10 Characteristics of Successful Relationships

November 16, 2012
Category: Dating

Raise your hand if you're a fan of therapy. Don't be embarrassed. Raise them up. Personally, I think everyone on the planet should be in therapy. But that's never going to happen. Truth be told, there are plenty of people out there who are in therapy and are still fucked up and fucking up others lives. But for many, it can help you gain control of your life an relationships in ways you never thought possible. Whether you believe in the practice or not, these professional do know people. And in knowing people they know what it takes to make a good relationship. This list of the 10 characteristics of successful relationships from therapist and author Lisa Kift is particularly useful when evaluating your own relationships:

1) Friendship: Couples who have a strong friendship have staying power. They not only love each other but genuinely like each other as people. They enjoy hanging out together. They might even consider each other their “best friend.”

2) Humor: Partners who can make each other laugh tend to be good at de-escalating conflicts when they do arise. It’s the great mood lightener. I’ve noticed the use of funny nicknames can be an indicator of great fondness for one another. The names often stem from a “you had to be there” moment from the beginning of their relationship.

3) Communication: As obvious as this may seem, many couples are not very good at it. Those who are able to openly express their feelings in an emotionally safe environment typically deal with situations as they come up and avoid burying frustrations which always have a way of coming out at some point.

4) Chore Sharing: Those who divvy up the household or parenting responsibilities in a way that is mutually agreed upon way are less likely to hold resentments about what they perceive as “unfair.” Each participates (albeit maybe begrudgingly) and both contribute to the relationship in this way.

5) Sexual Intimacy: Couples who have their sexual needs met or at least have negotiated a reasonable compromise if their levels of need aren’t compatible, feel taken care of by the other. Some are highly active, engaging in lovemaking multiple times a week and others are content with far less. There is no “right” or “wrong” amount. However, often times a negotiation is needed to make sure no one feels neglected by the other.

6) Affection: Partners who stay in physical contact in some way throughout the day have appeared to be the happiest ones. These moments don’t need to necessarily lead to sexual intimacy but are rather easy ways to say, “I love you,” without the words. These moments can be invaluable, especially these days when everyone seems to be racing around to get “somewhere.” Whether it’s a hug, kiss, swat on the rear, tussle of the hair or a sit on the lap, these acts of affection keep couples connected when life gets crazy.

7) No “Horsemen of the Apocalypse”: This is a term coined by a famous couples researcher named John Gottman who claims to be able to predict divorce with incredible accuracy. His “four horsemen of the apocalypse” are criticism, contempt, defensiveness and stonewalling. His research has shown that couples who demonstrate a high level of these in their relationships are in big trouble.

8) Mutual and Separate Friends: Partners who socialize with other couples and also maintain separate friendships have greater balance in regards to honoring themselves as individuals, within the relationship. This leads to more self satisfaction which translates to relationship satisfaction.

9) Reliability: Most of us want follow-through with our friendships and our partners. If couples do what they say and say what they do, they create an atmosphere of comfort in knowing their words mean something to the other.

10) Relationship Vision: It’s interesting the number of couples I’ve seen who don’t seem to have the big picture of their relationship in mind. Where do they see themselves in ten year? What are their relationship goals? Couples who have created a relationship vision for themselves know where they’re going as they’ve planned it together. They get joy out of reaching for their goals as a team and are less likely to be derailed by surprises down the line.

Do you agree with this list as the necessary characteristics to make a relationship work? Do you think there are others that are just as important? Let us know in the comments below.

Tags: Relationships, Top 10, Lists, Success
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Post written by RobHeartsDH (View Author Profile)
About this author: Rob lives in Manhattan with his black pug Riley. When he’s not thinking about daddies, he enjoys writing, eating burritos, watching copious amounts of television, and thinking about his next meal.
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Since there is no "template for a gay 'relationship'", and being partnered for 22 years, I can say that not "all those 10 variables" aren't necessarily condusive to all relationships:

We've found that the TWO that work best for us?


We've found with those two, the "rest fall into place".

And if someone can "explain the relationship PARADIGM of an "open relationship", bring it on.

Just MY take on it, but that sound more of a "convenience" than a relationship.

"I LOVE YOU" only goes "so far.

What REALLY floors me, is when I read that guys have been in "an 8 year relationship and a 15 year relationship and WE'RE STILL BEST FRIENDS"........What the fuck? That's denial.

I suspect an explanation of the relationship PARADIGM of an "open relationship" from the list provided falls under item 5 - Sexual Intimacy, in pertinent part "Couples who have their sexual needs met or at least have negotiated a reasonable compromise if their levels of need aren’t compatible, feel taken care of by the other..."

