Relationship success is a science.

Long-term love has less to do with the falling part than it does with the maintaining part.

We’re all familiar with the falling, if not through first-hand experience then from movies, music and social media. Media of every kind loves to highlight the beginnings of relationships: The meeting, the dating, and, if the planets are aligned, the marrying.

And that’s where society loses interest – just when the relationship starts getting real.

In the absence of any role models, examples or reality regarding how significant the struggle is to maintain a LTR, couples are left to their own resources – which are limited because we are never taught relationship skills – and when those resources fail to pull the couple out of pain, they are left riddled with shame, and worse, a sense of failure. Because no one teaches us that pain is all part of a long-term relationship.

I’m not talking about sustained pain. I’ve been married for 11 years and I’m no martyr. Or masochist.

I’m talking about momentary pain, although those moments become extended when people are not adept at resolving the conflict that leads to the pain.

Herein lies the crux of my point: Love, as an emotion, becomes irrelevant to the success of a long-term relationship. Because like all emotions, love ebbs and flows. It’s not sustainable.

Sure, it starts out looking like it’ll stick around forever, making you think that all you needed was to find the right partner as evidenced by how amazingly happy you felt in the beginning. But any adult over the age of 30 (and plenty younger) can attest to the fact that those feelings always change over time, otherwise the person you first had that feeling of love with would be sitting next to you, laughing at how wrong the premise of this article is.

The only thing relevant to the success of a long-term relationship is relationship skills – knowing how to navigate conflict when it arises, because you can’t be in a healthy relationship without having some intermittent conflict throughout the lifespan of the relationship. It never ends, kids. And you will never find a relationship devoid of it. That, I promise, is true.

I think the Buddhists have it right when it comes to life philosophy: Life is riddled with pain. The suffering comes from resisting the truth that life is painful. Accept the truth that bad things happen and you’ll be much happier. Moreover, teach people what to do when life becomes painful and people will have less pain because it will be momentary rather than ongoing. 

I don’t say this to destroy your belief in the power of love. I say this because I believe in the power of love. I believe in love’s power to ignite something between two people.

Keeping that flame burning over decades, however, requires skills. Relationship Skills.