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The two essential keys to a successful long-term relationship, according to a Harvard psychologist

Dr. Robert Epstein, one of America’s most distinguished psychologists, designed the Epstein Love Competencies Inventory. The test is considered a comprehensive inventory of a wide range of skills that are important to the success of long-term romantic relationships.

Epstein is an American psychologist, professor, author, and journalist. He earned his Ph.D. in psychology at Harvard University in 1981.

In his study, he found that seven basic skills are needed to make the relationship last. They are:

1. Communication – This refers to listening, sharing your thoughts, and avoiding criticism. (“I often ask for feedback from my partner.”)

2. Conflict resolution – Staying focused on the topic and on the present. This refers to the will to forgive or apologize as necessary. (“I’m always ready to forgive when my partner apologizes.”)

3. Knowledge of partner – This refers to knowing how to have fun with your partner, knowing your partner’s preferences, and caring about your partner’s wishes. (“I always remember my partner’s birthday and other special days.”)

4. Life skills – This refers to being able to manage finances, stay fit and healthy, and keep a job. (“I’m always prepared for possible hard times.”)

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5. Self-management – This refers to knowing your strengths and weaknesses, striving to overcome your weaknesses, and identifying and reaching your goals. (“I regularly take time to reflect on my dreams and obstacles.”)

6. Sex and romance – This refers to being caring about your partner’s sexual satisfaction, setting aside time for intimacy, and staying attractive for your partner. (“I always make time for sexual intimacy with my partner.”)

7. Stress management – This refers to being able to use various methods to cope with stress, such as imagery, relaxation, planning, and organizing. (“I have no trouble prioritizing.”)

In 2013, Epstein and other four of his colleagues tested the value of the seven relationship skills. In their study, they found that the two highest predictors were Communication and Knowledge of Partner.

In 2016, they tested it again with more participants. Epstein culled responses from more than 25,000 individuals around the world.


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The test revealed that the participants were strongest in the areas of Communication and Knowledge of Partner. However, that’s only half of the story.

There were variations according to sex, age, and experience of prior training in relationship skills.

For example, women outscored men on Communication, Knowledge of Partner, and Sex and Romance skills but the men outscored the women on Conflict Resolution, Life Skills, Self Management, and Stress Management.

When they compared the data based on the age of participants, they found that those who are older than 35 received higher scores on Conflict Resolution, Life Skills, and Self-management. The younger adults, on the other hand, had higher skills in the areas of Communication and Sex and Romance.

Comparing the separate tests, they arrived at the conclusion that Communication and Knowlege of Partner remain the 2 most essential skills to a successful long-term relationship.

Epstein’s test is a reminder that for a relationship to succeed, communication must be present but you should also know the needs and wants of your partner.

The good thing is that you can learn the skill of knowing your partner through simple acts like remembering your partner’s birthday or anniversary. Doing so will make your partner feel loved and valued.

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With these two skills, fulfillment in relationships may not be that far out of your reach.

Now that you’ve read about the two essential keys to a successful long-term relationship, check out our recent article explaining how to rebuild trust in a relationship, in 6 essential steps.

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Written by Jude Paler

I am a poet with a positive outlook in life and a writer with a purpose in mind. I write to express my thoughts so that others will be inspired.

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