12 Steps Towards a Stronger and Long Lasting Relationship
The beginning of any relationship is often accompanied by consistent and energetic behaviors. We always look our best, listen attentively and love to find new ways to surprise and delight. And then, we start to become a bit complacent. We’re not taking each other for granted, but some of us may be guilty of making assumptions and going through the motions just a bit. Here’s how to keep your relationship strong and growing based on some sound psychological and physiological studies and principles.
1. Be a friend
A recent study in Britain indicates that a feeling of well-being and friendship represent two of the strongest foundations for a successful relationship. Marriage is more than a partnership; it should also represent a genuine friendship. Show interest in your partner’s hobbies, passions and activities. Ask them for advice about real things you are feeling or wondering about. Share your day or a funny story with enthusiasm. Go out of your way to spend time with them. Everyday.
2. Say “I’m Sorry”
“I’m sorry” doesn’t have to be an apology. It can be about sharing, empathizing or simply understanding. It can also mean you are genuinely sorry, but there is statistical evidence to indicate the words “I’m sorry” deliver a significant message and emotional response. Here’s an example: Your spouse applied for a new job and didn’t get the position. Your response could be: “I’m sorry they didn’t hire you. You were so right for the job.” The big sentiment in that statement, based on studies, was the importance of preceding any statement with the simple words, “I’m sorry.” Sometimes we are sorry for something we’ve done, but here again -the words “I’m sorry” empower the statement in ways we may not fully understand or appreciate.
3. Kiss and Hug
Intimacy isn’t always about things that take place in the bedroom. Sometimes it’s as simple as a kiss and, just as importantly, a hug. Physical contact has proven to reassure us and causes a release of hormones that calm us. We’ve all seen the monkey test in high-school or college psychology. A monkey is given a choice between two surrogate mothers. One is a monkey face on a cage of chicken wire, and the other is a monkey face with a terry-cloth towel over the chicken wire. When the baby monkey was frightened it instinctively ran to the soft, terry-cloth surrogate. This is about pure animal instinct. We like hugs and the simple reassurance of warm, physical contact. A kiss helps too, but frequent hugs are always a good idea.
4. Fight Fair
In a study published in the Journal of Psychological Assessment, the inability or unwillingness of a partner to both discuss and confront significant issues in a relationship can represent a serious threat to the health of that relationship. It’s called “disengagement” and reflects one of the most troubling human emotions we can confront: Indifference. According to the study it’s important for couples in a relationship to have the difficult conversations. But fight fair. Listen for understanding and give each other the time to think about and respond to what you’re feeling. Most conflicts resulting in an argument don’t resolve themselves quickly. A cooling off period is recommended, but don’t ignore the issue. Work towards a solution and be sure that both sides give in a little to reach a compromise and heal the rift.
5. Surprise Them
When we were dating we would spontaneously show up with flowers, give a card, buy them a little present, or take them somewhere special. We all love surprises when they’re motivated by love and affection. Don’t let the surprises fade away. It doesn’t have to be expensive or complicated. Even a hand-written note or a favorite candy or snack can satisfy the surprise. It’s the thought that counts and that is probably an undercurrent for everything we’re exploring here.
6. Give them some breathing room
This may sound contrarian, but there is such a thing as too much hugging, kissing and surprising. Sometimes we just want a little room to breathe, relax, read or just go out in the garden and do our thing. Try to stay out from underfoot. It’s a bit too assumptive to say, “Absence makes the heart grow fonder” but we all like a bit of alone time now and again. Pick your spots, but respect those times when your partner just wants to do his/her thing.
7. Remember the Romance
Oh how hard we tried when we were wooing. We often tried to make the moments special, even the simplest ones. Romance dominated our thinking. Keep doing this. Make a nice dinner, dim the lights and fire up some candles. Sit on a deck and watch the sunset and tell someone how special they are. Take them to a place that has significance for both of you and spend time there again. Romance doesn’t have to be expensive or over-the-top. It can be as simple as remembering or rekindling something that was special for both of you, or something new.
8. Dress up
When we were dating and first beginning our relationship, we always looked our best. Then we got married or lived together for quite some time and decided that sweatpants and a sweat-sweat shirt were good enough. Stop that. Take the time to dress up a little just for them. It’s not about a busy day at work where you have to look good. It’s about a Saturday where you try a little harder to simply look your best. They’ll notice, so make sure they know it was for them.
9. Go for a walk and hold hands
This was so easy when you first met. But over time we tend to get practical and busy. Physical contact doesn’t have to be about kissing, hugging and other things. The simple act of holding hands can say a lot. It’s a subtle and demonstrable sign of affection and connection. Send that signal.
10. Celebrate the small stuff
We’re always so proud when we remember birthdays and anniversaries. Those are predictable events and there’s actually an expectation they will be observed. If you want to take your relationship up a notch, celebrate something simpler. Maybe it was the day you met. Possibly the day of your marriage proposal. It could be something fairly significant like a promotion or the birth of a grandchild. Try to find reasons to celebrate your life and your shared feelings beyond the obvious holidays and birthdays.
11. Upgrade yourself
When you first met you always looked really good. As you continued to meet and develop your relationship your appearance was a major priority. And then we get a bit comfortable, relaxed and just a bit complacent with each other. We’ve seen each other in the morning too many times. We’ve been together through sickness and in health. We appreciate the total acceptance of how we look on our bad days, but how often do we get a bit lazy most days. Get a haircut or new-do. Keep an eye on your personal grooming not just at work, but at home. Shave on weekends. Put on some makeup on Saturday -not a lot, but some.
12. Compliment them
Sometimes the simplest compliment can make your day. We’re all too familiar with that bathroom mirror that seems so unforgiving. We usually get through it, but our partner/friend is the one person we often rely on for feedback on simple things like, “How do I look?” “Does this fit?” And the always popular, “Does this make me look fat?” Pre-empt the question and offer the compliment and reassurance before they ask. Even if it wasn’t on their mind, they’ll feel good about the little shot-in-the-arm and give you a smile.
That little smile is what it’s all about. Sustaining a relationship is about feeding it and cultivating it. We do that through physical contact, respect, appreciation and the ever-present awareness that we are with someone that is very special to us. Never take that person for granted. Remember where you started and always try to hold on to the true love and respect you have for your partner and best friend.