I've never had experience making an OT but I could probably figure it out. Or, someone with more expertise could do it. Alternatively this terrible thread could be the OT.
OK this is the OT. Done.
Thanks to AMUSIX for this great and very true post.
My wife and I started living together October of '95. We've been through every situation from renting a single room in a house with 6 other roommates, living off of the tips she made waitress at a diner to owning our home and being independently wealthy. We've gone through all the typical couple strife, from in-law stressors to financial issues to friend problems. Over the past seventeen years, there are certain things which have remained constant, certain things that I've come to believe are important in a relationship.
Bamelin's post above is very, very similar to this, so it only strengthens my belief that I at least go something right.
1) Communication is Vital: There is nothing more important. Without open, honest communication, I cannot see how any lasting relationship can be healthy. We've weathered situations and have done things that I know will commonly tear a couple apart, and I've got to attribute that to us being both forthcoming and receptive with each other. In another thread, someone scoffed and said "communication can't fix every problem" which is true. However, it can absolutely fix every fixable problem. All the things that people have the most trouble discussing openly (money, sex, family) are the things that have to be discussed between two people if they want to grow together.
2) Space is Vital: While each of you having your own physical space is a wonderful idea, it is also a luxury. Even when we were in a single room, sharing a bathroom with four others, we managed to have our own 'space'. For me, it was a lot of my online interactions. For her, it was diaries and the second drawer under the bed. Being able to explore who you are on your own and then taking that back to your SO is key to not letting the relationship become dominated by one side or the other. Likewise, respecting one another's space and not trying to intrude on it only builds trust and the wonderful feeling that anything is safe with the other person.
3) Vacations are Important: OK, stealing this from Bamelin, but I absolutely agree. Find any way you can to get away, to share experiences with each other. Heck, we subjected ourselves to a medical experiment just to have enough money to do a road trip to the SouthWest. Sure, a week of e.coli followed by a week of sleeping in the car doesn't sound like heaven, but 15 years later, we remember that trip so fondly. The same goes for every trip we've taken, the times that we've shared that stand out the most were when we separated ourselves from all outside stressors and just got to be together (I should note that, in our over 17 and a half years, we've spent maybe 30 days apart).
4) Money is Not That Important: But honesty about money and proper money management is. Don't live outside your means, no matter how much you might want it for the other. If there's trouble paying bills, work on it together. We had these problems early on, and we had friends who had the same problems. We watched as their relationships were torn apart because one was too scared to discuss it with the other, or 'didn't want to worry' the other, or some such reason. I can only believe that, by us talking openly about it, we avoided those pitfalls (which goes back to point 1).
5) Support Anything: Whatever your SO wants to do, support them. OK, well, maybe not if they want to become a serial killer or something like that, but anything within reason. In all of our lives, there are times when it seems the entire world is against our ambitions. Having someone next to you that you know you can rely on to always support and cheer you on is a gift beyond measure. You want to show someone you love them? You want to strengthen the bond? Be that for them. You don't have to be interested in the same venture, or even take part in it, but you can always provide positive reinforcement.
6) Sex is Vital: Good sex. Exciting sex. Different sex. It's all important. Explore each other's kinks. Be open about it. Find a place where the two of you can talk about the most fucked up thoughts you've had (for us, it was in the car...no matter how embarrassing the topic, if we were in the car, we could talk about it...discussion would end the moment we got out). Be painfully open about things, and daring. Push each other's limits and boundaries and never stop trying new things. I've seen one relationship after another where sex was on Fridays (maybe) and they ALL had some sort of longing. The vacations help this, the communication helps this, the personal space helps this. If you want to know what bad, infrequent, boring sex does to a couple, head over to ashleymadison.com.
7) Have Fun: Play games, go biking, be each other's best friends. Take a deck of cards when you go out to eat (at casual restaurants). If you can't do your leisure activities with one another, then there is something seriously wrong. All the things you do with friends you should be able to do with your SO. Of course, you two might not WANT to do certain things (she might not be into video games or you might not be into gardening) but never for a moment close the door to it being a possibility.
OK, so nothing surprising in this list, but, honestly, I think the biggest factor in a lasting, healthy relationship is the first one. Communication. Communication and Sex. Two of the biggest factors in a lasting, healthy relationship are Communication and Sex. And Having Fun. Amongst the factors in a lasting, healthy relationship and such diverse element as: Communication, Sex, Having Fun, and a fanatical devotion to the Pope.