Over the past year-and-a-half, I have been interviewing couples about what they believe makes their relationships work. The couples I interviewed were all so unique and really didn’t have a lot in common collectively, except that they all share the same core aspects that are crucial to having a life-long, soul-connected, authentic and romantic relationship.

It has been a true honor to be in the presence of such real and outer-worldly love. I am grateful that these couples trusted me enough to whole-heartedly reveal their insights, wisdom, hearts and truths about their marriage.

These couples know who they are, what they have to offer, and feel whole within themselves and in the relationship; their significant other’s love simply enhanced their already whole heart.

I’m going to share with you my findings thus far, but before I get to that, I’d like to dedicate this article to a couple who I didn’t interview, however I’ve had the privilege of witnessing their exquisite love for the past forty-three years; my beloved parents. My parents will be celebrating forty-nine years of marriage next month. I want to express my gratitude to them for being one of the most inspirational examples of what a soul-connected, happy, and life-long marriage can look like. Maybe they can be an inspiration for you also!

From a very early age, I had the honor to watch my parents adore each other. Whether it was my dad dancing with my mom, twirling her around and dipping her in the middle of the kitchen while she was cooking dinner or the way they look at each other and smile from their soul; I have always experienced such joy watching them. My mom feels safe and taken care of by my dad. I light up when I am in their presence, experiencing their love. Once in a while, I get a peek into their sweet and genuine sentiments when I read the cards they write to each other. Their cards are usually not too long, but the quality and meaning of their words is powerful and poignant. Their love isn’t cheesy or overdone; it is understated, authentic, and genuine.

My parents rarely fight, but it happens once in a while because they are human. The ability to be in conflict with your spouse is actually a sign of a deep connection; you have to care about someone enough to fight, (and by the way, I wouldn’t even call them fights; I’d call them little frustrations). When my mom is “mad” at my dad, my dad serenades her with the lyrics to the famous “Guys and Dolls” song called “Sue Me:”

“Call a lawyer and sue me.
Sue me
What can you do me,
Sue me
What can you do me,
I love you.”

He sings it in a cute way that naturally forces my mom to melt and laugh at the endearing gesture; my dad is quite a prince.

My parents’ relationship is fun. They travel and go to new places. Growing up, I remember them going on a lot of dates, and they also spent a lot of time going out with other couples as well. I would get sad sometimes because I liked it better when they were around, but I understand now that nurturing and tending to their relationship and bond was and is so important. My parents still have an excellent social life, and they are still always discovering new places to go.

My mom always says that it was “dumb luck” that they worked out because they were so young when they fell in-love and got married; the ripe old age of twenty-two. On their wedding day at the hotel where the wedding was, there was a fire in the hotel elevator, so my mom was worried that it was a “sign” that maybe they shouldn’t get married. Yes, it was a sign! Apparently, if there is a fire in the elevator on your wedding day, you are bound to have a happy marriage.

My mom says, “dumb luck,” but from my perspective from a personal and professional point of view, here are two people who literally came to this earth to be together. Their love is infectious; they are modest and never gloat about it; they are just grateful for what they have and have zero reasons to show it off. Both of them are two of the most compassionate and confident, yet modest people I know. They know their worth, they know their gifts, they know their hearts, and they know their connection, and that’s all that matters. I truly am beyond grateful that they have given me the gift of seeing what real love and a happy marriage can look like.

And now… Moving onto the eight qualities of a happy and successful marriage.

#1: Grow and THRIVE, not survive.

You shouldn’t just survive; you should THRIVE. You don’t want to just get through every day, ideally you want to be able to enjoy each day and get and get as much out of your relationship and your life as possible. A relationship will not be sustainable if only one person is working on themselves and growing as an individual. Both people need to be willing to grow individually if the relationship is going to grow. Happy couples see the importance of thriving, and it comes naturally to them as they want to live their best life possible for themselves and each other together.

When couples don’t thrive or only one person does, they are not in-sync. It’s unattractive to look at someone and see that they don’t respect themselves enough to take care of themselves while knowing they are capable of much more than they are giving themselves credit for.

When one person tries to inspire the other one and tries so hard to help them see their worth and value, but the other one doesn’t get it, and they don’t want to grow, it can be very daunting and detrimental to the mental and emotional health of the individuals and the couple. However, when there are two people that really want to live their best possible lives, they have a desire to grow and learn and LIVE, their relationship will also naturally grow and evolve with them.

# 2: Share new experiences together

When two people experience something new together, those feel-good endorphins like serotonin and oxytocin start firing, and it feels exciting. New experiences are bonding, and they create history and memories while strengthening the connection within the couple because new experiences are uplifting, and being uplifted together feels incredible.

Having a variety in life is essential. Eating the same salad for lunch every day or consistently taking the same route to get to the grocery store can really prohibit the brain from getting the exercise it needs, and it’s just plain boring. The same thing goes for relationships; it’s important to have new experiences together. Doing a new activity or trying out a new restaurant once in a while is healthy, exciting, invigorating, and fun. If you’re going to be with the same person, you might as well have some variety in life as it is life-affirming.