The phrase "negotiated a reasonable compromise" is of course a route to all manner of permutations. It carries with it mutuality of purpose while also allowing any measure of freedoms and possibilities within the constraints of that same mutuality. Another couple's arrangements might not be your cup of tea (but then, according to N.O.M., I suspect your arrangement is not THEIR cup of tea either, LOL).

For some it's about monogamy, for others it's about being monogamish, and for a few others still it's an "open relationship" or "triad" or whatever. In a funny way, as your own post indicates - it's not about the sex. It's about communication and compromise and how, as you put it," the rest falls in place".

Mind you, I'd say of all things, it requires love first and foremost, after which then only then does the rest falls in place. :)

"... If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails..."
1 Corinthians, 13:1-8

This is a good piece.

I found, in my past relationship of 10 years, it started off good and just went down hill. In the post relationship recap, I found that our friendship lacked substance. It was more of a go-along to get along thing, rather than what it was. WE just stopped liking one another. I found we spent WAAAAAAAAAAY too much time together, and not enough time with our own friends. I also found I stopped taking stands and being strong. I just shut down. Not good for communications. All the other things crept in and made the relationship untenable.

Now, 2 + years later, we're friends, and he's got a great relationship, and I'm friends with that one too now...

It showed me what I needed to learn. I can jump into a new one, or not... It's good to see our relationship wasn't that unique.

Yeah... those rules are pretty much what I base my relationships on. If we can't sit down and talk about something other than sex for an hour (and be genuinely interested in what the other person is saying.) then it isn't going to make it beyond the 'lust' stage. I can't even begin to think about where I see 'our relationship' in 10 years if I can't see us still talking, making plans and building on our relationship 3 months from now.

Relationships are always forged with ongoing communications. I believe your ten characteristics are a great way to determine a good relationship. That doesn't mean you need an A+ in every area. Just be honest. Interestingly enough all of these apply to gay, straight or anything in between relationships. Get the drama out of your relationship and be honest with each other.

Very true, and a good way to view a relationship on your profile.

Great insight and I concur. Affection, friendship and sharing are key.

These are great

do you have to follow all these guidelines and go to therapy,too -lol. Any relationship is going to have drama, it would be nice to have a third opinion or guidence sometimes. Too bad religious leaders can't seem to handle that role for gay people as they do for breeders. Good luck to us all.

do you have to follow all these guidelines and go to therapy,too -lol. Any relationship is going to have drama, it would be nice to have a third opinion or guidence sometimes. Too bad religious leaders can't seem to handle that role for gay people as they do for breeders. Good luck to us all.

Excellent, I agree & hope others can get their act together. I am indeed lucky that with my partner & me it was love at first sight. Our love for each other grows stronger each day. We have a closed relationship & are growing old together. Well I am old & he is growing older, He is a wonderful young man & I wish everyone the happiness I have found.

Well Lisa Kift is superficial if nothing else. Her "observations" are cribbed from better and more insightful therapists, but they really don't link back to essential criteria for commencing a relationship in the first place. Ms Kift needs to balance her views with warning signs as well: they're key indicators of hazards on the Freeway Of Love.

Most notably is the area of values. A couple without a shared set of values are doomed from the get-go. "Values" have nothing to do with political partisanship, but everything to do with strong committments to making the relationship work over time, and confident and fearless usage of tools like communication. You're never going to make it work without a similar philosohy on life.

Responsible couples therapists need to evaluate their own motivations as well, and be able to honestly assess whether or not a couple has any future, or any healthy reason to be together.

I like these 10 characteristics! I compared them with my own relationship... I see all of these in my great relationship.
#5... sexual intamacy... to me, this is an important one. Gay men are very sexual. Each one is different.
The longest lasting relationships between gay men, are open relationships. They are very comfortable with each others sexual needs and have learned to relate to these needs.
Why is it, that when someone insists on an 'old fashioned' monogamist relationship, they are usally single?

I totally agree. When it comes to the sex part, I think it's important that the couple is clear on how they are to handle it: open vs monogamy. As long as it works for the couple involved, no one else needs to approve or disapprove. This from a person in an 18 year relationship that still considers himself happy.

So do I. And it's on the subject of sex that Ms Kift has scored an epic fail. She's managed to not catch on to two desirable relationship characteristics that precisely hit the mark:

1. Both individuals feel comfortable with the decisions that have been made about sex in the relationship.

2. Discussions about sex are as comfortable and open as discussions about other important aspects of life.

This of course follows on from:

A good feeling and a closer relationship usually results from a discussion of a difficult relationship problem.

