With Valentine’s Day just round the corner we thought we’d put trivial gifts and naff cards to one side and concentrate on the real crux of the matter… what makes a relationship work? With divorce rates sky rocketing to near the 50% mark we spoke to couples that have stood the test of time and questioned what really makes love last?



When asked the question: “What’s the secret to a long, happy marriage?” a common answer from people in long marriages was: “I married my best friend.” Similarly, from those whose marriages did not succeed, you all too often hear: “Well, we were good at love, but we never learned how to be friends.”

You have to be friends and share common interests. Whether that is something as trivial as both sharing hobbies or having the same sense of humour, when looks start to fade it’s the true friendship union you have that will make you last.

James Hall, a 54-year-old investment banker said, “The secret to my successful 20 year long marriage is I married my best friend. After a string of frivolous relationships with model types, who to be honest never stimulated me intellectually, I met my wife who was a partner in a law firm, she had a cracking sense of humour and the guttsiest personality and we just clicked and became friends. After 6 months she was transferred to the States for work that I just knew I had to have her by my side. To cut a long story short after a flight out and romantic proposal – she felt the same, said “yes” and we have never looked back.



Opposites may attract, but they don’t always make for great and lasting marriages. You are much more likely to have a satisfying companionship for life when you and your partner are fundamentally similar. And the most important thing to look for is similarity in your core values.

Take Emma Sylvester, who at 87 has been married for 58 years. As she put it with a smile, “It’s quite an achievement.”

“I didn’t know it when I got married, but in retrospect I know it’s important to have the same basic values. In other words, if you’re a free spender, marry somebody who understands that. If you’re frugal, you need to marry somebody who understands that, because money is one of the stumbling blocks in marriages. And fortunately we had the same values on most things. Because of this, we really didn’t argue. And we really didn’t agonise over things. We came to our decisions by just realising that we had usually the same goals. We both believed in education. We wanted to be moral according to society’s standards, to raise our children to be good citizens, and to be responsible in terms of finances.”

As boring as it may sound – it is these basic yet solid foundations that will help you achieve long lasting love.


According to royal biographer Ingrid Seward the key to a long lasting relationship is laughter. The Queen and Prince Philip, who have just celebrated their milestone 70 year wedding anniversary, have a great relationship and they laugh all the time together. Apparently the Queen is an excellent comic and despite her incredibly OTT posh accent can put on a fantastic Liverpudlian, Irish and American accent.

“I think the secret is they laugh together, we all know that life is very, very difficult but to see the funny side sometimes but a shared sense of humour can go a long way,” Seward said.

Halle Simpson, a mum of two said about her 15 year relationship, “We just enjoy each other’s company. We’re playful and tease each other in a light-hearted way. Life can be so hard, and finding ways to make each other smile seems to be the antidote for us.”

Psychologists agree too. There have been many studies on couples that share laughter having a more solid union than those that have a more ‘serious relationship’ without humour.



It is important to know when to leave an argument or how to settle disputes peacefully. Invariably if you spend that much time with one other person, tensions are going to brew from time to time.  Apologiseforgive and make up with each other. If you threaten to break up with each other after every fight or argument, you will never really resolve anything.

Caitlin Moore, 42, who has been married for 11 years put it simply: “Take breaking up off the table,” she said. “Talk through disagreements as long or as many times as it takes until the issue is resolved and both of you feel comfortable moving forward.

“Sometimes me and my partner find it easier to leave an argument rather than fight it if we know there is no winning solution. I was committed to my partner Tom being my life partner and when we both realised this and took the “I’m going to leave you card” off the table we learned to back down in arguments that although seemed important at the time – we knew were not make or break.”

A good tip to cooling off arguments is to talk about the good with the bad. Start off by saying how much you love the person, and how committed you are to making the relationship work. Then go into your complaint, if you have one. It will make your partner less defensive.

Also learn to leave arguments – sometimes who was right or wrong in a situation is unimportant. Just get on with your life and your day to day living/loving.



You can’t have a relationship without trust. Trust is founded not just in loyalty to that person but respect towards them. Be able to trust each other in everything, keeping private your partner’s innermost secrets, fears and struggles. You can also help your partner overcome them.

When you say you’ll do something, follow through. Keep your word. Realise that fulfilling simple, basic commitments every day lays the foundation of trust that extends to more challenging situations.

“My partner had trust issues from a previous relationship where her boyfriend had cheated on her,” Mike says. “It took time for her to build trust in me and our relationship because of this. I found that by proving to her that I was loyal and trustworthy by keeping a personal secret of hers, keeping appointments and sticking to my word, she learned to trust me.”

As hard as it may be try and leave any emotional baggage from one relationship when moving onto another. Loyalty and trust is key.



When you have been in a relationship for a while, romance does tend to go out the window to make way for everyday life: time for careers, juggling kids, finances etc. But it is really important to make time for that special someone in your life.

This doesn’t have to be expensive gifts or over the top romantic gestures – just try to keep that glimmer of romance you had in the start alight. Once a month, get a babysitter go out for dinner and try to make that extra time for each other.

Most people don’t try romantic activities because they simply don’t know how. Here’s a hint: there are no secrets to romance. Most of the time, everything we need to know is right under our noses.

Maria, a busy mum of three, thought the romance had gone from her relationship when her husband came home without the kids from school one day.

”Urm, where are the kids Paul?” I said.

“They’re at my mothers,” he replied. “I have booked us a trip to Paris for the weekend.”

I literally couldn’t believe it and the trip from start to finish was magical taking in the sights, going out for dinner at lovely restaurants. It was just what I needed and definitely injected that much needed spark and spontaneity into our married life.”

While Paris doesn’t have to be on the cards, a bit of thought and planning and a romantic gesture every so often does go a hell of a long way.



Spend time apart from your partner. It will help your relationship to grow by not crowding each other and give you the much needed opportunity to miss each other so when you are together you can say how you’ve truly missed that person. It doesn’t have to be weeks on end (although that works fine too) it can just be a day, night or weekend away with friends.

Amber Collier, a 28-year-old PR executive says she makes sure she goes for regular weekends away with the girls and it has really helped her have a stronger and healthier relationship with her partner Jack.

“Jack really misses me when I’m away and we have a time ‘catching up’ when I’m back,” she laughs. “I really believe it is important to not neglect your friends. A lot of people enter relationships and dump their friends. Don’t forsake your friends; they’ll help you discover yourself and stay grounded while you’re in the relationship,” Amber says. “Besides who wants to live in the pocket of your other half 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, you don’t have the chance to develop your own friendships and the joys you get out of having these relationships makes you a better person to be around.”

Amber and Jack are due to get married in 2019. Amber is going on two hen weekends and a week long holiday with her old school friends. We spoke to Jack about whether her absence makes his heart grow fonder. “I don’t like her going away but I really miss her when she’s gone and we have a great time catching up when she’s back. So yes I agree absence does make the heart grow fonder.”



You can’t choose your partner’s family and we all know in-laws can be hard to deal with, but if you want to have a good relationship with your partner it is important to learn to get on with them.

Katie Simpson, a relationship psychologist, says: “Don’t try to find fault. We’ve eager to dismiss the blemishes of our own parents but point out the blemishes of our partner’s. Try to break this cycle. Give both sets of parents the benefit of the doubt before your judge them.

“Seeing your combined family as one, whether you’re married or not can really help overcome this. Try to find the good in them (and in everyone for that matter) and you will find your life and relationships a lot easier to deal with,” she advises.

Besides if a wedding or long term partnership is on the cards you will have to spend more time with these people, so you might as well make sure you’re having fun whilst doing so.”