As the months and years roll on, we tend to slink into our proverbial sweatpants and get lazy in our relationship. We lose our patience, gentleness, thoughtfulness, understanding, and the general effort we once made toward our mate. Think back to the first year of your relationship and write down all the things you used to do for your partner. Now start doing them again.
14. Ask for what you want.
Over time, we assume that our partner knows us so well that we don’t need to ask for what we want. What happens when we make this assumption? Expectations are set, and just as quickly, they get deflated. Those unmet expectations can leave us questioning the viability of our partnership and connection. Keep in mind that “asking for what you want” extends to everything from emotional to sexual wants.
15. Become an expert on your partner.
Think about who your mate really is and what excites them, both physically and emotionally. We can become consumed by what we think they want, as opposed to tuning in to what truly resonates with them. Remember that if it’s important to your partner, it doesn’t have to make sense to you. You just have to do it.
16. Ask questions beyond just “How was your day?”
At the end of a long day, we tend to mentally check out of our lives and, consequently, our relationship. We rely on the standard question, “How was your day?” But because we hear that question so often, many of us will reflexively just respond with the bare minimum: “Fine. How was yours?” This does nothing to improve your connection and can actually damage it because you’re losing the opportunity to regularly connect in a small way.
If your initial “How was your day?” doesn’t spark much conversation, try asking more creative follow-up questions: “What made you smile today?” or “What was the most challenging part of your day?” You’ll be amazed at the answers you’ll get, with the added benefit of gaining greater insight into your significant other.
17. Create a weekly ritual to check in with each other
It can be short or long, but it begins with asking each other what worked and didn’t work about the previous week and what can be done to improve things this coming week. Additionally, use this opportunity to get on the same page with your schedules, plan a date night, and talk about what you would like to see happen in the coming days, weeks, and months in your relationship. Without an intentional appointment to do a temperature check, unmet needs and resentments can build.
18. Keep it sexy
What might change in your relationship if both you and your partner committed to increasing the behaviors you each find sexy and limiting those that aren’t? Think about this in the broadest form. “Sexy” can certainly refer to bedroom preferences, but it also represents what excites us about our mate in our day-to-day lives. Do you find it sexy if they help with the housework? Do you find it “unsexy” when they use the restroom with the door wide-open? Talk about what it specifically means to “keep it sexy” in your relationship. Be amazed, be humored, and be inspired.
19. Focus on having fun together
Couples are often more fun and playful in the early stages of a relationship. However, this playful attitude can sometimes be forgotten as life challenges start getting in the way or old resentments start building up. Keeping a sense of humor can actually help you get through tough times, reduce stress and work through issues more easily. Think about playful ways to surprise your partner, like bringing flowers home or unexpectedly booking a table at their favorite restaurant. Playing with pets or small children can also help you reconnect with your playful side.
20. It’s not what you fight about — it’s how you fight
“Researchers have found that four conflict messages are able to predict whether couples remain together or get divorced: contempt, criticism, stonewalling (or withdrawal), and defensiveness.
Together, they’re known as ‘The Four Horsemen.’ Instead of resorting to these negative tactics, fight fairly: Look for places where each partner’s goal overlaps into a shared common goal and build from that. Also, focus on using ‘I’ versus ‘you’ language.”
— Sean Horan, PhD, associate professor of communication studies at Texas State University
21. Stay connected through communication
Good communication is a fundamental part of a healthy relationship. When you experience a positive emotional connection with your partner, you feel safe and happy. When people stop communicating well, they stop relating well, and times of change or stress can really bring out the disconnect. It may sound simplistic, but as long as you are communicating, you can usually work through whatever problems you’re facing.
22. Take note of your partner’s nonverbal cues
So much of our communication is transmitted by what we don’t say. Nonverbal cues, which include eye contact, tone of voice, posture, and gestures such as leaning forward, crossing your arms, or touching someone’s hand, communicate much more than words. When you can pick up on your partner’s nonverbal cues or “body language,” you’ll be able to tell how they really feel and be able to respond accordingly. For a relationship to work well, each person has to understand their own and their partner’s nonverbal cues. Your partner’s responses may be different from yours. For example, one person might find a hug after a stressful day a loving mode of communication—while another might just want to take a walk together or sit and chat.
It’s also important to make sure that what you say matches your body language. If you say “I’m fine,” but you clench your teeth and look away, then your body is clearly signaling you are anything but “fine.”