Actually Kift's whole take on the subject of good relationships is dumbed-down to an astonishing degree: it reeks of a feminized wish-list designed to keep SNAGs in line. If you can't tell the difference between a partner/lover and a best friend then you have a serious problem - you're probably not living a full and integrated life. And as for chore-sharing, she's really just a heartbeat away from identifying closed toilet lids as a positive characteristic: both individuals receiving equal gratification (in a relationship) is what she should be focusing on.

Personally, I've noticed that having a similar sense of humor is the core of a solid relationship. If you do not have a similar sense of humor, the relationship will fail. Why do you ask? Because our sense of humor is how we see and react to the world and crisis on a daily basis. This is the core of how each of us communicates and how we see ourselves.

Many times, I've seen couples try to bridge this painful gap... it rarely, if ever, creates a stable, lasting relationship. I've turned down many guys (and vice versa) because I love South Park..and they hated it. However, I did date one guy for about a year, who not only did not like my humor.. he found it distasteful. Fights arouse quite often. (heck, even 15 years later, we still squabble over petty crap)

Communication is key to any relationship. That includes speaking the same "language" (how you see the world)

I agree mostly with what has been written here. In the original posting listing "10 items..." I think the very act of listing reduces the impact, as to imply that there are not others. Certainly, compromising without giving everything away is also important. Communication is important, but that includes LISTENING as well. That means paying attention. If it is important enough for him to say something, then perhaps it is important enough to appreciate the significance of what is being said.

Also, sometimes silence, and being aware of the other can suffice. The idea of friends outside of the relationship is very important also. One other thing that might be considered, is not to be selfish in the relationship, not to be jealous of friends and family. Some of these clever things that bond us together only come with maturity. So in an older /younger relationship, the wisdom of the elder and the enthusiasm of the younger can make a nice mix. And I agree most heartily, that a mutual sense of humor is vital for continued success.

On the other hand, a relationship works the best, when the members of it, work to keep it going.

Not a bad list, but obviously written by a woman and obviously not taking certain things into consideration which exist in male/male relationships.

Most glaring is #5: Sexual Intimacy which focuses only on frequency as a measure of meeting each other's sexual needs. This is woefully naive in the world of gay men.

I think the most important thing in gay male sexuality is compatibility and that is far more complex than how often you do it. I, for instance, am a total top. I have found therefore that I will be most successful in a relationship with a total bottom. I find that when I am with someone who is versatile, no matter how much they may love bottoming for me, the time will come when they will have the urge to top and in that instance, I cannot be what they need. Same is true of someone who is a complete bottom. Unless they are with a complete top, there will be unmet needs and perhaps resentment towards the relationship as a result of those needs remaining unfulfilled. Or, worse, that is when cheating and deceit occur. Yes, some address this with an open relationship or three ways, but that is as individual a choice as any. No two men are exactly the same and every relationship can and should define itself according to the mutual desires of both parties.

And there are those who say "if you really love someone, you should be willing to bottom (or top) for them." A) It doesn't work that way and B) the last thing I want is to fuck someone who is merely "letting" me fuck them. If they don't crave being fucked, then they are not having fun and I never want that.

No, versatile guys should be with versatile guys and tops should be with bottoms and vice versa. The naiveté in the woman's top ten list is that it is clear in heterosexual sex who is going to fuck whom ... with occasional, rare exceptions. In gay male sex, it is just more complex.

So, I contend that compatibility is the key to a healthy sex life.

Where's respect and admiration of each other on this list? Aren't they important? where's a relationship going to end up if you've lost respect and/or admiration of the other that pulled you in in the first place? Except, of course, your relationship was based simply on lust for the other's anatomical characteristics.

If both people are nice guys I don't see how it can fail.

I'm surprised no one has mentioned managing money. I thought that is the primary reason couples, at least hetero couples, split.

I went to a lesbian couples counselor once who said that of all the male homo couples in open relationships with which she had worked, only one of them seemed to content both partners. Of course if they're attending counseling, it's probably not a representative sample.

I tend to be a little too insecure to handle an open relationship well and that does limit my options. But these days I'm trying to live life on life's terms and enjoy who is available to me even if he and/or our relationship aren't exactly my ideal. Lexus, perfection is not an option!

Another pointless article for the swarth of gay men who can't even get one date never mind a relationship of which I am not only a long time member but also the president.

This is nothing less than a knife in my heart without the desired effect of real stabbing.

Death by cop here I come (and no more posted comments like this from me).

