Relationships can be difficult. Focusing on external qualifiers makes it even harder. But successful relationships require something much deeper than shared interests or physical attraction. Maintaining a healthy, happy relationship requires you to make daily choices that leave your ego behind and to act in the best interest of your relationship rather than just yourself.

Here are what I consider the 15 essential qualities of a lasting relationship:

1. Acceptance

Any partner will have qualities, characteristics, and behaviors that push your buttons and test your sanity. To make your relationship last, you have to accept your partner unconditionally—quirks, behavior, flaws, and all. First, you make the commitment to accepting them completely. Then, you speak up and say what it is that’s bothering you.

2. Respect

Once the chase is over and we've gotten the prize, we often just forget about our partner's feelings and needs. In lasting relationships, both partners value each other and take care with their words, actions, and behaviors. If you want to be with that person each day, make them feel that way.

3. Vulnerability

If you’re not willing to share what’s going on with you or what you need from your partner, you’re not going to get what you need. Yet, us men, and women, too—out of shame or a habit built over a lifetime of bottling up our feelings—don’t want to let anyone else in on what’s going on with us. If you can trust your partner enough to share your feelings, you’re more likely to find yourself in a safe relationship that lasts.

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4. Trust

You have to be willing to trust your partner not only with your feelings but with your weaknesses. You will have to learn trust at the emotional, physical, and spiritual level. Trust takes practice and is earned one step at a time. Even when trust is broken, you can find a way to repair a breach in trust if you’re willing to work on it.

5. Honesty

You have to be willing to share what’s going on, no matter how ugly. You can’t hide behind lies and deception if you want your relationship to last. If you can’t believe your partner when they tell you something, or if your partner is hiding things from you, it’s going to be hard for you to feel safe. Honesty helps foster trust and a belief in each other, which is crucial to making it over the long haul.

6. Empathy

Empathy means trying to understand what your partner is feeling. It isn’t about trying to fix your partner’s concerns and problems, necessarily, but about being able to be there for them. If you can pay more attention to what’s going on with your partner and strive to see things from their eyes, you will find yourself getting closer over time rather than more distant.

7. Kindness

Do all the things for your partner that you would do for your best friend. Try to anticipate their needs. Think about what they need help with and try to be there for them. Cut out the behavior that gets on their nerves and find ways to uplift your partner. Thoughtfulness, consideration, and kindness is the recipe for lasting relationships.

8. Commitment

You have to be committed to your partner, yes. But more than commitment to your partner, you have to be committed to the relationship. If you think about the health and future of the relationship instead of just your own, you’re likely to take more constructive actions and behave differently. It’s not just about getting your needs met. It's about replenishing the fire so your relationship can last.

9. Thoughtfulness

Thoughtfulness is keeping your partner in mind and striving to do things that will make their lives better. It’s knowing their preferences, opinions, and quirks so you’re able to dance with them, not fight them with. The better you know your partner, the more you can practice thoughtfulness. What can you do today to help them or improve their lives? What can you do today to make your partner’s day?

10. Forgiveness

You will be offended and feel hurt many times throughout a relationship. The key is to forgive quickly, let go of grudges, and start over each day. Yes, this is easier said than done, but forgiveness is crucial to the long-term health of the relationship. You have to let go of trespasses and also be willing to ask for forgiveness. Forgiveness takes courage, vulnerability, and practice.

11. Compromise

It may sound clichéd, but giving up on firm positions, unbendable views of the world, and what you each want to do independently of the other person is another important step to lasting love. Our egos usually hold us hostage and we can’t get out of the “win-lose” mentality. Compromise is letting go of what’s important to you individually in order to do what is important to the health of the relationship. It’s finding common ground.

12. Gentleness

Gentleness comes through in thoughts, words, actions, and your general state of being. It’s understanding and accepting your partner completely and treating them delicately. It’s not yelling, not being verbally or emotionally abusive, or name-calling.

Gentleness is treating your partner in a respectful, kind, and compassionate way. It’s recognizing your soulful connection and appreciating their inherent humanness.

13. Affection

After some time in relationships, we often forget to show love and affection toward our partners. Affection can be as simple as touching, holding, or kissing your partner for no reason at all. It’s a warm embrace, a light touch, a loving word, or any other small way you can show your partner that you love them.

To be most affectionate, you have to know how your partner receives love best and do more of that. Is it a loving word, a thoughtful gesture, help around the house, or doing something special for them? The better you know what your partner enjoys, the more affectionate you can be. This Love Languages quiz can help you figure out how you and your partner can most effectively show your love to each other.

14. Appreciation

We all take our partners for granted sometimes. If you can regularly remind yourself how lucky you are and how valuable your partner is, and tell them so, you will boost the happiness and longevity of your relationship. Partners who stay together appreciate each other and compliment each other. Recognize what your partner is doing and let them know that you’re thankful for it.

15. Validation

Most of the time, people don’t really understand us. Everyone has different opinions. Validating your partner shows them that you’re on their side. When you understand and accept what they say, they feel fully seen, heard, and accepted. It’s acknowledging what your partner is saying to you and showing them that you get them—you understand what they’re saying and experiencing. When you validate, you accept. And when you accept, you show unconditional love, which is ultimately what keeps people and relationships together in the long run.

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