“The grass ain’t greener on the other side. Its green where you water it,” sings Justin Bieber in his hit “As Long As You Love Me.” This song’s simple lyrics underscore an important truth: there are certain actions a person can take to strengthen interpersonal connections. Here are four keys to a long-term relationship.
Each person is born with a deep emotional need to develop intimate close connections with others. “Fundamentally, it doesn’t matter how technologically sophisticated we become; emotional connectivity remains a core part of being human,” writes Shoba Sreenivasan and Linda E. Weinberger, psychologists at the University of Southern California.
In order to establish that connection, a person must allow himself or herself to become vulnerable and transparent with another individual. By dropping these “walls” of defense, then true emotional intimacy can be reached. Security in a relationship provides the perfect atmosphere in which vulnerability and intimacy can flourish. When a person feels safe and certain of another’s commitment, this brings about a deep confidence that enables them to open up to the other.
Another key to a good relationship is communication. As water is vital to a plant, so is communication essential to a thriving relationship. Without regular open and honest communication, emotional connections grow brittle and withered.
Unfortunately, communication tends to dwindle as a relationship ages. One study found that the minutes married couples talked each hour when together decreased over the course of the relationships. A couple married 20 years averaged 21 minutes of conversation per hour. After 50 years together, couples only talked 3 minutes per hour.
To overcome this common habit of less and less communication, couples desiring a strong relationship should intentionally make time in their daily schedule to talk. One relationship expert recommends a total of 60 minutes of communication daily.
Another important part of communication is the art of listening. If couples develop into poor listeners, this can inhibit open communication. “The most basic of all human needs is the need to understand and be understood. The best way to understand people is to listen to them,” said Ralph Nichols, communication expert in the field of listening.
Hugs, hand holding, and caresses are also important in building a good relationship. Experts recommend at least eight meaningful touches be shared to maintain a healthy connection. There is a scientific explanation for touch being a key component of long-term relationships. When people give and receive a tender touch, the body releases the hormone oxytocin, which promotes emotional bonding. “Oxytocin is a neuropeptide, which basically promotes feelings of devotion, trust and bonding,” says experimental psychologist Mark Hertenstein of Depauw University in Indiana.
Shared Emotional Experiences
Finally, researchers have found that when people share common emotional experiences, a strong connection is created in their relationship. “Shared experiences are what bond people together and create long lasting, worthwhile relationships,” observed professional therapist Steven Burns.
This bond is created whether the experience is an enjoyable weekend away or a crisis event in their lives, a phenomenon long recognized in the deep sense of fraternity among soldiers. Australian researchers documented this power of a shared crisis experience in an experiment with 54 undergraduate students, divided into teams and tasked with various experiences. “Our findings show that pain is a particularly powerful ingredient in producing bonding and cooperation between those who share painful experiences,” reported University of New South Wales psychologist Brock Bastian.
“To me, a forever love is a bond that can’t be broken,” said entertainer Nick Cannon. By following these important keys, any relationship can become an unbreakable bond.