My wife is from Canada and I am from the United States. We met through The Internet and we've been together since early 2002 and have an excellent relationship. I attribute our closeness and our great communication to the fact that we were in a long-distance relationship. It forced us to have great communication. Communication was all we had! Our relationship has been satisfying and wonderful and we both agree that communication is the most important factor.

I sometimes hear about people that don't have very good relationships and I wanted to share what I have found to be the most helpful things in keeping a relationship strong. The most important element is communication. Here are my tips.

Have an agreement to put each other first (go sit down together)
You have to put each other first. This is key. If you value your partner you should want them to be happy and you should want your life together to be as good as it can. Make a pact to stop whatever you're doing and sit down together so that you can communicate and work out the problem you're experiencing. If your partner doesn't want to agree to this, it's a sign that you're already in trouble!

Discuss how YOU feel. Don't point the finger
When you sit down to talk, try and discuss your own feelings. Say something like "I feel neglected" is more accurate and more helpful than "you always neglect me" which turns into an attack. If you put things that way your partner will become defensive because they're being criticized. They may respond with anger or may turn it around and attack you in some way, neither of which are helpful.

By keeping your discussion about how you feel you're helping your partner understand your thoughts and emotions, rather than simply criticizing the other person.

Propose solutions
Try to bring up a solution, if you can, when presenting a problem. Let's say you're feeling overwhelmed because your partner doesn't help out with chores or parenting duties. By presenting a solution ("how do you feel about doing dishes on alternate days?") then you are offering a constructive solution rather than simply announcing a problem. You're a positive force in the relationship, not an attacker.

Truly listen to your partner
Being a good listener is just as important as communicating your own feelings. You represent 50% of the relationship after all. If something is important enough for your partner to bring up then you should find a way to make it work. It will mean a lot to them that you're listening and willing to prioritize their happiness.

When listening, be quiet except for the occasional nod or "mmm-hmm". At the appropriate point say "I understand" and possibly reiterate what your partner is saying to ensure you understand and to let them know that they're being heard. You should put yourself in your partner's shoes, seeing everything from their point of view.

If they are opening up to tell you something, be aware that it is very important to them. You need to also make sure you value what's important to your partner. It's an amazing thing to have someone care about and try to meet your needs.

Be honest all the way
Be willing to be honest when you communicate. Don't hide your feelings but let them out. You should trust your partner, and part of what it takes to build trust is honestly and sharing. Open up.

In summary, having trust and understanding will help bring your relationship to a new level. Opening up to your partner and having them listen to and accommodate your needs and wishes is a powerful experience. Once you raise your communication to this level you'll never want to go back and your relationship will be that much better for it.