Beginning a relationship is generally the easy part; it’s maintaining the connection that gets a little tricky. That’s why a growing number of twosomes are going into couples therapy as a preemptive strike against the tough times that will inevitably hit…and to learn how to keep the good times flowing. To give you a leg up in your love life, we asked the country’s top relationship experts to share the most crucial things they’ve uncovered over the years — from big-picture philosophies to little gestures that go a long way.
These days, more and more happy couples are seeing counselors to keep their unions humming along. Here, the country’s top love experts offer up their best relationship advice for couples.
1. Take stock of what is truly important in your life.
How would you spend your time if you had six months to live? How would you think about you relationship differently?
2. Accept compromise and tolerate the persistent differences.
Most happy couples learn to live with significant differences about money, in-laws, vacations, household chores, etc. Acknowledging the differences between the two of you does not have to mean you agree with them.
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3. Identify and separate your frustrations.
Frustrations come from many sources, work, children, school etc. Frustrations can come from the present and the past. Avoid dumping frustrations on your partner that belong somewhere else.
4. Catch your partner doing something right.
Look for partner behaviors that are pleasing, and compliment our partner when he or she does them.
5. Research consistently shows that touching more creates a stronger bond by releasing oxytocin.
Hold hands, rub shoulders, hug, kiss, give high-fives or even fist-bumps or bottom pats. When you give a quick hug or kiss, try to lengthen it to at least 5 or 10 seconds for more effective results!
6. Learn how to agree to disagree.
No two people agree on everything, and that’s okay, but it’s important to be okay with each other’s differences.
7. Sometimes it’s not about the amount of money you spend on a gift; it’s about the thought that goes into something.
Take the time to write a thoughtful note every so often saying what you love and appreciate about him/her. Drop it in his/her briefcase or purse so he/she will find it unexpectedly and it will brighten up his/her day.
8. For men, it’s important to understand that women want to be listened to.
Men don’t need to solve or fix everything; listening itself is an exceptional gift. For women, it’s important to understand that men need time for themselves. By giving him space to pull away and not taking it personally, you allow him to reconnect with his desire for you and his commitment to the relationship.
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9. Surprise your partner with thoughtfulness.
Use your knowledge of your partner to please him or her unexpectedly. Allow your partner to discover your thoughtfulness by her or himself. Curb your disappointment if your partner misses your effort. Try something else.
10. Carve out “couple time” your partner will enjoy.
Our busy lives often fill up with tasks. Take time to spend with your partner.
11. Before reacting angrily, count to ten.
This old adage actually works. Speak your point, but without the anger. Every expression of negative emotion requires five expressions of positive emotion to regain a position of neutral feeling. (For more, click on “Emotional Freedom Techniques®”)
12. Negotiate an unconventional place to discuss contentious issues.
Moving from your usual location of arguments to another room can shift your disagreements enough to reduce negative feelings and introduce new ideas.
13. Love your marriage by first taking care of yourself.
So many of my patients say the reason their marriage fell apart is that they became depressed and disinterested in their partner. If you keep working on you, your marriage will stay fresh and vital. Start today by adding a new wedding vow to your list: Promise to take care of yourself so you will continue to age with grace and confidence by your partner’s side.
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14. Recognize that your husband or wife is mirroring back to you who you are.
So take whatever you’re upset with him/her about and use it to help yourself look squarely at what you need to do in order to grow and evolve—the relationship will thrive!
15. Take time to have some fun together every day!
With today’s hectic schedules, it’s easy to find your marriage at the bottom of the priority list. Take a walk and hold hands (nature calms), couple-cook (food fight!), exercise together (tennis or dancing maybe?) or just collect a “Daily Joke” to share. It doesn’t have to be expensive, but if you make the commitment and effort to laugh together as often as possible, it can sweeten your connection and cement your relationship for life.
16. Before you get mad or assign blame, take a breath and ask your partner for his or her perspective.
For instance, it’s your spouse’s job to walk the dog in the morning, but you discover dog poop on the kitchen floor and cleaning it up makes you late for work. Instead of immediately placing blame, saying something like, “I’m puzzled about what happened with Spot this morning,” is a gentle way to start a conversation.
17. Make a list of three of the happiest moments in your marriage.
Spend a few minutes each day briefly reliving those moments in your mind. The results will amaze you.
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18. You can change your relationship for the better by increasing the use of the following statements
I love you”, “I’m here for you”, “I understand”, “I’m sorry”, “Thank you”, “I really appreciate all that you do”, “It’s so nice to see you”, “That was quite an accomplishment!
19. Appreciate your partner at least five times each day.
Appreciate them from your heart about who they are at their essence. Leave gratitude in love notes, hide them so they will find them, or look deeply into their eyes and tell them. Be creative!
20. Take a time out.
When issues get heated, politely announce a twenty-minute time out and then return with a calm tone and the intention to compromise.
21. When you know you have made a mistake, apologize.
Few of us live closely with a partner without making some mistakes. Admit your fault, say your sorry, and explore ways of avoid the mistake in the future. Listen with Your Heart