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Secrets of Couples Who Stay Together

These four habits are the key to keeping romance alive into retirement.

More than half of retirees say their relationship with their spouse or partner is “better” or “much better” after retirement than it was before, according to a recent survey of more than 3,000 retirees and pre-retirees conducted by Athene.* But research shows lasting love isn’t just a happy accident. Healthy couples that keep their relationships going strong into retirement share these four habits.

They Have Meaningful Conversations

“Real communication is when you share intimate thoughts, goals, and dreams with your partner,” says Terri Orbuch, Ph.D., a professor at Oakland University and author of 5 Simple Steps to Take Your Marriage from Good to Great. Orbuch, who has been following hundreds of couples for nearly three decades as part of a research study, says that couples who stayed together—and were happy—talked to each other at least 10 minutes a day about things other than work, family, or who does what around the house.

They Make Time to Cuddle

Remember the beginning of your relationship when you couldn’t keep your hands off each other? Keep it up. Romantic behaviors—hugging, kissing, and being intimate—not only bring you and your partner physically close, they may keep your relationship close too. One study that surveyed couples married over the course of 10 years found a high correlation between intense love and high levels of affection. Conversely, couples in loveless relationships reported a lack of physical affection.


They Fight Fair

Every relationship experiences disagreements and bumpy periods, but happy couples tend to handle conflict constructively. “They know when to engage in an argument and when to let it go without resentment,” says Orbuch. Couples who stay together work toward healthy resolutions by keeping calm and validating each other’s feelings—rather than treating each other disrespectfully. “You are more than twice as likely to break up or divorce if you and your partner handle conflict by screaming, interrupting, or calling each other names.”

They Keep It Fresh

When you step out of your comfort zone as a couple, it prevents boredom and helps fuel the romance in your relationship. Research shows that couples that share novel and challenging activities report the strongest bond. So what new things should you try? Join a gym together, sign up for a dance class, or get up early to take a nature hike, says Orbuch. “Anything that helps you learn something different about your partner or adds novelty to your relationship will reignite the passion and excitement and get you out of the relationship rut.”

*Participants in this study were provided through the Harris Panel, including members of its third-party panel providers.