Written by: Dr. Stephanie Bathurst, Executive Contributor
Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.
When a relationship itself has been built upon a genuine, adaptive, and fair foundation, the demands of flexibility and change forced upon it by life won’t threaten the relationship’s stability. This requires healing the mental and physical health of each individual partner first to create a core foundation for the relationship. Then, stabilize the entire system through mindful re-structure and relationship contracting to ensure longevity and satisfaction of the bond.
Follow these 11 tips to ensure a satisfying and long-lasting relationship
How amazing would you feel in your relationship if, when you opened your eyes every morning, you were reaffirmed that your partner has chosen to wake up next to you all over again?
The expectation of non-conditional commitment gives partners a false sense of security that I find encourages complacency and stagnancy of growth in the relationship. As an alternative to using a marriage contract as a source of security, embrace this perspective to help you continuously prioritize the relationship:
“My partner chooses me again each day.” What does this do?
This helps you stay appreciative of the specialness of your commitment to one another, seeing as commitment is a choice and not a guarantee.
Because it is not guaranteed, each partner stays motivated to give back to the relationship with the intention to continuously gain.
2. Unconditional love
We choose our partners for very specific reasons. What are your reasons? What if you or your partner(s) evolve into diﬀerent people from who you were when you first connected? What we have in romantic relationships is the ability to develop unconditional positive regard (a concept by Carl Rogers). You grow with and develop a deep attachment to this person. They become intertwined with pivotal moments and rites of passage in your life. Even if love fades, fondness will remain due to its association with these moments. Once the healing of a separation has been completed, these memories often promote positive regard for a previous partner. “I don’t want to be with them anymore, but I do wish them happiness.” “I want good things for them.”
Unconditional positive regard exists between partners. Unconditional love does not.
Hallmark movies, although warming, encourage unrealistic expectations for our romantic relationships. While most see only the fear in unconditional love, I see the beauty in the potential impermanence of a romantic relationship (see # 11).
3. Mechanical love
Go ahead and eliminate all “mechanical love” expressions: drive-by kissing your partner as you run out the door to work, repetitively muttering, “I love you” before rolling over in bed, or even engaging in routine sex devoid of intimacy or connection.
They don’t fuel energy back to either partner anyway. Time, physical energy, mental eﬀort, emotional bandwidth—what a waste of your precious and finite resources. Although most love rituals can be connective experiences in relationships (as researched by Gottman), there is a serious diﬀerence between a genuine, eﬀortful bid for connection and a dull exchange that is led by nothing more than muscle memory. It’s not the expression itself that is fulfilling and satisfactory in a relationship, but the energy, intention, and meaning behind the act that is re-energizing.
Get rid of those superficial forms of “connection” because they aren’t serving either of you.
Each partner must consistently work out their own detritus. In true systems theory, the sum can only be as good as its parts, i.e., the health of a relationship can only be as good as the health of each individual partner. This is supported by the extensive research that correlates relationship satisfaction and longevity with the absence of unmanaged anxiety, mood disorders, ADD, negative perspective, and untreated trauma. In summary, each partner must work on and try to reduce the emotional baggage that we all bring into our romantic relationships. Without a priority on personal growth and the enhancement of self-awareness, there will be an immovable cap on connectivity.
Find a therapist who can help you assess what may be blocking your life energy and disrupting intimacy flow with your partner: insecure attachment styles, unprocessed trauma, underdeveloped emotional attunement, cognitive distortions, nutrition deficiencies, or other environmental factors negatively impacting health, etc.
5. Check the negativity
Evolutionarily, we are all built with a 5:1 ratio toward remembering and feeling the negative. If we don’t implement an eﬀective reparative process after an injurious moment, it’s possible to develop a negative perspective about our partner. Having a negative perspective naturally leads you to assign negative meanings/ assumptions about your partner’s intentions (or, in extreme cases, negative assumptions about their character). When negative perspective sinks in, you can go ahead and double that ratio to around 10 to 1. The longer this skew toward the negative exists, the deeper the entrenchment of intimacy barriers, resentment, and imbalance in the pursuer-distancer relationship.
Here’s how to use this to your advantage: For every perceived or actual negative moment in your shared life together, consciously create a positive experience to neutralize our human propensity toward remembering the negative. Celebrate life’s small wins, practice mindfulness to appreciate one another and try to live in the present moment.
6. Sex & affectionate touch
Even if your top love language is not physical touch, connecting physically and sexually in your romantic relationship remains valuable. This is the primary (and sometimes only) diﬀerentiation between your romantic relationship and all the other forms of relationships you have in your life. Without sex and romantic touch, what diﬀers so significantly and consistently that both you and your partner feel a specialness? For partners embracing ethical non-monogamy, the specialness often rests in certain rituals or touches that are cultivated and protected for each partnership.
Schedule sex if it’s not happening organically. Life’s responsibilities will naturally consume time that’s not intentionally directed elsewhere. Scheduled sex doesn’t necessarily equate to boring and routine sex.