#3: Deep emotional connection

This type of relationship is not just surface-level. You can “love” anyone, but when you feel that emotional connection, you feel at home; it feels “right” and completely comfortable. The cliché, “when you know you know,” THAT’S what I’m talking about. The couples all revealed that their spouse feels like “home;” it’s a deep familiarity and comfort. It’s not just looking good on paper, it’s fitting together; mind, body, and soul.

#4: No Judgment

Not judging one another means accepting one another for who they are. Of course, there might be little things that people can change, like a smoking habit, but the core of a person, their soul, doesn’t change. Many people get married and think their spouse is going to change, and then they get disappointed when it doesn’t happen.

You want to marry someone who you accept without any judgment. When we judge, we can’t connect, so the less you judge, the more you can connect.

#5: Vulnerability

When we are vulnerable, we connect. When we share ourselves fully, we subconsciously give the other person in the relationship “permission” to share as well. Vulnerability is a strength, and it is freedom; freedom to be completely who we are in our rawest form; naked.

Vulnerability = authenticity = Freedom.

When we are free to be who we are and feel adored, accepted, and understood for who we are, there is no better feeling. Every couple I interviewed talked about how freeing it is to feel like they can just be themselves.

#6: Have fun and LAUGH

Fun is a crucial part of a forever relationship. My mom always talks about how it’s important to find someone to play with in life, and I couldn’t agree more. The couples that I interviewed talked a lot about how they enjoy life together, having fun. Fun is subjective, and whatever it means to each couple is right for that couple. Generally speaking, having fun means having the ability to lighten up, laugh, enjoy each other’s company and find things that you love to do together that make life fun. I don’t know if you ever heard this, but laughing is good for the heart and soul, so do your best to find someone who you can laugh with.

#7: Compassionate conflict-resolution

Couples who fight well together, stay together. It is normal for couples to fight, but it’s how you fight that determines the longevity and strength of a relationship. Couples who value and respect one another have a much easier time working through conflict than couples who have no regard for each other’s feelings.

I always tell my clients who struggle in their relationships that they should start the conversation by saying, “I love you” because it will connect them and break down any walls that are up. Saying those three magical and meaningful words can be disarming to speak and hear, and it helps them to tune in and listen to one another’s feelings, as it is crucial to conflict resolution.

Telling someone that they shouldn’t feel a certain way is not conducive to a healthy relationship. We all want to feel seen and heard in relationships and in life. Couples who can really see and hear each other, know how to handle conflict.

One of the leading experts in the field of relationships is Dr. John Gottman of the Gottman Institute. He figured out a way to predict the longevity of a marriage. Through his research studies, he found out that the difference between happy couples and unhappy couples is balancing positive and negative interactions while working on resolving their conflicts. Basically, this means that when he saw light-heartedness, compassion, and even humor as couples tried to resolve an issue, he saw that as a determiner for relationship success.

#8: They are best friends, and they are each other’s “person”

Across the board, all of my couples described themselves as being best friends, and at the end of the day, they would choose their spouse over anyone else in the world to spend their life with.

To quote Jen, (an interviewee), she describes why she chooses to be married to her husband, D.J:

“I choose to be married to D.J. because he’s my best friend; he’s my favorite person.”

There is an unspoken bond, connection and understanding between them; a tie that gets stronger and stronger as time goes on. The energy that exists amongst these couples is palpable and beyond beautiful. The depths of the love they feel for each other is breathtaking.

I have learned A LOT about relationships in my life. I was such a romantic when I was younger, and I still am of course but I don’t “romanticize” love or life anymore. With life experience, I have seen that life is difficult, but it is also beautiful, and the most important part is finding someone you can enjoy the journey of life with.

I have learned that everything that happens in life has happened FOR me and not To me, and I always have the ability to look at everything as an opportunity for growth, learning lessons and learning more about who I am and how I can show up as authentically as possible in my relationships ALWAYS.

The couples I have interviewed, my parents, and all of the other couples I have ever witnessed as having “it,” have all impacted and inspired my life tremendously. No relationship and no person is perfect, but you should find the person and the relationship that is perfect for you. There’s a lid to every pot as they say; when it’s right you will just fit together, the relationship will flow, you will feel alive, and your heart will feel like it’s flying and the most peaceful it has ever felt all at once.

Jaime Bronstein is a relationship coach, radio show host of “Love Talk Live” on LA Talk Radio, blogger, author, wife and mommy. She has been a practicing therapist for 18 years. Jaime has a master’s degree in social work from New York University, a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Boston University and a certificate in spiritual psychology from The University of Santa Monica. Jaime focuses on teaching her clients how to unconditionally love themselves, how to be vulnerable, tap into their inner strength, and live more authentically in order to achieve their relationship goals. Jaime will not only help you heal and extinguish any negative relationship habits, but she will also provide you with the tools needed in order to have a successful relationship. Find her online at www.therelationshipexpert.com and catch her on-camera radio show. Follow her on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.