It takes two to tango and a lot of effort to make a relationship work. Many couples tend to be complacent three to four years into a long-term commitment, but a recent study on highlights the importance of maintaining and improving companionship.

Researchers from the University of Illinois led by Brian Ogolsky, professor of human and community development, and his colleague Jill R. Bowers did a meta-analysis of 35 previous studies and from 12,273 individual reports. They found that there are five main factors that keep relationships fulfilling:

  1. Openness--this means sharing your experiences with your partner as well as listening to his.
  2. Positivity--adding a bit of quirkiness and a lot of laughter to your life together helps strengthen companionship.
  3. Assurances--making an effort to show your partner that you're in it for the long haul increases trust.
  4. Shared tasks--being in a relationship entails an equal amount of responsibility (read: "chores") from both of you.
  5. Shared social network--including your partner's family and friends into your life lets him know that you accept him and the people who made him into who he is entirely.

The good news is, if you think you're doing a couple of these right, then you're probably doing the rest as well. It's good to note though, that putting great effort into maintaining your relationship is different from him seeing it. If you're thinking of cooking him dinner and then you get derailed from doing so, he won't really know that you wanted to make him something since there isn't any food on the table. Following through with your good intentions is key to keeping your partner feeling lucky about being with you.

Ogolsky concludes with a few tips, "Even a small attempt at maintenance, such as asking how your partner's day was, sending a humorous text to make him laugh, or picking up the phone and calling your mother- or father-in-law, can have a positive impact on your relationship and make you happier."

(Photo by Jon Clegg via Flickr Creative Commons)

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