12 Trusted Relationship Tips From Experts and Real Couples
If finding your soulmate once seemed like a rocky road, get ready for the reality of how to make a relationship last. That's because relationships can be complicated, messy, and at times, downright hard. But the good news is that they're usually totally worth the effort.
You and your partner will need to navigate the relationship path in order to discover the route that works best for you, but that doesn't mean you can't stop and ask for directions along the way. But beware of the free advice offered up by friends, family, coworkers, and sometimes even strangers—just because the advice is available, doesn't mean it's always good. For more trusted sources, turn to a professional relationship therapist or Lasting, a science-based relationship app backed by The Knot.
So what if you're not married yet? Is therapy really worth it? The short answer is yes. Relationship advice is often helpful long before you hear wedding bells. And let's not forget the couples who've grown together over time. Marriage, like all relationships, changes and evolves over time, which means new advice may be welcome.
Whether your relationship status is one date in, recently engaged, honeymoon is over, or together so long you've lost count, we've gathered up the relationship advice of experts and real couples alike to help cement your commitment to one another.
Expert Relationship Advice
Marriage counselors and relationship experts have seen it all, from the good to the bad. Here's some spot-on relationship advice the experts give to their patients and clients.
1. Respect each other's minds. "You and your partner have two completely different minds that have been constructed over decades of time and continue to evolve," says Steven Dziedzic, founder of the Lasting app. "That means you'll think and feel differently about practically everything and find yourselves in disagreements, both big and small. That's also why, in a conflict, the objective isn't to 'win,' like many think—it's to understand your partner's perspective." Dziedzic also encourages couples to keep in mind that your partner's opinion is valid and worthy of respect, even when you're tempted to think it's not. "In a relationship, one of your most important jobs is to make consistent attempts to better understand what your partner is thinking and why," says Dziedzic. "The more knowledge you have about your partner, the more resilient your relationship can become."
2. Disconnect to connect. Social media and the internet in general can put a strain on one-on-one time. Just because you two may be the only people in the room together doesn't mean you're spending quality time with one another. "Put down your devices when out together and unplug when home," says Bonnie Winston, celebrity matchmaker and relationship expert. "Take a 24-hour break to play board games or cook a meal together."
3. Get a tune-up. "In the same way you see a general practitioner once a year for early detection, marriage counseling is a great idea once a year as well, if not more," adds Winson. "Even a Mercedes needs a tune up yearly." Considering an app like Lasting makes it easier and more accessible than ever. It smartly gets to know your relationship and then builds a customized program just for your significant other with sessions on everything from communication to sex.
4. Find a safe space. "When both people want it to work, it's only a matter of finding a common ground and a common language, a safe space, where the friction of the relationship can be resolved," says Cynthia Chauvin Miles, a certified hypnotherapist (CHT) specializing in relationships and author of The 10 Ways: A Guide to the 21st Century Relationship. "Oftentimes this space and communication style ends up happening in therapy, but if couples can invent that in their relationship beforehand, counseling is both easier and more often than not, not needed. My husband and I call it 'drive time.' We have our best conversations and make the most progress driving through rural areas where we're both focused and relaxed at the same time."
5. Invest in your partner. "Relationships have a strong chance of surviving when they are based on 'the good' in the other person, where both partners work together to feed that good and are inspired to become better themselves," says Suzie Pileggi Pawelski, author of Happy Together: Using the Science of Positive Psychology to Build Love that Lasts. "These relationships are more sustainable than those based simply on pure pleasure or usefulness, because they're based on what partners actively put into them—rather than what they can get out of them."
6. Don't forget about you. "Make sure both partners maintain some of their individual activities, interests, and friends they had before they got together," adds Pileggi Pawelski. "This doesn't mean they don't engage in activities with their partner or invite their spouse out with their friends. It just means they don't feel obligated to do everything with their partner. [Our] research shows that interdependence, not dependence, is associated with satisfying and successful relationships."
Real Couples' Relationship Advice
You probably already know not to go to bed angry and that communication is key, but there are plenty more tried-and-true relationship tips to glean. Experts have one view, but for a more personal approach, we asked real couples for their unique user-tested and -approved relationship advice.
1. Laugh it off. "Laughter seems to be the antidote to most arguments," says MacKenzie K. from Los Angeles. "If one of us can crack a joke or point out how ridiculous an argument is before it escalates, we're usually able to diffuse it pretty quickly. Just one word of advice I learned the hard way: Sarcasm does not typically have the desired effect. Stick to commentary you'll both find funny, and bonus points for landing a few jokes at your own expense."
2. Show gratitude. "Regularly say 'thank you,'" says Jamie K. from New Milford, Connecticut. "Even if it's your partner's 'job' to do something (cook dinner, wash the car, and so on), showing appreciation is a great way to make them feel good and an excellent reminder to yourself that the life you live is possible because of the things you do for one another."
3. Let go of the little things. "I asked a cousin who'd been married (happily) to his wife for 35 years, 'What's your secret?' says Lisa C. from Springfield, New Jersey. "His reply stays with me every day for its simplicity and probable wisdom: 'Don't nitpick.'"
4. Hanger is real. "Don't have hard conversations when either person is tired or hungry," says Kelsey M. from Seattle.
5. Fight right. "When you do fight, since fights are inevitable, you have to be fighting for the relationship," says Alaina L. from Boston. "Most people naturally fight for what they want, for their own needs, to be right, or to get the outcome they want. If you want the relationship to last, you have to prioritize it during a fight. Fight in a way that's more compromising and without all the dirty techniques most people use, like blaming the person for stuff they did years ago or dragging out their faults because you're angry."
6. The more they know. "Err on the side of over-communication, at least about important things like your relationship," says Tracey L. from New York City. "Don't overestimate how much your partner understands you."
7. Practice makes perfect. "It's important to make marriage counseling a habit, like going to the gym," says Kristen A. from Atlanta. "We use the Lasting app for this. It's such an easy jumping off point for difficult conversations, which need to happen for your marriage to truly thrive."
Relationship advice is great, but don't forget: what works for some may not work for all. Like snowflakes, no two relationships are alike, and the approach you take has to be right for the two of you. If the relationship tips provided by the experts and real couples don't fix your needs, tweak them, work together to develop your own ideas or look to professional help with an app like Lasting. What transpires just might be relationship advice you can pass onto future couples.