heart -- it is discussed -- openly and honestly.
5. Staying present. Technology is ever-present in our world -- and it transfers to our relationships. Mobile devices, social media, and technology overall makes it easy to mentally check out from where you are and who you're with physically. Successful couples recognize that technology is a tool for their individual and joint use, but it doesn't disconnect them from their relationship.
6. Affection and passion. Everyone wants to feel loved, and sustaining physical connection is a big part of that. Whether together two months or 20 years, the little things like holding hands, shoulder touches, and sitting together make a very big difference. A healthy sex life is the extension of that affection, helping you and your partner maintain a connection level that is simultaneously physical, mental, and emotional.
7. Humor. Laughter makes everyone smile, feels great, and works like magic to build, maintain, or restore balance (and attraction) in your relationship. Whether it's simply telling a joke, playfully teasing your partner, or enjoying a ridiculous conversation, humor builds a happy connection that transcends any individual or joint stress and keeps you enjoying each other's company.
8. Effective disagreements. Arguments in a relationship are normal. It's how you handle them and repair communication that makes your relationship last. Talking through issues with active listening (meaning: not just waiting to explain your own views, but rather, really listening to their side/experience and then offering empathy -- regardless if you agree or not), being patient, and not judging allows both of you to maintain your opinion/views on the matter and still connect with one another. People in long-term relationships often have a choice: Being happy or being right. Hint: Happy is better!
9. Privacy. Today, there is an epidemic of over-sharing, and in relationships, this is often a death sentence. Bottom line: What happens in your relationship isn't for public consumption. It's none of anyone's business. Keeping things between you and your partner and excluding others from your inner-workings -- to include kids, parents, friends, and strangers -- is of paramount importance.
10. Maintaining your individuality. A successful relationship is made up of two individuals. Your partner still has interest in things they like, whether you're interested in them or not. Having your own lives outside the relationship not only contributes to each of you maintaining a sense of self-worth and self-esteem, but also gives you things, accomplishments, and interests to bring back to your relationship and share with your partner.
11. Support and sharing. Paying attention to your partner's activities -- as well as sharing your own -- keeps couples connected on a day-to-day basis. Lending opinion and insight, or just a compassionate ear when things get tough makes all the difference. When you care about and respect your partner, you want to know what they're doing and how you can help them achieve their goals -- even if that means you see them less. Being invested in their lives is what contributes to you both people feeling valued.
12. Consideration and gratitude. The moment you're no longer grateful for your partner is the moment you start disconnecting, becoming complacent, and/or building resentment. Show consideration to and appreciation for your partner -- just for being who they are. They, in turn, will feel grateful as well, and that's a great cycle to be in.
In reviewing these 12 tenets of great and lasting love, one thing becomes crystal clear: It's the little things that count most.
Trips and gifts are great, but it's the everyday behaviors that count more. Additionally, couples need to realize that a family is not the same as a marriage. Families need time to grow and stay connected, and a marriage is no different -- but the marriage is between the couple, not everyone in the family.
A couple that takes time to do the things that made them fall in love in the first place will find themselves connected and happy long after the newness of the relationship has passed. A couple that thinks marriage is automatic and takes things for granted will likely find themselves in divorce court.