It got me thinking, and what I'm thinking is that's not the best question to be asking, at least if you're looking for an Answer. There are no magic three things. There are no magic seven things. There isn't a list of nine things that'll make the differnece. I can name you three things that are important to the health of my long-term relationship, I can name you seven things that make my marriage work. If you press me, I can even name you nine things that a good number of good long-term relationships will have. The thing is, if you ask what the N things are you'll get a slightly differnet set of answers from everyone because everyone is different. I think most people expect that to some extent, though they might expect that is mostly has to do with people giving different weight to the N + some Important Attributes. I think its more complicated than that. Different people need different things in a long-term relationship. Not only that, but since there are two people in each relationship you have two sets of variables. What is important and necessary if you're with person X might not be quite the same as what is important with person Y. Each connection between two people is different, and the N most important things are different.
The other problem I have with naming the N most important attributes is that I don't really believe that you can simplify a good long term relationship to N important things. A marriage isn't some equation where you can make a small angle approximation and still come up with a satifying answer. A marriage is much more like ballroom dancing, both partners have to get it right in order for a figure to work and there are thousands of nit-picky little details involved. Sure, I can name you three things that are important attributes for a good dancer (balance, timing, posture), and everyone will agree that these are big important things that a dancer needs, but you can have all these things and still do a lousy natural turn, and even a lousy waltz, tango, foxtrot quickstep and V. waltz. By the same token you can have any three big important attributes in your long term relationship and still screw things up. The thousands of small things really matter, the technical details, the day-to-day stuff. You can rise too much on your spin turn and still dance a really good waltz, and you can have some of the small things not working in your relationship and still have a good relationship -- if the rest of it is good.
Warren laughs at my jokes. He's just about the only person I know who laughs at the majority of my jokes. With most people, at least half the time people don't realize I'm joking, and I'm not sure about the rest of the time. Not only does Warren laugh, but when I commented on it this past weekend he doesn't see how anyone could not get the jokes I make and not think that they're funny. Its not a big important attribute like 'Trust', and I suppse that you could lump it under 'Communication' if you really wanted to, but in my opinion its more than just communication. I'd still love him even if he didn't laugh at my jokes, but it certainly makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside. More importantly, when I add it in to all the other little things it seems so much more than any big important attribute I could name you.
I don't believe in the quick fix for dancing, or for relationships. Its the details that matter.