23. Get creative about the time you spend together.
Break out of the “dinner and a movie” routine, and watch how a little novelty can truly rejuvenate your relationship. On a budget and can’t go big? Jump on the internet to look for “cheap date ideas” and be blown away at the plethora of options. Can’t afford a sitter? Try swapping babysitting time with friends that have kids. It’s free, and they will likely be thrilled to take your kids because they will get to take advantage when they drop their kids at your place.
24. Take a (mental) vacation, every day.
Life and work distractions can become paramount in our minds, and that leaves little time or energy for our partner. Practice the art of “Wearing the Relationship Hat.” This means that, barring any emergencies or deadlines, we are fully present when we’re with our mate. We truly hear what they are saying (instead of pretending to listen), we leave our distractions behind, and we don’t pick them up again until the sun comes up and we walk out the door.
25. Take “fight breaks” when you need them.
When conflicts inevitably come up, remember to approach them thoughtfully and with a lot of kindness toward your partner and yourself. If you see the stress beginning to escalate during a conversation about a conflict, one or both of you can call a break so that cooler heads can prevail. The crux of this tool lies in the fact that you must pick a specific time to revisit the conversation (i.e., 10 minutes from now, 2 p.m. on Tuesday, etc.) so that closure can be achieved.
26. Make your apology count.
It’s well understood that apologizing is a good thing, but it only makes a real impact when you mean it. Saying things like “I’m sorry you feel that way,” “I’m sorry you see it that way,” or “I’m sorry if I upset you” are a waste of time and breath. Even if you don’t agree that your action was wrong, you will never successfully argue a feeling.
Accept that your partner feels hurt. From this place, a real apology can have a significant impact. When you love your partner and hurt them (intentionally or not), you can always legitimately apologize for the pain you caused, regardless of your perspective on what you did or didn’t do.
27. Keep physical intimacy alive
Touch is a fundamental part of human existence. Studies on infants have shown the importance of regular, affectionate contact for brain development. And the benefits don’t end in childhood. Affectionate contact boosts the body’s levels of oxytocin, a hormone that influences bonding and attachment.
While sex is often a cornerstone of a committed relationship, it shouldn’t be the only method of physical intimacy. Frequent, affectionate touch—holding hands, hugging, kissing—is equally important.
Of course, it’s important to be sensitive to what your partner likes. Unwanted touching or inappropriate overtures can make the other person tense up and retreat—exactly what you don’t want. As with so many other aspects of a healthy relationship, this can come down to how well you communicate your needs and intentions with your partner.
Even if you have pressing workloads or young children to worry about, you can help to keep physical intimacy alive by carving out some regular couple time, whether that’s in the form of a date night or simply an hour at the end of the day when you can sit and talk or hold hands.
28. Be prepared for ups and downs
It’s important to recognize that there are ups and downs in every relationship. You won’t always be on the same page. Sometimes one partner may be struggling with an issue that stresses them, such as the death of a close family member. Other events, like job loss or severe health problems, can affect both partners and make it difficult to relate to each other. You might have different ideas of managing finances or raising children. Different people cope with stress differently, and misunderstandings can rapidly turn to frustration and anger.
Don’t take out your problems on your partner. Life stresses can make us short tempered. If you are coping with a lot of stress, it might seem easier to vent with your partner, and even feel safer to snap at them. Fighting like this might initially feel like a release, but it slowly poisons your relationship. Find other healthier ways to manage your stress, anger, and frustration.
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29.Don’t abandon yourself
“There is one major cause of relationship problems: self-abandonment.
We can abandon ourselves in many areas: emotional (judging or ignoring our feelings), financial (spending irresponsibly), organizational (being late or messy), physical (eating badly, not exercising), relational (creating conflict in a relationship), or spiritual (depending too much on your partner for love).
When you decide to learn to love yourself rather than continue to abandon yourself, you will discover how to create a loving relationship with your partner.”
— Margaret Paul, PhD, relationship expert and co-creator of Inner Bonding
30. Create a fulfilling life
“Like many people, I grew up believing that marriage required self-sacrifice. Lots of it. My wife, Linda, helped me see that I didn’t have to become a martyr and sacrifice my own happiness in order to make our marriage work.
She showed me that my responsibility in creating a fulfilling and joyful life for myself was as important as anything else that I could do for her or the kids.
Over the years, it’s become increasingly clear to me that my responsibility to provide for my own well-being is as important as my responsibility to others.