Spontaneity can still be expressed via where, how, how long, and what type of sex you choose. Although it’s not necessarily dreamy and romantic to place a shared Google calendar block on Tuesday evening at 8:30 p.m., it guarantees priority of connection in some shape or form. Life is busy. Our relationships have to adapt before they are inadvertently sacrificed for the other responsibilities that vie for our time and attention.
Forgiveness isn’t something that happens to you or with time. It’s a choice. Forgiveness has nothing to do with anyone or anything else beyond you. It’s your decision to let go of the past because the quality of your life is worth more than a chronic state of suﬀering. I frequently see injured partners who hold tightly onto a past pain moment in fear that letting go will provide an opportunity for another betrayal. For others, holding onto the pain is a way to help them feel that justice has been served to the betrayer. Time and time again, the person I see most impacted by this weight of the past is the injured partner. For those who have already suﬀered pain, forgiveness is a way to achieve internal peace.
8. Remove ego
Here’s the truth about apologies: Studies show that the brain fills with dopamine when we resist giving an apology. We dig our feet in and become defensive to protect our precious story. Why, though? Why is the story in our mind felt in such high priority and with such high esteem that we sabotage our relationships for it?
Minimal conflict relationships don’t consist of partners who frequently have the same story. Minimal conflict relationships contain partners who accept that there will be many diﬀerent stories that can all have a respectful space to exist between them.
Relationships are dependent on reciprocity. Any withholding from the expression of love, nurturing, or aﬀection sustains suﬀering and stagnates growth in the relationship. Is protecting your pride worth the isolation and scarcity brought upon by the need for fulfillment? What we want to see, we must model.
There is just as much decision-making in inaction as there is in action. Therapeutically, I see no diﬀerence between a partner who has extended not one single bid for connection or exchange of positive energy in the last few months and a partner who has committed a betrayal. Both examples have encouraged their respective relationships to fail; both are accountable for their role in the devolution of the attachment bond.
10. Keep at play
Continuous play is a crucial characteristic of sustainable romance. Wisdom and playfulness do not juxtapose one another. The wiser we become, the more we recognize the true significance and youthfulness of play and how intertwined it is in all social dynamics. There are so many forms: flirtatious, witty, silly, sarcastic. Do you play with your mind, words, or body? How do you engage your partner in play?
11. Entitlement & Mindset
Entitlement is the destroyer of relationships. Just because you have a legal contract, a formal ceremony, or a verbal commitment from your partner, it does not mean that they unconditionally owe you fidelity, commitment, completion of tasks around the house, or their individuality. This entitlement mindset encourages complacency and discourages mindful appreciation. Healthy, individualized partnerships are built with fairness and equality. This is a “give to get” mentality.
Embracing a global mindset shift is incredibly valuable for a sustainable bond. There is beauty in the potential impermanence of your relationship. Knowing that my partner has complete choice or agency in their ability to stay or leave the relationship gives meaning to every small moment we share together. Rather than waking up next to someone who is present out of convenience or obligation, I get to feel chosen all over again. The freedom that each partner has in the relationship makes the continued commitment that you gift to each other all the more special.
Dr. Stephanie Bathurst, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine
Dr. Stephanie Bathurst is an expert Clinical Sexologist, Relationship Therapist, and Holistic Healer who applies evidence-based techniques that blend holistic and traditional therapies. As a provider, she aims to energize relationships, unblock barriers in the 8 forms of intimacy, and treat the whole system for clients to see long-lasting effects. Acknowledging the heaviness in our world, Dr. Bathurst strives to lead unhappy partners toward better sex, effective communication, and release of resentment so that together we can create a more loving, more stable connection. With her primary office in Oahu, HI, Dr. Bathurst offers coaching to clients across the globe, couples retreats, and hybrid relationship programs for immersive healing. Dr. Bathurst is the CEO of Bathurst Family Therapy, LLC., and has won numerous awards of excellence in her fields. Her integration of degrees in counseling and sexology combined with certifications as an Integrative Medicine Specialist for Mental Health and Pelvic Floor PFilates instructor makes Dr. Bathurst a truly unparalleled provider.
Benson, K. (2022, August 8). The magic relationship ratio, according to science. The Gottman Institute. https://www.gottman.com/blog/the-magic-relationship-ratio-according-science/
Mojtabai, R., Stuart, E. A., Hwang, I., Eaton, W. W., Sampson, N., & Kessler, R. C. (2017, October). Long-term effects of mental disorders on marital outcomes in the National Comorbidity Survey ten-year follow-up. Social psychiatry and psychiatric epidemiology. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5846331/
Research. John M. Gottman,Ph.D. (n.d.). https://www.johngottman.net/research/
Your brain is hooked on being right. Harvard Business Review. (2018, October 17). https://hbr.org/2013/02/break- your-addiction-to-being