In today’s world where attorneys advertise cheap and easy divorces like fast food joints advertise hamburger specials, you have to do more than ever to keep your marriage or significant relationship strong. You can’t live on love alone. All relationships take work and now those wanting successful relationships must put in extra effort to combat society’s throw-away, start over mentality.
There are 18 things you can do to work on your relationship:
Accept and Appreciate
Accept your partner for who they are and don’t try to change them. Appreciate your differences and realize the differences help your weaknesses.
Understand It Won’t Be Perfect
All relationships go through good and bad times and have ups and downs. This is especially true in long-term, committed relationships. Things can get routine and busy after kids. Sometimes, the changes make it seem like there’s a distance. It doesn’t mean love is lost, but it does mean you need to also commit to spending time together to work on creating intimacy in your relationship outside of all the change.
It is “we,” not “I.”
One of the most important aspects of maintaining a long-term relationship is to realize it is no longer about you. It is about both of you. You need to be united in goals, duties, and ideas.
Researcher Robert Levenson discovered through a study at the University of California in Berkeley that using the word “we” in conversations led to couples being calmer, happier, and more satisfied with their relationship.
There was an episode of “Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman” where she and her new husband couldn’t seem to agree on anything. A Native American friend told the husband “You need to learn to ride the same horse.” That is so true in relationships. You must agree to work together instead of pulling to your corners.
An attitude of gratitude goes a long way in a relationship. Anyone feels more secure and happier when they feel their partner appreciates them. One study of 77 couples proved that gratitude expresses made those in the study feel more loving. When gratitude is expressed, the partner said they believed their spouse to be more validating, caring, and understanding. That, in turn, provokes positive behavior on their part.
Rita Watson, who is an associate fellow at Yal’s Ezra Stiles College, said a three-day gratitude plan will have a positive impact on your relationship.
On the first day, find three things you love about your partner and put a focus on them for the day. Use day two to identify three aspects of your partner that irritate you and then forgive them for those things.
On the third day, speak only kind words to your partner for the entire day.
Make It More Positive
You should always create more positive than negative experiences. The general rule of thumb is to offer three positive experiences for each negative experience. As long as the positive outweighs the negative, most people in relationships will remain content.
A man once explained that a relationship is like a car’s gas tank and the gas is emotional satisfaction. Every time you say or do something negative, it drains a little out of the tank. Every time you say or do something positive, it puts some in to fill it. The idea is to always keep the tank full.
Keep Up the Interest
Everyone loves being in a new relationship. It’s exciting and there is always something to learn about the other person. Unfortunately, that wears off over the long course of a relationship. Familiarity offers a sense of security but can also make the relationship dull. Seek to spark up the novelty with new activities together. Trying something new creates excitement from an adventure and that makes all relationships more interesting.
Keep It Playful
We are made to play and that doesn’t change with age, so keep it alive in your relationship. Do things where your childhood spirit can roam free. Allow yourself and your partner to be silly.
You can kill a relationship by crowding out the other person. There is nothing wrong with wanting closeness, but there is also a need for space. Crowding out your partner will make them feel like they are losing their individuality. Allow them room to explore some things on their own. If they are happier, you will be too.
Show Physical Affection
You should show your partner physical attention every day. This does several things, according to Dr. Kory Floyd at the Hugh Downs School of Communication at Arizona State University. Things like holding hands, hugs, or rubbing your partner’s back can reduce blood pressure, relieve stress, and improves moods. That’s because it releases “happy” hormones that bring on feelings of satisfaction.
Say You’re Sorry
Relationships can end quickly and badly when people don’t take responsibility for actions that hurt their partner. This will build resentment, and eventually contempt, in your partner.
The Bible offers the advice of apologizing quickly to avoid an ongoing simmering pot of resentment. Scripture states “Don’t let the sun go down on your wrath,” roughly translated meaning don’t go to bed angry.
First, acknowledge what you did and the hurt it caused. Then tell your loved one that you are sorry for hurting or disappointed them and you recognize that you shouldn’t have done it. Then, hug or kiss them and promise to change. The final element of seeking forgiveness is the most important: actually, implement the change you promised.
Weigh the Positives
According to a study, Dr. Terri Orbuch began in 1986, the thing that makes couples happy over the years is when couples decide to keep a positive focus. They focus on what’s right in the relationship rather than what’s wrong.
This can be used to deal with conflicting situations such as when one partner is messy and the other is not. You can state that it makes you feel better and happier to have a clean house and that you want to work toward a solution.
Rituals Are Important
Having your rituals as a couple is extremely important in providing security and stability to the relationship. They strengthen your bond. Even the simple ones like having coffee together every morning or talking before going to bed will work wonders. Date nights, special events you do every year mark the weeks and seasons of your life. They are important, so make time for them.
Use Your Filter
The Bible constantly talks about the tongue and how it can be used for good or evil. You should never say things flippantly or hurtful that you will regret later. You can’t take what you say back. They will always linger in the mind of your partner. Those who filter their thoughts and words before they speak to their partner, or others about their partner, will remain happier than those who say everything they are thinking.
Support Each Other
This encompasses several things including listening to them when they are upset, complimenting them regularly, providing them with the information they need to know, and physically helping them even if they don’t ask.
Some ways this can be implemented is to cook dinner or do the dishes if they are working late or listening to them when they talk about their dreams. Doing some research to help them accomplish their dreams would be appreciated too.
Vulnerability is the key to emotional intimacy. This includes being honest about ourselves, our flaws, our fears, our feelings, and asking for what we need. It’s allowing our partner to see everything about us, even the bad stuff.
Actions Speak Louder Than Words
Words are great, but they don’t mean much if you don’t follow up with actions. Things like surprising your spouse with their favorite dinner, warming up her car for work on a cold morning or filling it up with gas, or buying him a DVD of his favorite show.
Make the Fight Fair
According to celebrity counselor Dr. Phil McGraw, people who handle disagreements wrongly will end up divorced. It’s not the fight that destroys, its the way people handle it.
Fighting fair means several things including understanding your goal, putting boundaries on the topic, don’t attack their character, actively listen, set a time limit, be willing to compromise, and set a way to reach an agreement.
Every couple needs to set goals they work toward together. Make sure the goals are important to both of you and the responsibilities involved don’t fall on one person. By setting goals, you both will be headed the same way and both will feel you are winning. Plus, reaching a goal gives you a reason to celebrate.
Any relationship takes work and the more history you have together could mean more work to maintain it will be involved. However, you will find that putting the time and effort is worth a lifetime commitment.