Given silence in which to speak or rant, they’ll say more than they meant to – even more than they knew they were thinking.
But if you can both talk honestly about what irritates or upsets you and why, you are more likely to understand each other better.
It can feel easier to avoid being honest if we feel that could be hurtful, but it is only with honesty that trust is built, and trust is the essence of a good relationship. There are different qualities to sex at different stages in a long relationship: first, passion; the urgency of reproductive sex; snatched sex in the early years of parenthood; then the slower intimacy of midlife onwards.
When we start a relationship we like to feel in control, powerful even – to protect ourselves from the vulnerability that comes with opening up to a lover.
We may carry the hurt from past relationships, so we protect ourselves by trying to appear in control.
Enjoy what others have to offer rather than trying to change them to fit your own template of how life and love should be. Expecting someone to be everything you need and everything you are not is a recipe for disaster.
We all make mistakes, particularly in our love-lives, as relationships are never easy.
Yet no relationship was ever deepened by lovers’ attempts to assert themselves over each other – rather, it is through the mutual exploration of their imperfections, fears and anxieties that true connection occurs. Change the metaphor that you associate with developing your relationship. “Work” feels heavy and makes us think of future struggles, whereas “playfulness” engages the things you associate with good times, childhood comforts and moments of spontaneity.
This means that instead of navel-gazing and pondering, you’re coming at the difficult things in life with humour and a lightness of touch.
The great wonder of middle age is that we know our time is now limited.
If you have managed to surf the ups and downs of bringing up children, work and making ends meet all within the same relationship, the rewards can be great.
You have a wealth of shared memories to laugh over. Rather than fearing getting older, remember that many couples in a long relationship find these to be their happiest years together. She has been the agony aunt for 'Cosmopolitan’ magazine since 1970 Forget trouble for a little while and laugh together.