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Divorce law blog

What makes a relationship last?

06/08/2018   By: Anna Kaznowska

As family lawyers we see the consequences of relationships breaking down. However, partner Alison Bull has recently been involved in some fascinating research looking at the critical questions couples should ask themselves before embarking on a serious relationship.

The University of Exeter’s Shackleton Relationships Project looked at what education young people could be given to teach them about long-lasting, happy, healthy relationships. As part of that research, ten questions were identified that every couple should ask themselves and each other at the start of a relationship. 

  • Firstly, are you two a ‘good fit’? Clearly, couples need more than sexual attraction to run the course. Having similar dreams, interests and values is crucial, alongside a shared sense of humour. 
  • Do you have realistic expectations of the relationship? Couples should expect to work on their relationship, themselves, and be open to professional help if needed. Carving out creative ways to spend time together as a couple is vital, as well as showing your partner you care through daily acts of thoughtfulness. 
  • Do you see the best in your partner? This is a given for couples in thriving relationships, who are aware of their partner’s faults yet maintain trust in the other. An ability to overview and ‘look to the relationship horizon’ enables couples to overcome momentary frustrations with their partner. 
  • Do you communicate often, especially when the going gets tough? It is at times of hurt, awkwardness, or stress, that communication is most required to begin conflict resolution. On relationship break down, many people report that they were unaware that the other had an issue, or said that their partner were shut them down when they tried to discuss a problem.
  • Do you pull together in stressful situations (such as financial issues, bereavements and the transition to parenthood)? Airing your grievances quickly, minimising blame games and remaining pragmatic and solution-focused can help get things back on track.
  • Do you adapt to change? During long term relationships, each partner will develop and grow. Commitment enables couples to stick together as circumstances evolve, whilst openness to change, compassion and a strong ‘team mentality’ allows couples to overcome periods of adversity.
  • Do you have a network of family and friends to support you, and do you maintain your hobbies? This helps to relieve pressure on relationships whilst providing independence, fresh perspective and influences.
  • Finally, do you ‘do you’? Couples in thriving relationships build the relationship that works for them, often defying cultural or societal norms to do so. Appreciating that there is no ‘one’ successful relationship, successful couples create something meaningful to them which they can depend on through the good times and the bad.

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