Answers to often asked relationship questions
What does a healthy relationship look like?
To build a healthy relationship, you need to know what one looks like. This can be particularly hard if you didn’t have one modeled for you growing up. That’s exactly why we are offering this online relationship advice.
Before we delve into it, I want to mention one of the most important relationship tips right up front: healthy relationships don’t just happen; they are built. Both people must work on improving themselves – and the partnership as a result.
So, what exactly should you be working toward as you improve yourselves? Here are a few important characteristics of a healthy relationship.
It’s the very definition of a relationship: “the way in which two people are connected.” You cannot be connected if you do not spend time together regularly.
This means more than just passing each other as you leave for the day or sitting together to watch TV. You need to interact with one another, such as sharing about your day, discussing that episode you just watched, and going out on dates.
In long distance relationships, a majority of that time may be spent on the phone or video chat, but it still plays an important role in staying ‘in relationship’ with one another.
Though it’s important to make sure your relationship is still a priority, it is healthy to have separate interests, friendships, and hobbies.
You’ll both grow as individuals. And feeling your partner’s absence can help you appreciate him or her more when you reunite. Plus, you’ll both have things to share.
A healthy relationship also involves giving one another privacy and personal space. Part of that means spending time apart, but it also means knowing where you end and your partner begins.
You should be able to say ‘no’ to one another. You should feel comfortable sharing when something hurts or troubles you. You should be able to disagree.
You also need a different kind of boundary: one between your partnership and the outside world. You need to protect what you have from outside threats by maintaining confidentiality, being faithful (in whatever way you two choose to define fidelity), and setting aside time for one another.
In a healthy relationship, both partners feel safe. You should not suffer physical, verbal, or emotional abuse. You should not feel forced or guilted into engaging in sex or any other act that makes you feel uncomfortable.
If you are a victim of abuse or one partner suffers from chemical dependence, gambling, or another serious problem, seek professional relationship help. It takes courage to get out of the situation, and you should feel proud for taking the difficult step. Finding a support group can help you with the ongoing struggle.
Trust is a key component. Building trust takes time. It also means being vulnerable.
In a healthy relationship, you know you can rely on your partner’s loyalty and honesty – and are not overcome with feelings of suspicion, jealousy, or paranoia.
One of the main reasons couples seek relationship help is to overcome a major breach of trust, such as infidelity. And couples that are willing to put in the work can rebuild that trust and grow stronger because of it. The process takes time, but it can be done.
In a heathy relationship, you should be able to be honest with your partner and want your partner to be honest with you. You should feel comfortable communicating your wants, needs, and feelings – even when they differ from your partner’s.
Every couple experiences conflict, because you are both separate individuals with different needs and perspectives. The key is learning how to manage those differences without insults, name-calling, sarcasm, and other types of negativity.
Listen and try to understand one another. Treat one another with respect. Make decisions together. Seek online relationship advice and other education to improve how you communicate with one another.
A couple in a healthy relationship views themselves as a team. Couples should not compete against one another. And neither partner’s needs or desires should be viewed as more important than the other’s.
Instead, you are two individuals who have different perspectives and strengths working together. You don’t feel like you are ‘sacrificing’ for the relationship, because what’s good for the relationship is good for both of you.
Healthy couples have a mutually satisfying sexual relationship, and they share their thoughts, feelings, and needs with one another. Physical and emotional intimacy keeps you connected to one another.
This is often a key for how to save relationships where children are involved, since many couples forget to make time for one another once a baby enters the picture.
Even when things get busy, you must make time for intimacy to maintain your connection. This can mean planning date nights or scheduling sex – and also smaller gestures, like sharing a kiss before you start your day and exchanging stories about your days before going to sleep.
A healthy relationship requires commitment. This goes back to the idea of maintaining boundaries between your relationship and the outside world. You should work to block any ‘exits’ in the relationship and put in the time and effort to maintain what you have.
When you’re committed, you are willing to work on the trouble areas. You are willing to work through problems. After all, even healthy couples hit roadblocks now and then. The difference is that they are in it for the long haul, so they work at rebuilding that connection again, which may include seeking therapy or online advice to get answers to your relationship questions.
Is conflict inevitable?
But many people are still blindsided by this reality. After all, in movies, TV shows, books, and songs, our culture perpetuates the myth that a couple will live “happily ever after” if it’s true love. No conflict – just romance forever and ever.
