How to Maintain a Long Term Relationship… For Men and Women.

I often shy away from writing about relationships because I’m in a very happy long-term one. It’s not terribly exciting for other people to read about it and no one likes a show off, so in the past I’ve limited my partner chatter to things like How to Survive a Long Distance Relationships and Open Door Toilet Going.

Anyway, recently I received an email from a reader asking for advice on what you can expect from a long-term relationship, and I realised there’s a bit of a demand for advice for people  like me. So I’ve patched together a little list of things that I believe to be true about long-term relationshipsI’m purposefully making this gender non-specific because I don’t think that gender makes a difference to successful co-habitation. I also don’t believe that all men are pigs and all women are naggers so on that note, here we go…

You Can’t Teach An Old Dog New Tricks

If your partner was raised in a house where they did sweet F.A for their entire childhood because someone ran around after them all the time, it’s going to be pretty difficult to teach them to contribute to your shared household. I’ve heard countless people complain about how their partners ‘never do anything to help around the house‘. I totally agree that everyone should help around the house but clearly not everyone does and if you choose to shack up with someone who’s never scrubbed a toilet or doesn’t know how to make 2 minute noodles, I hate to be harsh here but I think you’ve made your own bed. Both literally and figuratively.

But Make Sure Your Old Dog Knows a Few Tricks

If your partner doesn’t know what the mop does but can do other magical things like get your car to start in winter or grocery shop to within 2 cents of your weekly budget then all is not lost! It’s really important that your partner shares the household responsibility with you in a way that makes you both feel valued and supported. For example Mr Smaggle never does our clothes washing, but instead of whining about how I always have to do it, I acknowledge the fact that he always takes the rubbish out and cleans up the kitchen after I go all Nigella in there making dinner. Just remember, contributing to the household doesn’t always mean cleaning the toilet.

Romance Is A Two Way Street

I don’t think that just because I’m the girl in our relationship that that entitles me to some kind of exclusive and regular romance treatment. I love it when Mr Smaggle makes me eggs on Sundays and draws a heart on it with BBQ sauce but he also loves it when I bring him coffee in the morning from his favourite cafe. If you’re feeling a little unloved in your relationship I think it’s important to cast your mind back and think of the last time you did something special for your partner. If you can’t remember then that’s the first problem you need to fix.

It’s Not All Sunshine and Roses

The person you are in a relationship with is (hopefully) human. This means that they have desires, needs, wants and feelings and you’re going to be around for that. If your partner snaps at you for no reason and is having an inexplicably cranky day, it’s not going to help if you snap back at them. Give them a cuddle, make them a cup of tea or take them for a walk.  Acknowledge that they aren’t feeling amazing and help them feel good again. It’s so much better than starting a fight that didn’t have anything to do with you in the first place.

Get Your Expectations Under Control

You need to forget the stereotypical ideas of romance. Flowers, expensive hotels, french Champagne. It’s all bullshit if you don’t also get any of the real romance.* I don’t think Mr Smaggle has ever bought me flowers and certainly not past our one year anniversary but he always makes sure I have the TV shows I want on my iPad before I go to bed and if I fall asleep on the couch I always wake up under a blanket and with my head on a pillow. I’ll take all of that stuff over a dozen impersonal roses any day. It doesn’t matter if you’re male or female or dating a male or a female… or both. Everyone loves to be loved. That might mean a packed lunch to take to work, a sweet text at lunch time or a head massage in front of the TV at night. Little hint: True romantic gestures rarely cost a cent.

You Can’t Change The Terms of The Contract Without A Cooling Off Period

Obviously people change and times change but you can’t decide to suddenly join a rock band and be out until 2am six nights a week and expect your partner to be okay with that. Major changes in lifestyle, financial circumstances or living arrangements do affect your partner so make sure you keep them in the loop. Mr Smaggle and I travel quite frequently with work and we always discuss the terms of the trip before we go ahead with it. It’s really just good manners.

Make Sure You Actually Still Like Your Partner

I think the ‘secret’ to my successful long-term relationship is that I wake up every morning, look at my man and think ‘Shit yeah! This guy’s still here!. I just genuinely think he’s rad. It helps that he’s extraordinarily kind, generous and gentlemanly but he’s also just incredibly pleasant to be around. Sometimes I’ve had to counsel friends through relationships, pretending to offer advice when really I was just biding my time until they realised that their partner is just a master level douche bag. I’m not trying to be all smug like ‘Look at me I’m so awesome because my boyfriend’s not a jerk!.’ I’ve dated heaps of jerks. I’ve just realised that they’re jerks and now I’m with someone lovely. Don’t rule out the possibility of your unhappiness being a direct result of the fact that your partner is a shithead.

Are you in a long term relationship? What’s your advice to maintaining it?

* If your significant other sends you flowers weekly that’s beautiful. Just make sure you’re also getting the other good stuff like midnight chemist runs when you’re sick.

Carly is the founding editor of Smaggle which launched in 2007 back when blogging was weird. She has appeared in The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, Cosmopolitan and Cleo magazines. Hoop earrings are totally her thing and she almost got run over by Myf Warhurst while out jogging one day.