Those are great guidelines and to meet them all would practically guarantee a fine relationship. I would add trust to #9 to make it "Reliability and Trust." I had all those 10 characteristics in both of my LTR's., even though the first was monogamous and the second was set up as "open" almost from day one. For those who automatically deride open relationships, all of these criteria can be met in open and closed relationships. I had the pleasure of several simultaneous orgasms weekly throughout my first relationship's 5 1/2 years. But our sexual intimacy in my second, open relationship was enhanced with the addition of three-ways, playing with other couples and an occasional bathhouse fling together! The affection, trust, reliability, humor, communication and sexual intimacy were all still there and as they say, "variety is the spice of life", we had a very tasty time of it. I wouldn't necessarily agree about the need for therapy however. Two balanced individuals CAN function in all these ways without pouring money and time into 'shrinks!' That could be better spent vacationing together or on hobbies and other mutual interests. I've never been to a psychologist and don't feel the need to now or in the future.
I could go either monogamous or open in a future relationship, depending on early discussions and philosophies. As I've become "daddy age", sex plays a somewhat lesser role and the other 9 characteristics retain their vitality and importance. Good luck to all of us in finding that perfect match!

I don't know how to respond to 420quest, above, except to say he needs SERIOUS help SOON.
Before he hurts himself or puts a cop through the trauma of a "suicide by cop" scenario, he needs to seek help, NOW! If anyone knows him or has been writing to him, PLEASE do what you can to give him help and care. Anyone have any other ideas here?

I don't know how to respond to 420quest, above, except to say he needs SERIOUS help SOON.
Before he hurts himself or puts a cop through the trauma of a "suicide by cop" scenario, he needs to seek help, NOW! If anyone knows him or has been writing to him, PLEASE do what you can to give him help and care. Anyone have any other ideas here?
Preventing gay suicides should be at the forefront of our concerns. I've read and heard about it in young and old alike. I've commented repeatedly about bullying as it affects the victims and have donated monthly to the "Teaching Tolerance" program from the Southern Poverty Law Center to fight its prevalence in schools and elsewhere. We all need to be concerned and to prevent it when we can.

First time to respond to a "Blog", and found many of the above comments unique and novel in concept. My partner and I have been together for 37 years in an open relationship...since day one. I was very young when we met, and since I was a kid in a candy shop (at that time - mid 1970's) we both agreed and realized that I need to explore the "Gay" world to see what was really out there....... and I still am....LOL

Many people have asked over the years what is our secret, and we both agreed the 10 items noted make up / assist in any type of relationship, but we feel that "Trust & Honesty" are also key. Without these, one is doomed to failure. The minute either one of else felt it necessary to lie about what we may have done or not even tell the other, the relationship is over. My partner is my best friend, confidant, lover, and fan.

With respect to an "Open Relationship" we never flaunt the meeting / session in advance, but tell each other who, what, where and when we did the deed! Ironically many of our past encounters over the years have become very good friends. We both even though in our 60's now, have always had great appetites for external "safe" sex, and ironically many times after either one of us have had a fun encounter, and upon returning home, are twice as horny and energized and we end up having sex together. We are very blessed and fortunate, but we do not bring anyone home since we feel it is our personal private space (Of course unless agreed / discussed in advance).

Lastly, we feel that there are two types of sex. 1.) Uncomplicated sex, simple, basic, raw male to male interaction to get off etc. 2.) Sex as mentoned in /1, but add the magic word "Love" to it, and then the sexual pleasure / emotional experience rises to a much higher level for both parties involved.

As in any relationship, friendship, family, life partner, husband or wife, we are all different, and what works for you shoud be acceptable to all others. Those who find the need to criticize others and their relationships obviously have not found peace in their own lives or current relationships and are unhappy.

As each year goes by, we are still growing more and more spiritually together and in love, and we may be an anomaly today, but the sex and cuddling is still great especially since we still use the "Love Potion" to push the limits. Aloha

yes I am a fan of therapy. It is communication and sharing from a place that can incite change should you want change in your life. Balance is the key and this from a person who thrives on over focusing so yes balance in all things is a challenge for me. Best friends is a great help in being a couple and with best friends comes the ability to let each one be who they truly are within the relationship. And I am not talking destructive behaviors I am talking about kindness, honesty empathy, observation and so much more.

This is a good list, I'd be sure to keep these in mind for the future. Another one I'd like to add is "Trust". (Unless it falls under "Reliability")

My ex worked in a town 6 hours away from our hometown and his ex before me often lied and cheated on him. One day, after a month we started going out, he suspected me of doing the same thing (after I missed a few text messages) and even sent me a break-up texted. I told him he was mistaken. When I got to see him again we solved the issue, thankfully. We had a talk later, and it made me realize that trusting one another is important, otherwise it could lead to conflict. I've never had a more mature partner than him at the time, so I knew I could rely on his words. It inspired me to prove that I'm worthy of his trust, and so I did anything I could to show it.

Several months later we broke up though. But being open, communicating and trusting each other were some key components that made our relationship comfortable and fun.