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What All Successful Couples Have in Common

Want an iron-clad marriage? Take note of these universal relationship techniques.

Marriage is hard work, whether you’ve been together for just two months or 20 years. No couple jumps the broom, breaks the glass or ties the knot without genuine hopes for happily ever after, right? But every couple inevitably has issues beneath the surface—it’s how they handle these obstacles that are the telltale signs of success. We tapped a few top marriage therapists to help us identify the common denominators among couples with healthy, enduring relationships. After all, what are the ingredients for long-lasting love?

Occasional disagreements and “fighting fair” are not necessarily signs that a relationship is falling apart. “There is good data showing arguments are OK,” says psychologist Kristen Carpenter, PhD, Director of Women’s Behavioral Health at Ohio State’s Wexner Medical Center. “As long as you have positive interactions to offset them, you’re fine. These might include good discussions, date nights, affection or gratitude. Every couple is different, but arguments are definitely OK.”

In fact, arguments can actually be effective if they’re productive. By simply bottling up feelings, you’re creating a recipe for resentment and hostility, which can destroy a marriage.

So, how do you fight right? “Couples need to be able to identify and communicate their needs,” Dr. Carpenter says. “The minute one thinks, ‘He should know what I need,’ you’re setting yourself up for failure and disappointment.” No. One. Reads. Minds. Don’t lose sight of that.

So if it’s getting a little too close for comfort: take that solo spa trip, or make dates to decompress with your girls. Your marriage will probably be a whole lot healthier (and you’ll both be happier) when you rejoin forces.