10 ways to win at relationships

Discover the secrets of long-term love success  
Times are tough for romance. Figures from the Office for National Statistics show that divorce rates tend to rise during recessions – and, sure enough, the number of people getting divorced in the UK is increasing again for the first time since the 1990s.
But what about the couples who stay together? Plenty of couples go through crises like redundancy, illness and upheaval without splitting up. What’s their secret? It’s not about being lucky enough to find your soulmate. Just as world-class athletes train hard for that “effortless” run on race day, world-class relationships are based on commitment, strategy and hard work. Here’s how they do it. 

1. Winning couples share a relationship road map
You both have to want your relationship to work. It helps to share a similar idea of what a successful relationship is. It may seem unromantic to sit your partner down for a frank discussion about where the relationship is going, but couples who don’t discuss it will often discover too late that they don’t share the same expectations of marriage, children and career. If you want your partnership to work, talk to your partner about how they see the future.

2. Winning couples make a commitment

It’s not enough to have similar expectations. Couples who stay together are the ones who trust each other not to disappear. You don’t have to get married, have kids or take out a joint mortgage. You just need to let each other know that you’re committed to each other for the long haul. You’ll both feel more valued and secure. You should re-state your commitment as the years go by. Successful couples aren’t afraid to discuss the state of their relationship, no matter how long they’ve been together.

3. Winning couples give each other space

Give each other space to see friends and pursue separate interests. Time apart makes your time together all the more valuable, and getting some me-time makes you a happier and more relaxed person.

4. Winning couples know how to communicate
If your relationship is to last, you should be able to talk about things and feel that you’re being heard without being judged. Be honest if you’re feeling stressed or under the weather. Your partner will know not to take it personally when you come home feeling grouchy. It’s also important to talk about trivial stuff. Chat about your day at work, what’s going on in the news, assorted rubbish. Don’t turn into a couple that only ever talks about gas bills.

5. Winning couples know how to argue
If you grew up learning to avoid confrontation, you may be in the habit of storing resentments, and that’s never good news for a relationship. That’s not permission to hurl abuse at your partner. But you should get used to discussing your differences and working things out through negotiation and compromise. You don’t have to win every time.

6. Winning couples keep the fires burning
A good sex life brings couples closer together. In scientific terms, sex, cuddling and touching produce hormones such as oxytocin that boost your romantic attachment and relieve stress. In everyday terms, touching makes you feel wanted. Successful couples also know that their sex lives go through lean patches. If you can accept those patches without thinking “that’s it, we’re over,” you stand a better chance of staying together for life.

7. Winning couples accept change
Change can be difficult and even painful, for example when a partner loses their job or suffer health problems or bereavements. But successful couples don’t jump ship when things get rocky. They learn to adapt, and they support each other through good times and bad.

8. Winning couples never stop dating
Successful couples never stop going out on dates, even when they’ve lived together for years. If you don’t spend regular quality time together, you will drift apart. Take time out from work, hobbies or chores to spend time together. Sitting silently on the sofa watching telly is not a date. A date is something you want to look good for, and where you can enjoy a change of scenery: a restaurant, the cinema or even a walk.

9. Winning couples keep some things secret
Honesty is not always the best policy. Too much information can hurt, even when you’re in love. A considerate partner would never tell the other if they fancied their best friend, or they’d once considered ending the relationship – a careless line that can do irreparable damage. Successful couples also know what to speak up about. Problems at work, health issues or a desire for more or different sex are things you should discuss honestly.

10. Winning couples are nice to each other
Of all the secrets of happy relationships, niceness may be the most important. If you’re nice to your partner, they will be nice to you, and your relationship will be a much happier one.