1. Do the things you did the first year you were dating – Keeping it fresh!
As the months and years go on, we tend to slink into our proverbial sweatpants and get lazy in our relationship. We lose our patience, gentleness, thoughtfulness, understanding and the general effort we once made toward our partner. Think back to the first year of your relationship and write down all the things you used to do for your partner. Start doing them again.
2. Ask for what you want – Don’t assume
Over time, we assume that our partner knows us so well that we don’t need to ask for what we want. What happens when we make this assumption? Expectations are set and just as quickly, they get deflated. Those unmet expectations can leave us questioning the viability of our partnership and connection. Keep in mind that “asking for what you want” extends to everything from emotional to sexual wants.
3. Become an expert on your partner
Think about who your partner really is and what excites him or her (both physically and emotionally). Don’t be consumed by what WE THINK he/she wants, as opposed to tuning in to what truly resonates with the other person. Remember that if it’s important to your partner, it doesn’t have to make sense to you. You just have to do it.
4. Don’t ask “how was your day.”
At the end of a long day, we tend to mentally check out of our lives and consequently, our relationship. We rely on the standard question, “How was your day?” Generally, that boring question will yield a boring answer such as, “Fine, how was yours?” This does nothing to improve your connection and instead, can actually damage it because you’re losing the opportunity to regularly connect in a small way.
Instead, try asking things like, “What made you smile today?” or “What was the most challenging part of your day?” You’ll be amazed at the answers you’ll get, with the added benefit of gaining greater insight into your significant other.
5. Create a weekly ritual to check in with one another.
It can be short or long but it begins with asking each other what worked and didn’t work about the previous week and what can be done to improve things this coming week. Additionally, use this opportunity to get on the same page with your schedules, plan a date night and talk about what you would like to see happen in the coming days, weeks, and months in your relationship. Without an intentional appointment to do a temperature check, unmet needs and resentments can build.
6. Keep it sexy.
What might change in your relationship if both you and your partner committed to increasing the behaviors you each find sexy and limiting those that aren’t? Think about this in the broadest form. “Sexy” can certainly refer to bedroom preferences, but it also represents what excites us about our mate in our day-to-day lives. Do you find it sexy if he/she helps with the housework? Do you find it “unsexy” when he/she uses the restroom with the door wide open? Talk about what it specifically means to “keep it sexy” in your relationship. Be amazed, be humored, be inspired!
7. Get creative about the time you spend together.
Break out of the “dinner and a movie” routine and watch how a little novelty can truly rejuvenate your relationship. On a budget and can’t go big? Jump on the internet to look for “cheap date ideas” and be blown away at the plethora of options. Can’t afford a sitter? Try swapping babysitting time with friends that have kids. It’s free and they will likely be thrilled to take your kids because they will get to take advantage when they drop their kids at your place.
8. Get it on.
Unless you have committed to an asexual partnership, sex, sexual contact and touching (kissing, holding hands, cuddling etc.) are vital components of a romantic relationship. The frequency is of course, up to you and it’s imperative that you discuss your ideas about it in order to prevent resentment. Rare are the moments when both partners are “in the mood” at the exact same second, but that doesn’t mean that you have to decline their advances. Remind yourself that you will almost always “get there” after the first few minutes and that an intimate interaction of any kind builds connection and elevates your mood and health. Bear in mind that you are never required to say “yes.” If you truly don’t feel it, the best thing you can do is to postpone. Just make sure that you initiate or accept within a reasonable amount of time thereafter.
9. Take a (mental) vacation, everyday.
Life and work distractions can become paramount in our minds and that leaves little time or energy for our partner. Practice the art of “Wearing the Relationship Hat.” This means that (barring any emergencies or deadlines), we are fully present when we’re with our mate. We truly hear what they are saying (instead of pretending to listen), we leave our distractions behind and we don’t pick them up again until the sun comes up and we walk out the door.
Some tips to improve communication
Sadly, we aren’t born with the innate ability to effectively communicate but it doesn’t mean that we can’t learn. Use the following techniques to better navigate and limit the tension in your relationship:
10. Take “fight breaks” when you need them.
Before you’ve hit the point of no return and as you see the stress beginning to escalate, one or both of you can call a break so that cooler heads can prevail. The crux of this tool lies in the fact that you must pick a specific time to revisit the conversation (I.e. 10 minutes from now, 2:00pm on Tuesday etc.) so that closure can be achieved.
11. Dig deep to unearth your true feelings.
In most disagreements, we communicate from the “Top Layer,” which are the obvious emotions such as anger, annoyance and the like. Leading from this place can create confusion, defensiveness and ultimately distract from the real issue. Start communicating from the “Bottom Layer” (i.e. What feelings are really driving your reactions such as disappointment, rejection, loneliness, disrespect etc.).
This type of expression creates an instant sense of empathy because it requires honesty and vulnerability to share from this space. Tension will dissipate and from here, solutions can spring. Just be sure to use kind, non-reactive phrasing when expressing these bottom layer feelings, such as “I felt hurt by…” as a replacement for “You’re such a jerk” etc.
12. Seek to understand … not agree.
Easy in concept, difficult in application. Conversations quickly turn to arguments when we’re invested in hearing our partner admit that we were right or when we are intent on changing his/her opinion. Choose to approach a conversation as an opportunity to understand your significant other’s perspective as opposed to waiting for them to concede. From this perspective, we have an interesting dialogue and prevent a blow out or lingering frustration.
13. Make your apology count.
It’s well understood that apologizing is a good thing but it only makes a real impact when you mean it. Saying things like “I’m sorry you feel that way” or “I’m sorry you see it that way” are a waste of time and breath. Even if you don’t agree that your action was wrong, you will never successfully argue a feeling.
Accept that your mate feels hurt and from this place, a real apology can have a significant impact. When you love your partner and hurt them (intentionally or not) you can always legitimately apologize for the pain you caused regardless of your perspective on what you did or didn’t do.