By the time most of my couples come and see me, they report feeling unappreciated, disconnected and out of love. Some don’t even know if they even like their partner anymore! Usually they stopped doing things that would’ve nurtured their love and connection for each other.
Here’s a list of 15 things you should keep (or start) doing in your relationship to keep it strong:
1. Compliment. Your partner may know how you feel about them or that you find them attractive, but it’s great to hear it. Point out what you admire, appreciate and simply really like about your partner. Plus studies indicate that the person receiving these compliments is more likely to succeed in achieving his or her life goals.
2. Validate. You won’t see eye-to-eye with your partner on everything. Validating their perspective and what’s important to them goes a long way in making them feel respected and accepted for who they are. You don’t have to make it your goal to agree, but to understand where they are coming from and acknowledge their viewpoints as valid.
3. Give the benefit of the doubt. With infatuation at the beginning of a relationship, it’s easy to give your partner the benefit of the doubt. Of course you don’t think that they would hurt you! But as the relationship progresses, it’s more difficult to stop some of the negative thoughts and assumptions about them. Give the benefit of the doubt and if necessary, see #4.
4. Speak up. If you’re upset or hurt, speak up in a respectful way. Most of the time couples don’t intend to hurt each other, but as hurts go unaddressed, resentment and distance grows. Your partner also can’t read your mind, so when something bothers you, address it with them so they have the opportunity to make appropriate modifications.
5. Plan consistent dates. Whether it’s once a week or once a month, setting aside couple time is critical to connection. It’s easy to get bogged down in daily responsibilities and duties and not give as much effort to the relationship. With consistent dates, you’ll have time to reconnect and continually learn about each other.
6. Play together in new ways. When you first dated, getting together was all about fun and trying new things or activities together. Don’t lose that sense of variety! Take a class together or go explore a different part of your city or community. Novelty helps keep the passion alive.
7. Kiss passionately. One way to keep the romance alive and improve your health is to put some passion into your kissing. French kiss, make out, whatever – just do it!
8. Show love your partner’s way. Some people feel loved by getting hugs; others by having their partner do nice things for them. Talk with your partner about how they feel most loved and the closest to you, and show them love in these ways.
9. Have regular sex. One of the best ways to ensure an active sex life is to have it often. It’s as simple as that.
10. Talk about sex. You can prime your sexual connection by talking about it (when you’re not doing it). Tell your partner what you most enjoyed about last night, or what you’re looking forward to next. Talk about how you like sex to be initiated or how you’d prefer to be turned on. It’ll keep you feeling closer to each other.
11. Touch more. Touch releases oxytocin, and it’s a key chemical associated with feelings of happiness, closeness, and joy. Sometimes couples associate touch with sex, and when one isn’t in the mood or has the lower sex drive, the touch drastically decreases too. Having routine touching without the expectation of sex will keep you feeling close to each other.
12. Go out of your way. Couples can sometimes take each other and their feelings for granted. Do something special or put in extra effort to show your partner how much they mean to you. This can be something like picking up your partner’s favorite takeout dinner, running an errand for them or planning a spontaneous trip.
13. Create rituals. A ritual is an interaction or activity that is repeated and significant to both of you. It has to have emotional meaning. Rituals can be done however frequently you and your partner want them to be to feel connected. Eat dinner together, share morning coffee, hug and kiss every time you get home, and celebrate special occasions.
14. Apologize. When you make a mistake, own up to it. Sometimes a genuine “I’m sorry” is enough to help your partner move past an issue.
15. Put in the effort. Some of my clients have told me, “Anita, I just thought the love would always be there” or that “love should be easy.” Love isn’t enough to sustain a relationship. Sometimes you’re going to have to do things that you don’t want to do because your partner and your relationship needs it. This list is a good place to start!