The beginning of any relationship is the easy part because almost everything is accompanied by a rush of excitement.
If only we could bottle it!
The good thing about being with your partner for a while is that we have the opportunity to grow and deepen levels of trust and intimacy in the relationship. Every relationship is different. However, there is a large body of research which observes indicators of relationship health and destructive patterns. Here are a few tips from the experts about some of the most important ways of keeping a relationship healthy and happy.
1. Be there for each other
“The greatest gift one lover has to give another, is emotionally attuned attention and timely responsiveness.” — Dr Sue Johnson (leading couple’s therapist)
Pay attention to your partner’s needs for connection and use those small daily interactions to respond to your partner’s needs, or ‘bids’, for attention.
It’s easy to miss bids for attention from your partner, ignore or respond negatively, which makes them feel unloved and even rejected. If you make a habit of not responding you’re in danger of drifting apart.
Responding positively to your partner’s bids will grow affection, trust and closeness with every interaction. Here are some practical examples …
“How do I look?”
Pay attention to what I say.
“Hey, great, you look sharp!”
“Argh, I can’t seem to open this jar, the lid is stuck!”
“Bring it here and I’ll see if I can help.”
“I had a stressful day, how was yours?”
Share your day with me.
“I’m sorry to hear it was stressful, what happened?”
2. Grow emotional connection by getting into each other’s world
A great relationship is one where you really get to know the other person and they know you.
Get into each other’s world with deeper communication. Share your thoughts and feelings about what’s going on inside.
Be curious. Ask lots of open questions. Listen well.
Looking for inspiration? Check out our blog: Great questions for date nights.
3. Live life “we inspired”
There’s a myth that extra marital affairs cause divorce. But almost a third of couples cite ‘drifting apart’ as the reason they divorced.
What’s key to not ‘drifting apart’ is a strong emotional connection as well as consciously building the relationship through ‘we-inspired’ actions as opposed to selfishness …moving from ‘me’ to ‘we’ in the way you manage your time, energy and money.
Try to make it a habit to consciously think about your partner when you make decisions.
4. Become really secure in your own identity
It’s good to make your relationship a priority, but it doesn’t define you as a person. You are uniquely “you”, and you are the person your partner fell in love with, and vice versa.
Keep on growing as an individual, your character; develop your interests and follow your passions. Obviously this doesn’t mean single mindedly pursuing personal goals without regard for your partner.
Ask yourself: what do I do regularly that helps me to grow and flourish as a person?
5. Carve out regular time for fun
It’s so easy to let life pull us along in a tide of busyness; ‘getting stuff done’ or distracting ourselves on our phones. But relationships are ‘living’ and need regular care and attention.
Grow your friendship by doing something regularly together for the two of you. ‘Date nights’ are a great thing to put in the diary, perhaps take turns to organise them. (Some of our ideas…) Or perhaps, take up a new hobby together …geocaching anyone?
Use the Toucan Together app for couples, which will give you some great conversations on a wide range of subjects to grow and strengthen your relationship.
6. Resolve arguments positively
“Although we tend to equate a low level of conflict with happiness, a lasting relationship results from a couple’s ability to manage the conflicts that are inevitable in any relationship.” — Dr John Gottman (world renowned relationships expert).
It’s easy to blame our partner, and it may be that their behaviour is a big part of whatever the issue is. But blaming just perpetuates a ‘tit for tat’ mindset and never resolved anything.
Arrange a good time to communicate (not late at night) and take turns talking and listening. Put the problem ‘in front of you’ instead of letting it come between you, and try to find a solution together.
7. Give each other the benefit of the doubt
When we’ve been with someone for a while we get to know them and It’s tempting to assign motives to their behaviour: ‘they’re just trying to wind me up!’ ‘He/she is doing that on purpose.’
But none of us are mind readers!
Give each other the benefit of the doubt and let the little things go.
8. Keep building trust
One of the best ways of growing your trust levels is to do what you say you’re going to do. So if you agree something, maybe part of resolving an argument, then see it through.
Do what you said you would do.
9. Grow your intimacy
The media would have us think that everyone is having sex up ladders all the time (as per Brigerton!) Lots of things can get in the way of a great sex life: stress, young children, money worries…
Whether you have sex frequently, occasionally or not at all, what is important to your well-being depends on whether sex matters to you and your partner. Talk about what’s important to each of you.
There’s so much more to intimacy than sex, explore how you can grow in emotional intimacy.
Start new habits: try kissing for at least one minute every day!
10. Talk about money
Here’s a question: would you rather talk about death, religion, politics or your finances?
A recent survey by Relate identified money worries as the biggest external strain on relationships. On the other hand couples who plan their finances together have fewer money problems.
If you’re like most people you might feel a little awkward but you’ll head off a lot of potential issues if you do, so make some time to talk about money.
Psst — check out our blog: 10 tips to make talking about money with your partner a little bit easier.
11. Don’t look for the next best thing.
Everyone has days when their partner drives them mad! You feel tempted to call it quits.
There may be good reasons to end a relationship, and any kind of abuse is one.
But lots of people these days have very high expectations. We want a ‘soulmate’! That perfect partner… And we start to be on the look-out for the next best thing.
But here’s the thing …there is no perfect person. We sort of know that’s true but it’s easy to buy into the hype of there’s ‘the one’ out there, I just need to keep looking.
Another truth is that great relationships don’t happen by accident. You can, however, grow and strengthen yours, and make it something great.
So, if you feel tempted, stop looking for the next best thing, commit to your partner and put in a little more effort into making your relationship better. The best things are always worth working for.
12. Be open to new things
Most couples fall into certain habits, and they can be a good thing when they bring a sense of security and closeness.
But it’s also good to be open to trying new things to bring freshness and growth to the relationship, whether you’ve been together a few years or many.
You can of course focus on the externals: where you live, jobs, travel, which will bring a change of scene and that can be helpful.
Focussing on making changes within yourself and the relationship can bring growth and lasting change that’s really positive. For example: changing the way you react in an argument; making small spontaneous gestures to show your partner love in the way he/she needs it, and being willing to communicate with vulnerability…
Try doing something differently today and see what happens.
Toucan Together can help you improve many aspects of your relationship: discover deeper ways to communicate; find positive approaches for resolving arguments; learn to speak each other’s Love Languages®️; build friendship, intimacy and a great sex-life. Get started by taking the‘Pulse’ of your relationship with our short research-based quiz and see the health of your relationship across seven key indicators. GET STARTED NOW | LOG IN