Romantic comedy movies make it seem like a breeze to be in love. But sometimes, that’s just not the case.
Getting yourself into a relationship is one thing— but actually keeping one is another. When the euphoria of being with your partner dies down after a few months and the journey to forever starts to get a little bumpy and sweltering for the both of you, do you know what to do?
Here are five simple AND expert-backed ways you can try to make your relationship stronger and closer.
By: Laura Buckler
1. Show affection and appreciation.
Remember the exciting times before and months after you and your partner officially got together? Nobody wants that so-called ‘honeymoon phase’ to go away.
Some people often forget that consistency in showing affection and appreciation is key to a healthy relationship.
Maintain a strong relationship by saying “I love you” every day, showing genuine interest in your partner’s passion project, or giving adorable and unexpected compliments. Lavishing your partner with big or small acts of affection can move mountains for your relationship.
Rita Watson, M.P.H, author of the book With Love and Gratitude, states that there are three choices one must make in order to keep a relationship in tiptop shape: the choice to love, to forgive, and to be grateful. Watson recommends this 3-day gratitude plan:
Day 1: Gratitude.
List three positive qualities you love most about your partner and focus on those qualities. Ignore his or her annoying or irritating habits as much as you can.
Day 2: Forgiveness.
Identify three of the biggest pet peeves you have about yourself, and another three you have about your partner. Learn the art of forgiveness. Forgive yourself and your partner for the things you have identified.
Day 3: Appreciation.
Try to speak positively to your partner throughout the day and shrug off negative thoughts or feelings that arise. Watson admits that this is a hard thing to do, but it’s worth it: “Leave it alone and it will simmer and leave a mark. Stamp it out immediately and it’s gone.”
You can also read our 8 Ways to Show More Gratitude in Your Relationships.
2. Do not compete with your partner.
One of the many toxic things that can ruin a relationship is unhealthy competition.
This usually happens to equally career-driven partners who, no matter how compatible with each other, have a tendency to turn a relationship into a rivalry, especially when in the same job field.
Dr. Gail Saltz, MD, a psychiatrist at the New York Presbyterian Hospital, says that all individuals who are in a relationship have a tendency to compete with their partner other on some level.
In a relationship, keeping scores is a big no-no. It is important to think of your partner as a teammate who can help you grow and reach new heights— not an opponent you have to beat to the finish line. Dr. Saltz says that in a strong relationship, both parties work hard to bring out the best in each other and show support in each other’s endeavors and skills.
3. Communicate and communicate properly.
Undoubtedly, poor communication is one of the major factors that could lead to relationships going down the drain.
Dr. John Gottman, PhD, the co-founder of the Gottman Institute, pin-pointed communication patterns or styles that can ruin a relationship, which he calls The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse:
Criticism is an attack on a person’s character, while a complaint is focused on a specific behavior or action. Complain without blame. The remedy is to express the complaint as a positive need, rather than blame the other person.
Contempt is the use of unpleasantries like cynicism, making faces, name-calling, and sarcasm while communicating with your partner. Dr. Gottman suggests building a culture of appreciation and respect as an antidote.
Defensiveness is a “self-protection in the form of righteous indignation or innocent victimhood in attempt to ward off a perceived attack.” A lot of times, people tend to be defensive when criticized. His antidote to this pattern is to take responsibility— even for just a part of the problem. Then develop the ability to ‘repair’ interactions and situations in the relationship.
Stonewalling is the evasion of conflict or issues. When relationship problems get bottled up, there is a high tendency for the person of either party to implode. Dr. Gottman suggests taking a break not less than 20 minutes in between arguments with your significant other, as this is how long the body would take to physiologically calm down.
4. Keep the fire burning.
Sarì Harrar and Rita DeMaria, authors of the book The 7 Stages of Marriage, recommend creating couple rituals to strengthen relationships.
These rituals can be anything under the sun: brushing teeth and having breakfast together in the morning, setting a date night, or chatting for a few minutes before going to bed. These simple actions, when given romantic meanings, can draw you and your partner closer.
While routine can be comforting in most cases, it can spell doom for a relationship too! If you and your partner get even the slightest tinge of boredom toward each other, maybe it’s time to give your relationship a shakeup. Step out of your comfort zones and try something new together. Eat at a new restaurant, sign up for classes or activities, and travel together! Spontaneity, just like rituals, can solidify and keep the excitement in a relationship.
One way to meld the two together is to set goals as a couple. You can routinely plan your goals as a couple, inform one another of individual goals, and celebrate every time one (or the two) of you reaches a milestone by doing something new together. That’s hitting two birds with one stone!
5. Do not lose yourself in the process.
A healthy relationship doesn’t just rely on how much love and time you give your partner— it requires self-love, confidence, and security more than anything else. The only time you can whole-heartedly love someone is when you are a complete human being yourself.
The high of meeting someone you can be perfectly comfortable doing anything with will be disorienting both in good and bad ways. It’s important that you don’t lose your individuality in this process. The following are listed as some of the things that define self-love:
- making your dreams and health the top priority
- learning how to say ‘no’
- being entitled to your own opinions and thoughts
- surrounding yourself with people who will help you grow
- accepting your flaws, among others
Check out our article, Do You Have An Insecure Attachment Style In Love?
Find a partner who will be more than willing and happy to help you become the best version of yourself. When you do, return the favor by being equally supportive. Maintain strong and valuable friendships outside your relationship. Give each other enough space and time to enjoy time alone, and time with family and friends.
Keeping a relationship strong definitely isn’t a walk in a park. But with the right mindset, lots of hard work, and the tips we have provided above, your journey to a healthier and happier relationship should be good to go.
Laura Buckler is an editor at Essay Scholar Coursework Writing. There are three words to describe her: motivated, ambitious, and enthusiastic. Laura specializes in early childhood development and spends her days writing educational and lifestyle content for people of all ages. Follow her on Twitter @laura_buckler.