Relationship Tips from People who’ve been together for over 20 years

Noemi J. Mullins

This article is part of SELF’s Keep It Hot Package, a collection that celebrates love & lust. We’ll be sharing advice and inspiration throughout February to help you feel hot, get horny, and nurture romantic relationships.

We’ve all seen them—the couples who can’t keep their hands off each other. Whether they’re making out on a subway train or getting all goggly-eyed at a bar, it’s usually a telltale sign that the pairing is brand new, a fresh infatuation being compulsively explored. But sometimes you see a different kind of couple. One that clearly has a number of years under their belt. Two people who have grown into and with each other. It might be the septuagenarians locking arms at the grocery store, or the middle-aged couple at dinner who still have stars in their eyes. They’ve seen the good, bad, and the custom-fit night guard, but, somehow, are still very much in love.

If you haven’t had a long-term relationship beyond 10 years (or even 10 months), then spying on long-term lovers out in the wild is like seeing a bigfoot and yeti-hugging hands. How does this happen? What do they know about us that we don’t?!

We are all familiar with the romance of discovering something new. What happens when the old becomes new? Then, you get older. This kind of commitment may be unacceptable to some people. Some people shouldn’t be together. We have some tips from people who have lived it.

SELF interviewed people in happy, sexy, and fulfilling relationships that span 20 to 64 years. What it takes to keep the flames burning. Here’s some relationship advice to help you make the love and lust last if you are happily married.

Keep your mind open to sex

“What I have learned over the past 22 years is that you should always be truthful but not hurtful and continue to experiment sexually. The rule GGG is what we live by. It stands for good, giving, and honest. You never know what you might enjoy if you don’t try it. What I thought was hot when I was 25 isn’t necessarily what I think now. My husband has done an incredible amount of research into different sexual methods. This has resulted in some of the most intense orgasms that I have ever experienced–even in my 40s!

Another important aspect is that we never criticize one another’s bodies. My partner has never made me ashamed of my body in 22 years. He has made me feel proud. He’s made me feel celebrated.

Make time for you two

“My husband and I have twin teenage boys. Their lives are very busy, which makes it difficult for us to spend quality time together. This doesn’t necessarily have to be a fancy date night. It’s usually a Sunday morning walk or a trip to a farmers market. Sometimes, we even treat running errands as if it were a date. It’s so important to make time for each other to show that you matter even in the chaos of daily life. Jill, 20 Years Together

Learn from each other

“We have come to understand and accept each other’s love language. We share what is most important to us and what makes our hearts feel loved. Although grand gestures are beautiful, gestures that are large and extravagant can become merely gestures after a while. Sometimes, the simplest acts of love can feel intimate. I value touch and we often hold hands while watching TV. This is a small gesture that goes unnoticed. My partner values verbal expressions so I always say “I love you” to him each day. Christopher, 22-years-of-marriage

Do not let arguments become screaming matches

“A close friend is going through the initial stages of a divorce. She mentioned that her spouse is not willing to address their anger issues. I explained that my wife and I have never yelled at one another in almost 24 years. While we argue and have disagreements, we never raise our voices or say unkind words to each other. It is the foundation of our strength, our connection. As the years go by, passion, sex, and happiness, as well as date nights, good times, and happiness, all these things fade. But trusting and respecting each other is what keeps us connected, strong, and in love.”

You can add regular sex dates to the calendar

“My husband recommends a regular sex/intimacy day. It’s fine if one of you doesn’t want to go. Enjoy each other’s company in different ways. Talking can turn into snuggling. Perhaps all you need is snuggling. Perhaps snuggling can be transformed into something else.

Take care of your friends and delegate household chores

“My partner and I were best friends before we became partners, and we continue to invest in our friendship. We continue to go to punk shows together and do the things we love since we were twenty years old. As we get older, we haven’t lost sight or forgotten about the activities and interests that make up our lives, regardless of what our family has to do.

Speaking of responsibilities, delegate! If you are able to delegate, be honest about your goals and needs in a relationship. My husband is a great cook and my wife loves to manage finances. TaskRabbit is a great tool for home repairs. We are both terrible at it so TaskRabbit is a blessing. “You have to understand your strengths and weaknesses, and create a system around them so that you don’t argue about who cleans the toilet each Sunday morning.”

You will find that love is like a muscle that gets stronger with time

“Continually choose your partner with all their faults and virtues. Sometimes it can feel like work. It can feel like work, especially when you are frustrated or upset. But, making this decision allows you to see the good parts of your relationship, and can help you make sure you don’t take one another for granted. This was initially a conscious decision that I made daily for my wife. It’s now a way of life that we both enjoy, in an amazing groove that makes it easy to make the right choice. We have chosen each other and are now mindful of the small gestures of love and the special moments that make our lives together so we can be grateful for them. Maximizing the bright spots in life naturally reduces anger, frustration, and resentment.

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