2 Secrets To Healthy Romantic Relationships (That Last)

Just do these two things.

couple hugging, woman holding flower ViDI Studio / Shutterstock

Couples in successful, healthy relationships know the one thing they need to do to keep what they have going: generosity. 

Anyone who has been in a relationship for more than a week has wanted or tried to change their partner. But the truth is, we can't change them. That is their job.

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The smartest thing we can do for ourselves and our partners is to develop our own capacity to love and work off the assumption that successful relationships are always inside jobs.  


We tend to have misconceptions about couples who are successful. We assume a relationship is successful because both came from stable and loving homes or because they have excellent communication skills.

But that's not it. And it’s not because they lucked out and found an especially good person to fall in love with, either.

Relationship success is due to 2 important factors:

1. Successful couples practice an overall feeling of generosity towards each other

In other words:

  • They make an effort to develop the attitude of "I am on your side" and "I have your back."
  • They make a point of being kind and thoughtful with each other, even when they’re angry or disappointed.
  • They give each other the benefit of the doubt.
  • They assume the best in each other.

This kind of thinking and behavior is easier said than done. Relationship problems are common. It requires a conscious and consistent effort on behalf of both partners. It means paying attention and noticing how things are going between you.


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But when these things are practiced, they learn how to be kind and generous with each other. In turn, it helps both partners to feel valued, respected, and loved.

The best thing is that cultivating this kind of attitude towards each other is also one of the kindest things we can do for ourselves. It puts us in control rather than simply waiting for our partners to change, and it allows us to experience the pleasure of giving to someone we love.

This doesn’t mean that we take all the responsibility for the state of our union and it doesn’t mean that we do the internal work for our partners that they need to do for themselves. It just means that we intentionally choose to be kind and generous when it matters the most.


And it matters most when they're driving us crazy and we're tempted to react in unhealthy and hurtful ways. When this happens, it can be helpful to picture them hanging onto the edge of a cliff by their fingernails, because that is often how they are feeling.

We know that when people act badly in ways that are upsetting to us, it is often because they are stressed or hurting. We know that when we're stressed or hurting, we temporarily lose the ability to manage our behavior well.

If in these moments, we choose to offer support and understanding, we can move closer, build bridges of connection, and have a healthy relationship with each other.

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2. They take personal responsibility to work on themselves and their part in the couple's dynamic

This essentially means that whenever we encounter a problem or have a disagreement, we take a look at ourselves first. We look at the way we're interacting with each other, to determine what we are doing to perpetuate or escalate unhealthy behaviors.

We can only really change ourselves, but doing that, of course, is the most difficult thing of all.

Instead of trying to change our partners in a relationship, we can ask ourselves these two important questions:

  • "How are my actions affecting our dynamic?"
  • "How can we improve the way we are interacting with each other?"

Then we can work diligently to notice and improve our own thoughts and actions. We can work at developing attitudes of gratitude. We can notice and appreciate the positive traits and actions we see in our partners. And we can actively practice more acceptance, more thoughtfulness, and more kindness towards each other.


As we get better at loving our partners, it will get easier for them to get better at loving us.

Try these 4 helpful relationship mantras:

  • "I will assume the best in my partner."
  • "I will practice acceptance instead of trying to change them."
  • "I will practice generosity and kindness with my partner."
  • "I will look at myself to see what I can change."

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Debby Gullery is a relationship coach with over 25 years of experience coaching and teaching relationship and marriage seminars. She is the author of Small Steps to Bigger Love, a practical, easy-to-use book for couples who are seeking to be more intentional and loving.