Do you know what makes a relationship work? Most of us spend years trying to figure out the answers. We stumble through the complicated world of human connection and emotion without any kind of guidance. Is it all about communication? Is it normal to lose your connection over time? What do healthy relationships look like? To help you out, we’ve asked some of the top counselors and relationship experts for some quick tips that they have discovered are truly effective.
1. Forget about grand gestures and focus on the little things. Set aside a few minutes each day to intentionally do something kind for your partner and show them your appreciation. It will do wonders for your relationship. Cindy Norton, LMFTA
2. Learn how to be in conflict. Relationship conflict is so normal and it happens in every relationship. Learning how to successfully manage conflict means staying connected with your partner during disagreements, managing your own emotional affect and state, and learning how to express your authentic self. Doing this takes effort because often it means we have to learn completely new ways to be in conflict. And we need time, patience, and opportunities to practice. But in the end, we can stay connected and stay in love, even when we're mad or disappointed. Shanna Donhauser, MSW
3. Take time to notice the positives instead of focusing on the negatives about your partner. This will help you make a shift in the way you think about your relationship. It will also help change the interactions you have with each other and the overall atmosphere in your relationship. Michelle Scharlop, LMFT
4. It's okay to go to sleep mad or angry at your partner. If a fight escalates, try using a safe word that means the fighting stops and the sleeping begins. Often, after a good night’s rest you will be more able and willing to have a reasonable discussion with your partner after you have processed your feelings overnight. Just make sure to discuss what happened and don't pretend the fight didn't happen. Katie Leikam, LCSW
5. It is easy to feel like we have to offer solutions or help in some way when our partner is having a hard time. Remember that unless they are having a hard time with something between the two of you, you don't have to (and can't) fix the problems that your partner talks about. Listening and being present is often all we need to do to support them. Arryn Hawthorne, LCSW
6. Acknowledge and do not discount one another's feelings, they may not reflect your feelings or thoughts but that does not make them any less valid. Stefanie L. Juliano, LPCC
7. Be comfortable to say anything to your partner, but be sure not to take advantage of that comfort and openness. Open and direct communication is at the crux of a healthy relationship, but things that are cutting, mean or outwardly hurtful should be avoided. Transparency in a relationship can allow you to be your best self and can encourage your partner to be their best selves. These are huge keys to a healthy and happy relationship! Leslie A. Jay, LMHC
8. Be aware of and respect your partner's communication patterns to resolve conflict more effectively. Recognize if your partner may need some more time to process the conflict or issue at hand, and give them that space to do that so you can come into the conversation in a better place to hear each other’s perspectives and resolve the issue more effectively. Sarah A. Gilbert, LCSW
9. In order to maintain a solid relationship, I suggest building and nurturing an emotional connection with your partner. You probably already love each other, but life can be hard and we can get busy. It is essential that you connect with your partner on a deeper level regularly. Dalila Jusic-LaBerge, LMFT
12. Needing intimacy is a part of who we are but it's hard to feel close to others if you don't know and love yourself. Through identifying our own feelings and practicing self-compassion we learn to connect with ourselves, and that opens us up to connect with others in more meaningful ways. Elizabeth Cush, LCPC
14. If you and your partner bond over ideas and intellectual conversation, create your own mini book club. Every so often, pick a book that interests both of you and read it simultaneously. Then either set a time aside to discuss, weave your thoughts into everyday conversation or make it your topic for an already scheduled date night. This is a great way to keep things fresh- to keep learning about the world and about one another. Jennifer Avila, LCSW
15. When your partner is making you REALLY annoyed, like totally angry, always put their shoes on before sharing your anger. Literally go to the closet, pick a pair of shoes, it does not matter how small or how big, and walk around in them. Look at the color of the shoes, the style of the shoes, and how they feel on your feet. Now, with them on your feet, go have your heart to heart about what is causing your struggle. Most always, there will be a solution and you will be thankful to return to your own shoes! Katy Karas
17. Before we can be truly intimate with others we need to know ourselves first. We can't share our wants, needs and desires if we don't know what they are. Getting to know yourself deeply will allow you to create a deeper connection with your partner. Elizabeth Cush, MA, LCPC
18. Do something physical together; dance, workout, take a yoga class. Being physical together will help you to access your emotions more easily. An Added bonus is that physical activities elevate your mood. Dalila Jusic-LaBerge, LMFT
Now, put these into action. Pick at least one of the above tips to try out today. Can you imagine how different your relationship would be if you started incorporating all of these regularly. Don’t let excuses get in your way. It’s time to prioritize your relationship and start building the future you deserve.
To see more great tips check out the Idealationship app. Do you have a tip to share with our community? Comment below.