1. Be Vocal About Things You Like
Boredom, frustration and everyday irritations can douse the spark between you and your partner – and more of the same certainly won’t feed the flame. Making the good stuff your top priority will. Here’s how to do it: first, consider that it takes up to 20 positive statements to outweigh the harm done by one negative one. So compliment your girlfriend on her new shoes, or your boyfriend on his new blue shirt. Thank him for helping around the house. Phone her office for a quick “thinking of you” check-in. Be sure these compliments and thank yous are heartfelt and specific, and make eye contact when you smile.
2. Touch Each Other
Human touch aids the release of feel-good endorphins, for giver and receiver. So hold hands when you’re walking with your partner and revive the ways you touched in the early days. Make a commitment to spend up to 30 minutes a day chatting with each other about everyday plans, goals and, yes, dreams. This is time to build a friendship. Studies show that being friends pays off over time, ensuring a closer, more intimate union.
3. Stop Blaming Your Partner for Everything That’s Wrong
It’s tempting to blame your partner when you feel angry, disappointed, bored, betrayed or stressed out about your relationship. The next (wrong) step is seeing your mate as the one who must change for the relationship to improve. That’s a cop-out. Trying to improve your partner puts him or her on the defensive and casts you in a negative light. The result? Nobody takes responsibility.
The true fix: change yourself. When you address your own flaws and seek the best in your companion, magic happens. Optimism increases. Your partner feels better because he or she feels appreciated, not chastised. And you both feel motivated to change in ways that lead to even more joy.
4. Improve Your Relationship by Relaxing
The happier you feel, the happier your relationship will be, and the easier it will be to manage conflicts. If 15 minutes of morning yoga, a switch to decaf, or a new hobby help you relax, the good feelings can’t help but lead to happier, richer moments together.
5. Fight Fair
Conflict is a normal, even healthy, part of any relationship. What’s important is how you handle it. In a US study of long-time couples, joint problem-solving ability was cited as a key factor for 70% of satisfied pairs.
First, steer clear of criticism, confrontation and hostility. Avoid verbalising critical thoughts, keep discussions from escalating, and don’t use absolutes like “never” and “always”. If a fight does start, try to change the subject, inject gentle humour, empathise or show your partner extra appreciation. Too late? Call a truce, walk away and cool off for a while.
6. Pick the Right Time to Argue
Don’t start tough talks if you’re not well rested and well fed. Hunger and fatigue can unleash nasty remarks and dark thoughts.
Don’t ever try to deal with serious marital issues if you’ve got one eye on something else. Turn off the TV, the phone, the laptop. If you’re distracted or going out the door, pick another time to talk. You can’t resolve conflicts on the fly.
7. Learn to Listen
Speak less and listen more. Blame, criticism and bullying predict a bad end, or at least a living hell. When talk turns combative, don’t interrupt, offer a solution or defend yourself too soon. Nod, re-phrase or provide a soft “um-hum” to show you honour the emotions behind the words.