So, when couples hit conflict, they may not understand the key to how to save relationships. Instead, they assume it is because they are not in love anymore. Or they don’t love one another enough.
But that’s not true. If you don’t feel a deep loving connection to your partner, it may not be because you’re experiencing conflict. It’s more about how you handle that conflict.
Relationship conflicts are opportunities for growth. That growth can be uncomfortable, but when you meet the challenge, you can grow even more connected to one another before.
The Difference between Compatibility and Complementary
Let’s get back to the myth that our culture encourages about love. If you find the “right” person, you’ll live “happily ever after.”
In this story, the person you find acts, thinks, and feels exactly as you do. This person will share your views, enjoy the same activities, work to please you always, and never engage in behavior you dislike.
During the infatuation phase, many of us feel we have found this in our partner. The illusion is perpetuated by the “high” provided by hormones intended to help us feel attached to our partner. It’s a beautiful stage where you each are showcasing your best self and seeing only the best in the other person. Online relationship advice? Who needs it! You’re simply meant for one another.
Unfortunately, this creates a kind of tunnel vision that makes us blind to the other person’s faults. So, when this stage ends, we are suddenly surprised by reality. Our partner isn’t perfect! We may even feel deceived.
How can you possibly have fallen in love with someone so different from you? It’s clear you simply aren’t compatible.
And maybe that’s true. But here’s the thing: compatibility is overrated. Yes, you’ll see it touted on dating sites. You’ll find countless relationship tips about finding a compatible match. But really you want someone whose personality and opinions complement yours, instead of someone who simply matches them.
To complement means ‘to add to something in a way that enhances or improves it.’ That’s where conflict comes in. The ways you differ from your partner can help you grow as a person.
Think about the times in your life when you experienced your greatest growth as a person. It’s likely that growth was tied to facing and overcoming a challenge. It changed you, hopefully for the better.
The conflicts you experience with your partner offer a similar opportunity. No one is a finished product. We are all works in progress, and we continue to grow throughout our lives.
Your partner can help support that growth. It doesn’t mean you have to agree with your partner. And it certainly doesn’t mean it will be easy. It simply means your challenges with your partner can help both of you grow as individuals and together as a couple.
How to Save Relationships: Managing Conflict in a Productive Way
So that bring us back to the key to how to save relationships. It isn’t necessarily the conflict that’s driving you apart. Instead, it is how you are handling that conflict.
When couples hit the relationship conflict stage, some engage in avoidance. The relationship is no longer a priority. Instead, they focus on their career, their kids, their friends, their household, or their hobbies. If you interact with your partner less, it follows that you’ll experience less conflict. Unfortunately, you’ll also feel less connected to them.
So, you do have to deal with your conflict. But how can you do that without it ending in a screaming match?
Seek Relationship Education
On our site, we offer online relationship advice that teaches you the communication skills you need to replace destructive conflict with productive conflict. You can work through your differences in a way that helps you better understand and appreciate one another as separate individuals.
When you can handle conflict in a healthier way, you have the room to make more positive connections. Those positive connections will help bond you to one another, and that, in turn, will make conflict less likely to happen – and easier to handle when it does.
Long-term relationships require maintenance. New love is easy to achieve. You can find it on any middle school campus. What we want to help you build is a Rock Solid Relationship. These relationship tips, answers to your relationship questions, and our online relationship workshops are designed to help you find a deep, meaningful love that lasts a lifetime.
Can love really last a lifetime?
Yes, it can! But it’s not surprising that this is one of the most common relationship questions people wonder about.
After all, the divorce rate is still high, impacting about 40 to 50% of all married couples. And that number doesn’t even take into consideration the people who stay in unhappy marriages.
But here is another side to that story: the good marriages today are stronger and happier than ever before.
Previously, couples entered into marriage for safety, security, and economic reasons. Today most couples get married with a goal of self-actualization and personal fulfillment. And as a result, the couples that keep their love alive have greater satisfaction and personal well-being.
So, what is the difference between the couples that find long-term love and those that are unhappy or divorced? For many, it is the willingness to put in the time and effort to make the marriage successful for both partners.
How to Save Relationships: The Difference Between Infatuation and Love
When figuring out how to save relationships, it is important to understand the difference between infatuation and romantic love.
It is likely you felt infatuation as early as adolescence. It is a strong, passionate emotion that can lead you to put someone else on a pedestal. The whole world revolves around them.
