Anyone who has ever heard the dreaded phrase "I love you but I'm not in love with you' at the end of a relationship can take heart from the results of a new study which confirm what really makes love last.
The trick to staying in love is not about grand gestures, but about all the small things that show you care. According to a two-year study, cuddles and cups of tea are the glue that makes it stick.
It is the simple things such as saying "thank you", recognising the time and effort needed to do everyday mundane tasks, along with surprise gifts and small acts of kindness such as making a cup of tea which are highly-valued.
The findings, part of a two-year study by the Open University, come from more than 5,000 people on how they are keeping their relationships on track.
The Enduring Love? study states: "Surprise gifts and small acts of kindness were valued highly, with 'a cup of tea' being singled out as a significant sign of their partner's appreciation. Bouquets of flowers and boxes of chocolates were seen as less important than the thoughtfulness behind the gesture.
"Sharing the practicalities of household chores and/or family responsibilities was viewed by mothers as something that particularly demonstrated appreciation. All participants valued the time and energy devoted to cooking.
"Saying or showing love featured for all participants. Saying 'I love you' appeared to symbolise the closeness of the couple relationship and provide individual affirmation and reassurance."
Report co-author Jacqui Gabb said: "Actions really do speak louder than words and many people consider a loving gesture to be as valuable as hearing 'I love you'. Grand romantic gestures, although appreciated, don't nurture a relationship as much as bringing your partner a cup of tea in bed, or watching TV together."
Wide differences were noticed among middle-aged men and women. The study found that women over 55 scored lowest on relationship satisfaction and men three times more likely than women to mention sexual intimacy as something which makes them feel appreciated.
Sharing values, a faith, beliefs, tastes, ambitions and interests with their partner was a strong bond. Humour and laughter were among the pleasures of being in a relationship but living with someone with annoying habits was irritating, the study found.
Parenthood shapes relationship quality more than any other factor and mothers are happiest in their life than any other group.
Lesbian, gay and bisexual couples, especially younger people, remain afraid to hold hands in public for fear of reprisal but they were generally happier about their relationship quality and are more likely to act spontaneously.
Money issues are one of the most difficult aspects of modern relationships but problems such as being out of work do appear to pull couples together, it was noted.
Co-author Janet Fink said: "With a tough economic climate, the rise in grey divorce and social media opening up new ways to start affairs, it isn't always easy to keep love alive today. However, our survey has shown that surviving adversities - even very difficult situations such as being out of work - can make a relationship much stronger. What doesn't break you can make you."
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