1. Unrealistic expectations don’t lead to Happily Ever After. They lead to the Land of Perpetual Disappointment. So enjoy romance all you want, but don’t romanticize your relationship.
2. Don’t discount the importance of trying at everything—even love. Standing by someone’s side no matter what isn’t an easy thing to do, but it’s incredibly rewarding.
3. Relationships are a lot of hard work, especially as time goes on. But the longer you make it, the more history you have to lean on as a couple. Shared memories are the best cushion you could ask for.
4. No matter how strongly you feel about each other, you can’t expect to be fulfilled by your relationship alone. You will both have to work hard on yourselves, too. The more satisfied you are as individuals, the better equipped you’ll be to support on another.
5. Don’t be afraid to ask for help—not just from each other, but others. Vent to your friends about whatever issues you’re facing, confide in a therapist, or read books and blogs detailing other people’s experiences. You can’t do it alone and the sooner you recognize that, the better the chances you’ll make it long-term.
6. Your relationship won’t last if you don’t water it regularly with love. Please don’t wait until you’re wandering through the desert hand-in-hand before tipping that watering can.
7. Lasting love is inevitably comprised of countless joyful moments, but also many difficult ones. The beauty of the tough stuff if that you’ll grow from it more than you do from anything else.
8. Don’t count on love alone to sustain your happiness as a couple. You need more than that—common interests, maybe, shared values, or common goals. Anything that unites you.
9. Some things will always be beyond your control. Illness doesn’t ask permission to strike, and you can’t predict the future. But you can weather anything together if you remain committed to each other above all.
10. It’s okay to have bad days as a couple. You won’t feel head-over-heels in love every second. Sometimes, you will legitimately hate each other. But you’re not any less in love with someone just because you can’t stand them for a bit.
11. There will be days you dream of a life with someone else. You will entertain escapist fantasies and maybe even lay out a few precise getaway plans. It’s okay. It’s just your imagination at play.
12. You will both be haunted by unwelcome thoughts. It’s entirely natural to consider possibilities so don’t feel as if you’re betraying your partner when your mind wanders. There’s no such thing as a bad thought—only bad actions, really.
13. Communication is key, but that doesn’t mean every single passing thought is worth sharing. Some things are better kept to yourself, especially in the name of protecting the person you love. Total transparency is for windows, not lovers.
14. You will probably have to keep reminding yourselves why you chose each other. You will also have to keep choosing each other, again and again and again—not because you’ve fallen out of love, but because you need to exercise those love muscles if you want your relationship to stay fit.
15. When you find yourself wondering if you could’ve done better—if there might be someone else out there who could make you happier—try asking the following instead: How can I do this better? Your relationship isn’t perfect, but that doesn’t mean you’ve settled.
16. When your relationship needs a boost (and it will), don’t shy away from getting a little cheesy. Being silly is a great way to reconnect. So stare into your partner’s eyes, slow dance in the middle of the living room, or exchange This Is Why I love You lists.
17. Forgiveness is almost always the key to moving forward. Getting there requires stepping outside yourself to see your partner’s perspective—a difficult thing to do since each of us lives in the tiny, egocentric universe of our own mind—but it does get easier with practice.
18. In most cases, you’ll find that the line between “right” and “wrong” is pretty blurry. And as long as you’re still fighting, no one’s really winning. As a general rule, the quicker you apologize, the better.
19. Don’t underestimate yourself, or your partner. You’d be surprised what you’re capable of when you truly love someone, but you have to trust each other. You can only fight doubt with patience, understanding, and compassion.
20. A solid relationship is rooted in equality—a sense of balance between two people’s competing wants and needs. As soon as something happens to compromise that harmony, you have to reshape things to reestablish the peace. You have to adapt constantly—as individuals and as a couple—to survive.
21. Living with another person can be really challenging, but I promise that you’re just as difficult to live with as your significant other is, and that you’re both equally to blame for any cohabitation headaches. If you’re craving alone time in the home you share, find a way to be alone when someone else is there. Read a book, or lose yourself in your headphones for a while.
22. Check in with each other regularly. Never stop asking your partner how they’re doing, or how their day’s going. The only thing more important than caring is showing that you care, especially in those tiny everyday ways too many people overlook as time passes.
23. Ultimately, the trick to staying together is wonderfully simple, yet complicated: Never ever leave each other.