Falling in love feels like the most effortless thing in the world. Maintaining a healthy relationship, though? Not so simple.
After the honeymoon phase ends and the rose-colored glasses slip off, the real work begins. Maybe some of your partner’s idiosyncrasies rub you the wrong way, or you clash on certain issues. Whatever your struggles, here are a few tips for making each other feel loved and respected throughout the growing pains of your relationship.
1. Communication is key.
Remember, you are a team! It’s impossible to understand and meet each other’s needs if you can’t talk openly and honestly. Set time aside every week or month to touch base with each other. That way, you can air out any issues, stay on the same page, and deepen your bond.
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2. Really listen to what your partner is saying.
“Mirroring” is one technique that can help you do so. Before responding to your partner, repeat what they just said back to them to gain a better understanding of what they were trying to get across.
“You will be endlessly surprised at how the simplest statements are heard differently by various people,” said clinical psychologist Joseph Cilona. “This not only dramatically improves the accuracy and quality of communication by allowing for correction of misinterpretations, but also creates [a] strong sense of being heard and understood in each partner.”
3. Be honest about your feelings.
Sharing is caring, so if something is bugging you, let them know! And don’t keep it to yourself if you really appreciate something they did for you. Keeping the line of communication open will help both of you feel comfortable about coming to each other if and when there’s a problem.
4. Remember actions speak louder than words.
When you make a promise, follow through. When you say you’ll do something, do it! Be the rock they know they can depend on so they’ll never have to question whether they can trust you.
5. Make arguments productive.
Instead of attacking your partner when they upset you, give specific examples of how their behavior affects you. It’s equally important to take responsibility when you’re the one in the wrong.
“When we begin shifting our language to share how our partner’s behavior makes us feel rather than just telling them what to do, I find that couples become more fluid and more aligned in their daily functioning,” said psychotherapist Jennifer L. Silvershein.
6. Avoid unrealistic expectations.
We all have expectations in our relationships, but perfection shouldn’t be one of them. Your partner will make mistakes and get on your nerves from time to time, and you’ll both have different opinions and interests. This is normal! That said, here’s one thing you should always expect from each other: to be accepted and respected for who you are.
7. Take care of yourself, too.
You can’t fill someone else’s tank if yours is always running on empty. Make sure your needs are being met in the relationship. If they aren’t, it may be time to reevaluate things and set boundaries in order to prioritize your happiness.
8. Go with the flow.
Are you the same person you were 10 years ago? Of course not! Life is full of change, as are healthy relationships. Change can be scary, of course, but that’s how you grow together as a couple. So here’s your next goal: Be more adaptable.
9. Think of love as a choice.
While you can’t force love, you can choose to love your partner every day, and it starts with how you perceive them.
“When we wake up and the first thing we notice is a flaw in our partner, it will be hard to feel connected and in love for the rest of that day,” Silvershein added. “If we wake up and identify something we love or admire, that sets the tone.”
10. Make room for other people and things you love.
Your partner doesn’t have to be the center of your universe for your relationship to work. Make time for your own interests, friends, and family members. If your partner cares about your happiness, they won’t mind; in fact, they’ll encourage it!
In the words of Susan Elizabeth Phillips, “Anything worth having is worth fighting for,” especially love! Keep putting in the work to show your partner you’re in it for the long haul.
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