How to improve your chances of staying together

Author and relationships coach Sarah Abell invites you to try a 30-day experiment to improve your relationship and keep love alive for the long-term. Plus try a free 3-day taster trial of her new online course for Psychologies, How to Save Your Relationship


How to improve your chances of staying together

The project

What would you say marks the start of a committed relationship? Is it:

  • A) leaving a toothbrush at your partner’s home 
  • B) changing your Facebook status or
  • C) having ‘the talk’ where you both agree the relationship is now serious?

If you chose C, your relationship is more likely to stand the test of time, according to research. Couples who intentionally define their relationship are more likely to have better relationship success than those who slide into major relationship transitions.

The aim

If you want to improve your chances of keeping love alive for the long-term, be intentional about the decisions you make together as a couple.

The theory

Researchers at the University of Virginia sought to find out how much the experiences someone has or does not have with their spouse before marriage affects the quality of their relationship. They got data from 418 married couples who’d been interviewed as singles seven years before. In the study, the couples were asked if they ‘slid’ into cohabitation before marriage or made a decision about it. The more they categorised the move as a decision, the greater their marriage quality later on.

By making a conscious decision, you’re more likely to be committed to following through, says one of the report’s authors, Scott Stanley. ‘Sliding through life-altering transitions leads to a worse outcome,’ he says.

Now, try It out

The study highlighted the importance of talking through decisions and being intentional about them. Your love challenge this month is to be intentional and decisive.

  • Single? For those who are single, but interested in someone, be bold and ask them out on a date.
  • Dating? Define your relationship and share your expectations of what you want from it. Do you just want a fling or are you looking for commitment? Is it OK to date other people?
  • Cohabiting? Clarify the level of commitment in the relationship. Are you just sharing a bed or does this mean something more? Would either of you like to get married or are you happy not to?
  • Long-term? If you are married or in a long-term, committed relationship, talk through some ‘us’ decisions with your partner, like booking a holiday, having a baby, issues around children, or your next five-year plan.

Sarah Abell is an author, speaker and relationships coach. Find out more at To buy her LifeLabs Practical Wisdom online course How to Save Your Relationship, please click here. You can try a free 3-day taster trial first too.

Photograph: iStock