15 Pieces of Relationship Advice From People Who’ve Been Together for 20+ Years


This article is part of SELF’s Keep It Hot package, a collection of content that celebrates love and lust. Throughout February, we’ll be dishing out advice and inspiration for feeling hot, getting horny, and nurturing romantic relationships.

We’ve all seen them—the couples who can’t keep their hands off each other. Whether they’re making out on a subway train or getting all goggly-eyed at a bar, it’s usually a telltale sign that the pairing is brand new, a fresh infatuation being compulsively explored. But sometimes you see a different kind of couple. One that clearly has a number of years under their belt. Two people who have grown into and with each other. It might be the septuagenarians locking arms at the grocery store, or the middle-aged couple at dinner who still have stars in their eyes. They’ve seen the good, bad, and the custom-fit night guard, but, somehow, are still very much in love.

For those of us who have yet to experience a relationship beyond the 10-year mark (or maybe even the 10-month mark), spying long-term lovers in the wild is like spotting a yeti holding hands with bigfoot. How do they do it? What do they know that we don’t?! 

Most of us are well-versed in the romantic rush of something new. But what happens when the new gets old? And then older? Of course, that kind of commitment might be anathema for some folks. And some people shouldn’t stay together. But if you’d give up your beloved single-serve coffee maker or even your side of the bed to learn how to make a two-plus-decade-long relationship thrive, we’ve got some insight for you from those who have actually lived it. 

With Valentine’s Day around the corner, SELF spoke with folks in happy, sexy, fulfilling, fun long-term relationships (spanning 20 to 64 years in duration!) about what it takes to keep the fires stoked. If you’re happily coupled up or want some inspiration for the future, here’s their relationship advice for making the love—and lust—last.

1. Stay open-minded about your sex life.

 “What I’ve learned over 22 years is to always be honest, but never hurtful, and to keep experimenting sexually. We live by the rule of GGG, which is short for good, giving, game: You should strive to be good in bed, give each other equal time and pleasure, and be game for anything—within reason. What I thought was hot at 25 when we were first married isn’t necessarily what I think is hot now, so you never know what you might like if you don’t try it. My husband has also done a ton of investigation into different sexual techniques, which has led to the most powerful orgasms I’ve ever had—in my 40s! 

The other crucial element is that we never, ever criticize each other’s bodies. In our 22 years, not once has my partner made me feel ashamed of my body. Instead, he’s made me feel celebrated. In turn, I’m comfortable enough with him to do anything—I know all he sees is a dope lady who is his mate for life.” —Toby, 22 years together

2. Carve out time for just the two of you.

“My husband and I have twin teenage boys. Their lives are pretty jam-packed, which means ours are, too, so my husband and I make it a point to spend time together—just us. It doesn’t have to be an over-the-top fancy date night. Most times, it’s a Sunday morning walk, a trip to the farmers market—we’ll even treat running errands together like it’s a date. Making time to connect to show each other that you matter in the craziness of everyday life is so important.” —Jill, 20 years together

3. Learn each other’s values.

“We have learned about and accepted each other’s ‘love language.’ We talk about what is important to us and what makes us feel loved. Huge, grand gestures can be wonderful, but after a number of years, they simply turn into gestures. Sometimes the littlest acts of love can feel the most intimate. Touch is important to me, so we hold hands while watching TV, a tiny gesture that never goes unnoticed. Verbal expressions are important to my partner, so I make sure to say ‘I love you’ to him every day. Often it’s the smallest efforts that have the biggest payoff.” —Christopher, 22 years together 

4. Try not to let arguments turn into screaming matches.

“A dear friend, who is in the initial phase of a divorce, recently mentioned that her spouse was unwilling to work on their anger issues and told her that ‘yelling is normal.’ Her eyes nearly fell out of her head when I told her that my wife and I have never yelled at each other—not once, in nearly 24 years. We argue, we have disagreements, but we’ve never raised our voices or said unkind things to the other. It’s a bedrock of our strength and our connection. Passion, sex, date nights, good times, happiness—all those things wax and wane as the years stack up. But maintaining that foundation of trust and respect is what keeps us strong, connected, and in love.” —Dawn, 24 years together

5. Put regular sex dates on the calendar.

“My husband and I recommend a regularly scheduled sex/intimacy date. If the time rolls around and one or the other of you isn’t into it, that’s okay. Use the time to enjoy each other’s company in other ways. Maybe talking turns into snuggling. Maybe snuggling is all you need. Maybe snuggling turns into something else. 


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