This is easier said than done, but it is perhaps the single most important thing we can do to ensure that our relationship will be mutually satisfying.”
— Charlie Bloom, MSW, relationship expert and author of That Which Doesn’t Kill Us: How One Couple Became Stronger at the Broken Places
Long Distance Relationship Tips
31. Try to communicate regularly, and creatively.
Greet each other “good morning” and “good night” every day — this is a must. On top of that, try to update your partner on your life and its happenings, however mundane some of the things may seem.
To up the game, send each other pictures, audio clips and short videos from time to time. By putting in this kind of effort, you make the other person feel loved and attended to.
32. Talk dirty with each other
Sexual tension is undoubtedly one of the most important things between couples. Sexual desire is like a glue that keeps both parties from drifting apart. Not only is sex a biological need, it is an emotional one as well.
Keep the flames burning by sending each other teasing texts filled with sexual innuendos and provocative descriptions. Sexy puns work pretty well too.
33. Do things together
Play an online game together. Watch a documentary on YouTube or Vimeo at the same time. Sing to each other on Skype while one of you plays the guitar. “Take a walk together” outside while video-calling each other. Go online-shopping together — and buy each other gifts (See #13).
34. Make visits to each other
Visits are the highlight of every long distance relationship.
After all the waiting and yearning and abstinence, you finally get to meet each other to fulfill all the little things like kissing, holding hands, etc. which are all common to other couples but so very special and extra intimate for people in long distance relationships.
It will be like fireworks, glitter bombs, confetti, rainbows and butterflies everywhere.
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35. Stay honest with each other.
Talk about your feelings of fear, insecurity, jealousy, apathy, whatsoever. If you try to hide anything from your partner, that secret will sooner or later swallow you up from inside out. Don’t try to deal with things all by yourself. Be open and honest with each other. Let your partner help you and give you the support you need. it’s better to look at the problem during its initial stage than to only disclose it when it’s all too late.
36. Know each other’s schedules
It’s helpful to know when the other person is busy and when he/she is free, so that you can drop a text or make a call at the right time. You wouldn’t want to disturb your partner when he/she is in the middle of class or halfway through a business meeting. Know the small and big events that are taking place or will take place in each other’s life e.g. college mid-terms and exams, important business trips and meetings, job interviews and etc. This is especially essential when the both of you are living in different time zones.
37. Gift a personal object for the other person to hold on to
There is power in a memento. Be it a small pendent, a ring, a keychain, a collection of songs and videos, or a bottle of fragrance. We often attach meanings to the little things and items found in our everyday life, whether knowingly or not. This is what we all do — we try to store memories in physical things, in the hope that when our mind fails us, we can look or hold on to something that will help us remember. This is why something so simple can mean so much to a person, when others may see little or no value in it.
38. Video-call whenever possible
Because looking into each other’s eyes and hearing each other’s voices can make everything feel alright again.
39. Give each other pet names.
Because it’s cute. It keeps the lovey-dovey going.
40. Set some ground rules to manage your expectations
Both of you need to be clear with what you expect of each other during this long distance relationship. Set some ground rules so that none of you will do things that will take the other party by surprise.
For instance, are you two exclusive? Is it alright for the other person to go on dates? What is your commitment level? It’s better to be open with each other about all these things.
41. Love yourself
You can’t love anyone more than your willingness to love yourself. Through this advice I learned about the importance of caring for my mind, body, and spirit. I liken love to the oxygen mask on a plane. You have to apply it to yourself before applying it to the person next to you. This advice improved my chances of winning my wife’s hand in marriage. She was searching for true love. She wanted someone to spend the rest of her life with. Conveying to her that I loved myself signaled that I could be a pillar of strength and compassion.
42. Don’t put boundaries on others
You can’t put boundaries on someone else—only yourself. If someone is treating you badly, you can’t change their behavior. But you can ask yourself why you accept it and how you can put a boundary on yourself so that you won’t accept it again. It made me take more responsibility for my role in bad relationships. Instead of feeling like a victim of circumstance, I was empowered to reject bad treatment and choose a different person. Also, [remember that] life is a self-fulfilling prophesy. If you believe you are undeserving of happiness, love and prosperity, that’s what the universe will give you.