  1. Totally down with all this solid advice. You are so wise Smags x

  2. kathryn 3 years ago

    Great advice. One thing I see women doing that doesn’t help is when their partner does help and they get all perfectionist on him. I know if I had the choice of getting shit piled on me for NOT doing something or shit for doing it, I’d pick the not doing. If the laundry isn’t folded the way you want it, who cares? At least it’s folded. If you want things done your way, do them yourself and don’t bitch about it.

    • Author
      Smaggle 3 years ago

      Good one! That’s my mother in a nutshell.

    • Natasja Jade 3 years ago

      Unless your partner does the dishes, after 3 weeks of leaving them, by putting everything in a tub on the floor getting dirty suds all over the carpet then rinsing everything off in the just-cleaned shower where the shower gets clogged with crap from the gross dirty dishes???

  3. Sarah Rooftops 3 years ago

    Good advice – especially appreciating what they DO do around the place instead of focusing on what they don’t. I actually wrote about this a while back (here: and a lot of my points are echoed here.

  4. Sugandha 3 years ago

    Loved this. It’s so applicable to marriage as well and I’ve been married for 5 and been together for 11.5 years! I once jokingly complained that Evs never bought me flowers (beyond our first date!!) and didn’t think twice about it but the boy actually then bought me flowers on my birthday AND our anniversary. Despite that, you’re so right – it’s the little things that add up to more romance than petals 🙂

    I’d also add in – making sure you each have your OWN life (as in interests/hobbies) and also then having common interests/hobbies 🙂

    • Author
      Smaggle 3 years ago

      Absolutely! You must have your own agenda.

  5. Cheryl Lin 3 years ago

    This sounds pretty sound and rational, look forward to applying! X

  6. Kate 3 years ago

    “If you’re feeling a little unloved in your relationship I think it’s important to cast your mind back and think of the last time you did something special for your partner. If you can’t remember then that’s the first problem you need to fix.”

    Such amazing advice – something I have recently realised and have started to work on. It’s amazing how much your relationship can flourish when you stop thinking about what you should be getting out of it and start thinking about how you can contribute to your partner’s happiness/your relationship 🙂

    • Author
      Smaggle 3 years ago

      I say that to my friends ALL THE TIME! It’s surprising how people can forget that. 🙂

  7. Carla 3 years ago

    This was a lovely read. I’m in a longish(for my age) relationship, with a lovely boy, and have found all of these things to be true. Both myself and my partner suffer from mental illness, so it is important for us to take turns at being strong for the other (depending on who most needs it). What’s amazing is that it is easy to be strong even if you’re feeling down when the person you loves needs you. So if one of us has had a particularly bad month and is on the verge of falling apart (or just falling apart), the other knows to take it easy and just help out, even if it’s only by taking care of the little things like cooking, or making an It’s true also that no relationship is perfect, and that you will work hard at it if it’s worth it. I see so many people who seem to want a relationship that is perfect, and at the first sign of trouble or misunderstanding, run away.

    • Author
      Smaggle 3 years ago

      That’s so true! Thanks. x

  8. Fiona Dolan 3 years ago

    I love this and agree with everything you’ve said! I’ve recently (finally) moved in with my manfriend, and it’s sure not all champagne and roses while your adjusting to the rhythm of a combo life! It’s so important not to compare your relationship to that of your friends/colleagues, because when it comes down to it, you’ve chosen your partner, not theirs!

  9. Erica 3 years ago

    I’ve been married for 10+ years and thought I was very happy, but now I KNOW I’m happy. A few years ago I started to suffer from body image issues and started to see a therapist this year.

    Turns out I was afraid of a lot of stuff. Not just my husband seeing me potentially get “fat,” but the seeing the real me – the me that gets mad, bitter, angry, is too emotional and too dirty.

    I hadn’t been entirely fake with him, but I have a strong perfectionist streak. I wanted him to think everything was OK all the time. There was a lot I didn’t say and a lot I kept inside.

    The upside of the whole thing is that I’ve been opening up a lot more, and he’s been wonderful. He is OK with the real me, and feels safer being more vulnerable to me too. It feels like a whole new marriage, and I’m so much less afraid.

    Probably most people don’t need to go through this process. We weren’t even having problems, as a couple, but my own issues were festering. I’m so glad to have a partner who’s going through it with me.

    • Erica 3 years ago

      Oh yeah, and YES to everything else in the post!

      • tuffhr 3 years ago

        YES to all the above. And to a Best Beloved who is helping me through depression and chronic fatigue syndrome, while I try and figure out what the new “normal” is for my life.


  10. Elisha 3 years ago

    Great article! I found it really helpful looking at the different “love languages” too and realising that they way we feel most loved and appreciated is not necessarily the same as our partner! some people love little gifts, some love help around the house, some love compliments, some need lots of cuddles and some just need time spent together (well we need all of these things on some level but have differing levels of need) – is helpful is figuring out what will make our partner feel most loved and valued, and express our own needs too : )


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