Whether you’ve been dating your partner for a few months or have been married for five years, healthy relationships are built from commitment, mutual respect, and effort. While you probably felt an immediate and effortless spark when you first met, it takes work to maintain that spark as your relationship develops (but don’t worry, it will be the most fun and rewarding work you’ll ever do). While every relationship is different, you can always work to improve your bond, friendship, and intimacy. Try these 10 things to improve your relationship RN.
1. Ask your partner something new
Communication is arguably the #1 determining factor of success for every relationship. It’s nice to ask how your partner’s day went, but it can feel routine when you ask the same thing every day or don’t branch out into new topics of conversation. Enhance your relationship and communication by putting in the extra effort to question your significant other on something more specific. By asking new questions (like “How did you feel about that?” or “What do you prefer doing at work instead?”), you’ll avoid going through the motions, listen more intently to each other, and have more meaningful discussions.
2. Designate a monthly date night
Between both of your busy schedules and nonstop responsibilities, the most foolproof way to guarantee that you’ll make time for each other is to set a night every month dedicated to strengthening your connection and reigniting that spark. Whether you’re looking to spice up your relationship or want to do something together that doesn’t include Netflix, schedule a date—it’s one night out of the month, but the connection that comes from it will have long-term effects.
3. Say “thank you”
Especially in relationships that have gone on for years and fall into routines, we can get so comfortable that we expect our partner to meet all of our needs, whether it’s how they treat us or the daily chores they do. Saying a simple “thank you” for cleaning the dishes after dinner or giving you a compliment enforces their good behavior and makes them feel appreciated as well as helps you remember why you love them. It’s also important to express appreciation and gratitude for them being in your life and how much they mean to you, not just what they do for you.
4. Schedule a check-in
Scheduling might not seem very sexy and spontaneous, but making sure you’re regularly checking in with each other will keep your relationship strong. It can be easy to let annoyance after annoyance build up until it gets to a full-blown fight, so checking in means fewer fights, more communication, and better connection. After all, a relationship is just two people trying to get their needs met. Use a check-in to discuss any recent triggers, problems, and even all the good things (which deserve recognition too!). Try monthly, weekly, or even daily (like at the end of the day), and put it on your calendars so you don’t forget or skip.
5. Remember the small things
Another way to add meaning to your conversation is to truly listen to what your significant other is saying, and then bring up those little things again in the future. For example, if your partner mentions a new pair of shoes that they want, take note of it to gift it to them for their birthday coming up, or if your significant other says they want to try a restaurant you haven’t been to, suggest it for your next date night or surprise them with takeout. The fact that you pay attention to and remember even the minor details that your partner says will show how much you listen and care and make your partner feel loved. Overall, it’s the little things that mean the most.
6. Let go of the past
As a culprit for many potential arguments and the underlying issue for future ones, what happens in the past doesn’t always stay there. But it’s difficult to move forward in a relationship when you’re still thinking about past fights, problems, or issues that you’ve already resolved. If you find yourself continuing to dwell on the past, it might be a sign to take a step back and consider why. Are you naturally less forgiving or is what happened something you can’t seem to forgive? By focusing on the reason for this recurring feeling, you’ll find more clarity within yourself and about what you want from the relationship with your partner.
7. Show your affection
From grabbing your partner’s hand at a restaurant to going to bed together at the end of the night, you know how you feel about your partner, but they should be able to feel it as well. Physical touch goes a long way in keeping romance and connection alive in long-term relationships. Try to avoid physical touch routines, meaning the only physical touch in your daily life is a kiss goodbye or a hug hello (though these are also important gestures). In addition to your hellos and goodbyes, hug them unexpectedly, hold their hand in the car or while watching TV, or even just pat them on the arm to feel close. Physical closeness can translate to emotional closeness.
8. Learn your partner’s boundaries
Does your partner wish to be left alone when they’re upset? Do they mind that you want to text all day long, or do they prefer you call them when you’re apart at night? Is there a certain way they prefer to argue or certain topics they’re not comfortable discussing with you yet? These questions are simple, but the answers to them will help you understand your partner’s boundaries (and stop you from crossing them). Overall, your partner’s needs are most likely different from yours, and knowing their boundaries is the best way to respect them. Have conversations to explain your boundaries to each other, but also pay attention and ask questions to understand them better.
9. Laugh together
Relationships are just friendships with exclusivity; while loving each other is crucial, liking each other is important too. While the life-partner stuff (like dividing chores) or the romantic stuff (like holding hands) might be top priorities to improve your relationship, remember that the friendship stuff is just as important. Laugh together at least once every day, whether it’s sharing a funny story that happened to you at the grocery store, bringing up an inside joke, or watching the show that makes you both LOL. Laughing not only bonds us but also helps us remember that the point of being in a relationship is to enjoy the person we love.
10. Make time to focus on yourself
How we feel about ourselves is how we’ll act in a relationship. For example, if you lack confidence in yourself, you’ll look for assurance in your relationship, or if you don’t like to be alone with yourself, you’ll need to be around your significant other 24/7. To prevent any toxic behaviors, it’s essential to have a strong sense of self: invest in a new hobby, make plans with some friends, and take steps in discovering who you are as a person. By falling in love with yourself, you’ll naturally be your own best version for the person who is falling in love with you.