5 Rules of Strong Relationships

While science, of course, shouldn't be the final arbiter when it comes to the emotional landscape of relationships, what DOES it have to say about them? Here are 5 rules of strong relationships, backed by science.

Before you get started reading this, I want to make something clear: your reaction to many of these points will likely be along the lines of “well, duh.

But the point of this article isn’t so much to give relationship advice as it is to show that these pieces of wisdom have actually been studied and confirmed by those who dedicate their entire careers to understanding human interaction at its deepest level.

While you may act in accordance with the advice given in this article anyway, you might not realize the incredible effects doing so has had on your relationship.

If you read this and you do think “well, duh,” my guess is you’re in a loving and caring relationship that rarely faces any truly rocky moments.

On the other hand, if some of this advice is news to you, think about how you can change up your routine to improve what should be one of the most important aspects of your life.

Here are 5 Rules of strong relationships that are backed by science.

1) Think Positively About Each Other

Say it with me now: “Well, duh!”

You might not need science to tell you that thinking positive thoughts about your significant other is beneficial to your relationship, but you also might not realize how beneficial these positive thoughts are.

According to Bianca Acevedo, Ph.D. of the University of California in Santa Barbara, having almost constant positive thoughts of your mate allows you to experience “positive sentiment override.” This is fancy speak for “letting things go.”

When you’re constantly thinking of the great things your significant other brings to your life, you let the things that might annoy you about them fade away.

For example, and I’ll be very candid here, my wife sometimes leaves her shoes in the middle of the floor, leaving klutzy me to trip over them once in awhile.

Imagine if my head was full of negative thoughts about her bad habits: I’d constantly harp on the fact that she ‘always leaves her shoes in the middle of the floor’ (even if she doesn’t always do it).

Instead, if I happen to trip over her shoes, I take a step back and remember, for example, that she had a long day the night before, and had most likely kicked off her shoes in frustration over something that happened at work the minute she got home.

The fact that she forgot to pick them up pales in comparison to knowing how hard she works every day of her life, so it’s incredibly easy to let something so insignificant fall by the wayside.

2) Show Physical Affection

Picture a cute little old couple sitting on a park bench holding hands while they enjoy the sunshine. We’ve all seen something similar at one point or another, recognized it as absolutely adorable, and moved on with our lives.

But take a minute to realize that this old couple has been holding hands since they were in their 20s or 30s, or even younger! They’ve been holding each other’s hands for over 50 years, and have never once gotten tired of it.

No matter your age, showing physical signs of affection releases oxytocin, which causes a calm to come over your body. It works both ways, in that the giver and receiver of the physical attention benefit from a single action, such as a hug or peck on the cheek.

Of course, no discussion of the benefits of physical affection would be complete without a discussion of sex. Although there is the long-running idea that humans in their 20’s are in their sexual prime, there’s also the idea that experience plays a large role in a couple’s sexual satisfaction, and that sex gets better with age.

There’s no easier way to say it than “practice makes perfect.” The more sex a couple has together, the more they understand about what each other enjoys, and the better it gets.

3) Communicate Face-to-Face

We live in a world in which we can spend our entire day at work texting our significant others.

You would think the ability to be in constant communication with one another would increase our connectedness, and, well… you’d be right, at least in part.

However, we should never use texting, email, Skype, or phone calls as a substitute for actual face-to-face communication and conversation.

Couples that have strong communication skills tend to be happier than those whose conversations are artificial and superfluous. They’re able to pick up on a variety of clues related to body language, voice inflection, and facial expression that simply aren’t there when talking on the phone or through text.

Not only that, but the conversations had in person tend to be much more meaningful than those had through your smartphone.

Lastly, when having a face-to-face conversation with your loved one, your attention is, or at least should be, completely on the conversation at hand. When you’re talking on the phone, you’re more likely to be distracted by other messages and notifications that take away from the authenticity of your interaction.

4) Push Each Other’s Limits

No, I don’t mean you should annoy each other to your wits’ end! I mean you should always be looking for something new to do as a couple (side note: I’m really glad I included a section between this one and the one about sex, or this entire section could be read as a double entendre!).

Anyways, as a couple, you should always be willing to do something you normally wouldn’t do if not for your significant other. I have no qualms admitting that I enjoy going to art galleries and street fairs, as long as my wife is by my side. And she would never have found herself at a Yankee game in the dead heat of July, but together we’ve had some memorable moments at the Stadium over the years.

Having a loved one to experience life with is incentive to actively go out and expand your comfort zone. Instead of waiting around for something amazing to happen to you, go out and experience everything you possibly can! Whether you enjoy yourself or not, you at least create a new memory to share with the person you love (often the funniest stories, in retrospect, are the worst experiences when they’re actually happening).

5) Have A Life Of Your Own — Together

Even married couples who have devoted their lives to one another live with the understanding that they are still separate people with separate hopes and dreams.

A relationship may be made of two people who have joined together, but that doesn’t mean each party should live every single moment of their lives for the other person. And they shouldn’t expect it from their significant other, either.

When you enter into a relationship, you’ll most likely make some sacrifices that will be the difference between the person you were and the person you want to become.

This doesn’t mean you have to give up your entire identity, though.

In fact, if your significant other mandates that you completely overhaul your entire life, you’re almost certainly in an abusive or otherwise detrimental relationship. Though you both should feel the need to grow together, you should both also have the freedom to grow individually as well.

Having passion for life outside of your relationship can actually strengthen your relationship in a variety of ways. You’ll share more experiences (as previously discussed), you’ll be able to support your significant other in enjoyable ways, and you won’t become too overbearing or reliant on your mate.

Most importantly, the more you love yourself, the more love you’ll be able to give.

By living every moment of your own life passionately, you ensure that you maintain a passion for your relationship as well.