This Might Be The Best Kept Secret To Long-Lasting Relationships
A solid foundation of companionship can keep the flame burning for a long time.
By Jourdan Travers, LCSW | September 2, 2023
It's not uncommon for us to be captivated by the invigorating surge of emotions that comes with the initial spark of passion. This spark can create an intoxicating experience that leaves us breathless and yearning for more. For those well-acquainted with the intricacies of human connection, it's evident the emotional high during the earliest stages of a romantic bond can markedly differ from the sentiments that evolve as the relationship matures and deepens with time.
Therefore, it is important that we consider an alternate perspective one that emphasizes the enduring power of stability and the rewards of companionate love.
Companionate love, firmly rooted in stability, shared experiences, mutual respect and deep understanding, leads to a lasting connection. In a study published in Psychology and Aging, researchers found that spending time with a partner influenced happiness, particularly when marital contentment was robust. Marital satisfaction acted as a shield, counteracting the negative influence of perceived health challenges on daily happiness for both genders, thus underscoring the role of companionate love in preserving well-being within lasting partnerships.
Companionate love ensures that we navigate life's challenges with grace and resilience. It benefits us in many ways, such as:
- Building emotional resilience. Stability in relationships is a source of emotional support that aids in grounding us during challenging times, fostering resilience and coping mechanisms that allow both partners to navigate life's obstacles.
- Sustaining a long-term connection. While the fiery intensity of passionate love may dim over time, companionate love has the ability to deepen and evolve. Shared experiences, and a rich life history create a unique bond and intimacy that only strengthens as the years go by. Meaningful conversations, vulnerability and a true understanding of each other become the cornerstones of your connection.
- Facilitating linear growth. With a stable relationship, individuals are more likely to pursue personal growth and self-discovery, knowing that they have a steadfast partner by their side. This encourages an environment of mutual encouragement and self-improvement.
Converting passionate love into companionate love involves transitioning from the intense, infatuation-driven phase of a relationship to a deeper, more stable and lasting connection. Here are two ways to facilitate this transition:
1. Treat Your Partner Like They're Your Friend
A study published in the Journal of Happiness Studies suggests that individuals who consider their partners as their closest friends experience the greatest positive effects on well-being from both marriage and cohabitation.
Treating your partner as a friend means embracing qualities that form the foundation of companionship. Here are a few ways that you can establish a bond of friendship with your partner.
- Communicate. Just as you would confide in a friend, take the time to engage in heartfelt conversations with your partner. Encourage your partner to express themselves without judgment.
- Spend quality time. Engage in activities that you both enjoy. Whether it's trying out a new recipe, going on a hiking adventure, or binge-watching a TV series, shared experiences create lasting memories and reinforce your bond.
- Maximize moments of laughter. Friends often share moments of laughter and light-heartedness. Infuse playfulness into your relationship using playful banter or surprise gestures. A shared sense of humor helps you navigate challenges with a positive outlook and strengthens your emotional connection.
- Be their cheerleader. Just as you would cheer on a friend's endeavors, be your partner's biggest supporter. Celebrate their achievements, offer encouragement during setbacks, and provide a safe space for them to discuss their aspirations. Your unwavering support contributes to a sense of security and trust.
2. Focus On Friendship Beyond Your Partnership
Years of research has identified the importance of maintaining connections beyond your romantic relationship. For instance, a 2018 study suggests that there is a direct connection between an individual's level of life satisfaction and two key aspects of their friendships.
- First, the frequency with which individuals interact with their friends, known as the intensity of friendships, is shown to have a notable impact on their overall life satisfaction.
- Second, the quality of friendships, measured by how content individuals are with their relationships, also plays a significant role in influencing life satisfaction.
Another study published in Social Psychological and Personality Science indicates that having a supportive network of friends, family or other social connections can help individuals cope better with the challenges and conflicts they face within their marriage. These external connections seem to provide a buffer against the negative effects, such as stress and isolation during marital conflicts that affect overall mental and physical health.
If you are unsure how to strengthen your friendship bonds, consider the following:
- Allocate time for separate social activities and outings with friends. This time apart allows you to maintain your own identity and fosters a healthy balance between your romantic relationship and other connections.
- Learn and share. Open up with your friends to form a lasting connection. Then engage in conversations about your respective friendships with your partner. Share stories, experiences and insights gained from your interactions with friends. This not only strengthens your emotional connection but also demonstrates trust and transparency.
While the initial sparks of passionate love are undeniably alluring, they can often distract us from the rewards of stability and companionate love. It may come naturally to some partners but, often, companionate love requires ongoing effort and a genuine commitment to nurturing your relationship. It's important to be patient and willing to invest time and effort into a relationship that promises not just a momentary spectacle, but a lifetime of warmth and fulfillment.