43. Sometimes love is where you’d least expect it
The hottest, most fun, sexiest, interesting, growth-stimulating, spontaneous, most romantic, most eye-opening relationships or experiences all were not with people that I thought I would end up with. Just because a relationship has a shelf life doesn’t mean you shouldn’t enter into it. This advice allowed me to enjoy each interaction for what it was and not try to make it something it wasn’t. And at the end of the day, our life is just a conglomeration of memories and I have many happy memories to think on. This gives me the freedom to experience all life has to offer!
Other good advice: “Always be unexpected.” This doesn’t have to be in grand gestures, but predictability in a relationship = boring = death of romance. Worst Advice? “Don’t worry, it’ll happen.” If I wanted to learn French, if someone told me “Don’t worry, it’ll happen,” how stupid does that sound?! Dating is a skill set like every other and you get out of it what you put into it.
44. Put in some Effort
First, you simply must put time and energy into dating. A combination of online dating and socializing (perhaps including speed dating or singles mixers) is ideal. And second, you must go about dating the right way—from a positive attitude and an effective online dating profile (I can help you with that at www.ellyklein.com) to behavior on dates and communication with potential partners. If your approach to finding love is waiting for it to just come along, you’re taking a huge risk and will probably be single for a long time.
45. BE TOGETHER FOR THE RIGHT REASONS
Don’t ever be with someone because someone else pressured you to. I got married the first time because I was raised Catholic and that’s what you were supposed to do. Wrong. I got married the second time because I was miserable and lonely and thought having a loving wife would fix everything for me. Also wrong. Took me three tries to figure out what should have been obvious from the beginning, the only reason you should ever be with the person you’re with is because you simply love being around them. It really is that simple.
46. THE MOST IMPORTANT FACTOR IN A RELATIONSHIP IS NOT COMMUNICATION, BUT RESPECT
What I can tell you is the #1 thing . . . is respect. It’s not sexual attraction, looks, shared goals, religion or lack of, nor is it love. There are times when you won’t feel love for your partner. But you never want to lose respect for your partner. Once you lose respect, you will never get it back. As I scanned through the hundreds of responses I received, I began to notice an interesting trend: People who had been through divorces almost always talked about communication being the most important part of making things work. Talk frequently. Talk openly. Talk about everything, even if it hurts.
47. A HEALTHY RELATIONSHIP MEANS TWO HEALTHY INDIVIDUALS
Understand that it is up to you to make yourself happy, it is NOT the job of your spouse. I am not saying you shouldn’t do nice things for each other, or that your partner can’t make you happy sometimes. I am just saying don’t lay expectations on your partner to make you happy. It is not their responsibility. Figure out as individuals what makes you happy as an individual, then you each bring that to the relationship.
48. GIVE EACH OTHER SPACE
Be sure you have a life of your own, otherwise it is harder to have a life together. Have your own interests, your own friends, your own support network, and your own hobbies. Overlap where you can, but not being identical should give you something to talk about . . . and helps to expand your horizons as a couple.
One of the most regular things people who got in touch said was to do with the importance of creating space and separation from a partner.
People sung the praises of separate checking accounts, separate credit cards, having different friends and hobbies, taking separate vacations from one another each year (this has been a big one in my own relationship). Some even went so far as to recommend separate bathrooms and separate bedrooms
49. GET GOOD AT FIGHTING
The relationship is a living, breathing thing. Much like the body and muscles, it cannot get stronger without stress and challenge. You have to fight. You have to hash things out. Obstacles make the marriage.
John Gottman is a hot-shit psychologist and researcher who has spent over 30 years analyzing married couples, looking for keys to why they stick together (and why they break up). In fact, when it comes to “why do people stick together?” he dominates the field.
What Gottman does is he gets married couples in a room, puts some cameras on them, and then he asks them to have a fight Notice: he doesn’t ask them to talk about how great the other person is. He doesn’t ask them what they like best about their relationship. He asks them to fight–they’re told to pick something they’re having problems with and talk about it for the camera
50. GET GOOD AT FORGIVENESS
When you end up being right about something – shut up. You can be right and be quiet at the same time. Your partner will already know you’re right and will feel loved knowing that you didn’t wield it like a bastard sword.
In marriage, there’s no such thing as winning an argument.
Perhaps the most interesting nugget from Gottman’s research is the fact that most successful couples don’t actually resolve all of their problems. In fact, his findings were completely backwards from what most people actually expect: people in lasting and happy relationships have problems that never completely go away, while couples that feel as though they need to agree and compromise on everything end up feeling miserable and falling apart