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Any healthy couple will tell you that to keep their relationship working requires them to invest deeply, build realistic expectations and stay prepared to weather the storms together. Life is plenty challenging without the addition of domestic discord–having a steadfast, deep rooted, solid relationship to lean on is one of the many upsides to the hard work inherent to any successful partnership. There are no guarantees to how couples achieve stability, and every success story is unique; but if you’d like to keep a relationship working, here are eight easy tactics to maintain a semblance of the honeymoon stage.
Set Goals Together
Take the time to check in with your partner and discuss your respective dreams and goals for the future. If you don't communicate regularly, you run the risk of falling out of sync with your significant other sometime down the road. Consider things like the amount of children you’d like to have one day, your career aspirations and even fitness or hobby-related goals. Being able to set and reach objectives together will not only strengthen your bond but it will ensure that you are both either striving for the same thing or supporting each other in individual endeavors.
To keep things interesting, you can try creating a dream board together; the very act of writing down, collaging or drawing (let’s get creative!) your priorities and vision for the future will make what might otherwise be an anxiety-provoking conversation into an enjoyable and productive experience. Beat the boredom blues by constantly motivating each other to reach that goal and push for that dream!
Arguments often arise when one partner feels left out of important decisions and life choices. Communication is the most important aspect of a healthy relationship, so both parties have the responsibility of including their partner when making big decisions, even if you don't think it affects them–it probably does. And don’t despair–disagreements and differences are a crucial and inevitable part of sharing your life with someone!
There are two major pitfalls with respect to domestic arguments that are incredibly common but potentially destructive. Firstly, when you are unhappy with your partner, don't bottle up your discontent just for the sake of avoiding conflict; sooner or later, this tactic will backfire when you reach your limit and explode on your partner with criticisms they probably had no idea that you had. Your partner is not a mindreader, so don't expect them to read your mind. Secondly, avoid giving low-blows just to hurt your partner; don't refer back to previously-resolved issues just to make them feel badly, and approach conflict resolution strategically and honestly. Practice effective listening skills, remain calm and considerate and ask the right questions (taking the other persons thoughts into perspective). Make sure that you share your opinion carefully and considerately, bringing all the facts to the table and leaving all of the emotion behind. Practicing effective decision making techniques, in order to reach a mutual agreement, will help to keep a relationship working.
Always remember during a fight that as long as your relationship is built upon a solid foundation, there is light at the end of the tunnel. I have heard many accounts from my couple friends that they never feel as close to their partner as they do after resolving an issue together. This is essentially why 'make-up sex' is a thing. To that end, get into the habit of approaching each argument with an optimistic outlook.
Talk It Out
In order to keep up the momentum of this newly-established culture of healthy communication in your relationship, try to set aside time each day to talk about the day’s events. Allow this 'small talk' to eventually transition into a time of deep and meaningful discussion as you grow more comfortable probing your partner about how something made them feel and their opinions on a personal topic. Opening the lines of communication will help you to feel connected to your partner. Be respectful and loving; listen tentatively, without interrupting. Use body language and gestures to show that you are interested in what they have to say. By creating this safe space, you’re allowing each other to relax, open up and share. This is also the opportune time to bring up a difficult subject that you would normally "not want to get into."
Your partner's personality traits and characteristics are what attracted you to them in the first place. As you grow together, don’t forget to appreciate the little things that make this person and your relationship unique! In order to keep a relationship working, you must take the time to verbally express your appreciation for your partner and articulate all that they bring to the table. Don’t be shy to openly admire – sometimes that is all it takes to stoke the fire! And when it comes to habits and routines that you may not like, be tolerant and open-minded! Remember that you are not perfect either. Healthy couples use conflict of interests or annoyances to strengthen their bond instead of letting it cause division. Being tolerant of each other’s imperfections and weaknesses, instead of allowing it to be a hindrance, will add another level of intimacy to your relationship.
Spend Time Apart
Successful relationships are strengthened and commitments deepened when the couple spends time apart and keep doing the things that they love. Let’s face it; you each had interests and hobbies when you were single. Spend some time investing in those interests and nurturing the things that make you, you! This will encourage healthy independence and will help to build trust and feel secure while you both venture out into the world as two people, committed to each other and to yourselves!
Tip: if you’re concerned about stagnancy and boredom entering your relationship, add some spice by mutually agreeing to take time apart every week. Some couples choose one night that they will each go out with their friends, some choose to go away for a weekend by themselves every once in a while. Do whatever feels right and comfortable; not only will occasional absence keep your hearts fond, but your commitment and love for one another will be constantly reinforced when you reunite.
Spend Time Together
It goes without saying that relationships are built on spending time together. Quality time is essential when striving to keep a relationship working, and its only requirement is to choose an activity that involves being alone with the one that you love. Use it to do something fun together–special activities or hobbies that both of you enjoy. Or, simply spend some time in each other’s arms, cuddling and enjoying casual conversation. The key is to make sure that you are paying attention to each other and enjoying the little things, like being able to connect via touch, smell and sound. Treat your time together as gold–quality time builds intimacy, and intimacy is a crucial part of every relationship. Between children, running a home and building a career, some couples choose to schedule their intimate time, and claim that it has helped them to stay connected to each other!
Listen To Their Love Language
Each person has a unique love language–a special form of communication that makes them feel loved, wanted and appreciated. A love language refers to one's ability to express love in a multitude of ways, through words, actions or non-verbal communication. Perhaps your partner is most fluent in the love language of physical touch, or maybe prefers to show love by planning romantic surprises. Take the time to get to know what makes your partner tick and what they can do without. Small acts of kindness–whether it is in word or in deed–will help to keep a relationship working! Taking the time to make sure that you are filling your partner’s ‘love tank’ will bring its own rewards, and you will soon see the result in the way your partner responds to you and the relationship.
Don't Be Afraid to Learn
Recognize that a successful relationship takes work! Take risks together, learn together and don’t be afraid to get it wrong together! Every challenge you overcome yields another layer of foundation that keeps you unified and strong.
We tend to wait for something to be broken before we try to fix it, instead of working on the little things while we still have the opportunity! Whether your relationship is in a good place, or not, consider using self-help material, workshops or even a counselor’s aide to help you gain a better understanding of how you can keep a relationship working.