This is a wonderful stage, driven by powerful “love” hormones in our system. These chemicals help you to bond with your partner, creating a strong feeling of attachment to one another.
Infatuation is easy to attain, but it is short-lived. It’s a stage in the beginning of a relationship that can last anywhere from a few days to up to two years. But no matter how long it lasts, it does end.
Lasting love, on the other hand, is driven by fondness, admiration, sexual desire, and long-term attachment – but without the feelings of obsession and craving associated with infatuation.
It also means seeing the other person as they are – and revealing yourself as you are. There is no tunnel vision. No blinders. You see, know, and love one another.
And it can last for a lifetime.
The Science Behind Long-Term Love
Don’t just take our word for it. Science has proven this to be true. We are hard-wired to foster long-term romantic relationships.
A 2012 study published in Social Psychological and Personality Science found that 40% of couples married for a decade said they were “very intensely in love.” Just as importantly, 40% of women and 35% of men married 30 years or longer said the same. Isn’t that awesome?
A study a year earlier didn’t rely on self-reporting. Instead, it compared the brain regions activated in individuals who had just fallen in love with those in long-term relationships (on average 21 years). There was similar brain activity in both groups.
Long-term love does exist, and it can be just as powerful as it was when the couple first got together. So, that brings us to another important relationship question: if love can last a lifetime, why do many find it so hard to sustain?
Relationship Tips: How to Make Deposits
in Your Relationship Savings Account
Many couples expect love to appear and continue without an effort. They believe they have no need for relationship tips or online relationship advice. They assume that they will stay this blissfully happy forever.
This may be because it is so easy to fall in love in the first place. There is this false sense that it will always be there with little to no effort.
But the truth is, like any other relationship in your life, you have to put in work to maintain it. We like to think of it as making “deposits” in your “relationship savings account.”
In the beginning of your relationship, you did this regularly without thinking or trying. After all, those infatuation chemicals made you think the other person was your whole world. He or she was your entire focus.
But as the infatuation phase ends and other challenges enter your life, you split that focus. You may prioritize your career, your children, your friends, or your hobbies. And eventually, sometimes without realizing it, you’ve neglected to make your partner a priority at all.
If you want your love to last a lifetime, you have to make an investment of your time and energy. You have to make deposits. If you are not doing that now, you need to adjust your priorities. Consider what you can change to start spending more of your time and energy on one another. Seeking online relationship advice, like the relationship tips on this site, is a great way to get started.
Engage in regular acts of love, which can fall into the following different categories:
- Accepting your partner
- Tenderness and affection
- Affirmation, appreciations, and encouragement
- Acts of responsibility
- Acts of giving
- Couple time
- Keeping romance alive
In our book Rock Solid Relationship, we talk in depth about each of the seven categories and share ways that you can make room for them in your life. And we share more answers to common relationship questions and concerns. Remember, the more you put into your marriage, the more you will get out of it, and the happier both of you will be for a lifetime!
Can we recover from an affair?
Yes, you can recover from an affair – if both of you are willing to put in the work. In fact, we have seen many couples emerge with a stronger, happier, and healthier relationship than before.
But there are two main issues we’ve seen are necessary when looking at how to save relationships after an affair: time and honesty. In this online relationship post, we’ll explain why these two things are so crucial to the healing process, and also share relationship tips for communicating about the affair.
An affair is a major breach of trust. It goes beyond just the infidelity. It’s likely the cheating partner also deceived and lied to cover up the affair. Because of this, the healing process will take time.
It took time to build the trust your relationship was initially founded on, and now it will take time – maybe even more time – to rebuild that trust. You have to be willing to put in the time required for healing, and you may need to seek professional relationship help.
Healing also requires honesty – complete honesty. And that can be hard.
When you’re questioned about where you are going, what you are doing, and with whom, you must answer with the whole story without hesitation. And if they request proof of your plans and whereabouts, you need to provide it without complaining about it.
How to Save Relationships After an Affair: It’s All About Trust
The healing process after an affair is all about rebuilding trust. Trust is required for your partner to be able to open up again. It’s difficult to be physically or emotionally intimate with someone if you don’t feel safe with the other person. You cannot expect trust to be built overnight, and you cannot put a specific time table on it.
But this process is also why many couples come out stronger on the other side. They often learn how to be more honest with one another, and that can lead to deeper emotional intimacy in the long-term.
Relationship Tips for Communicating After an Infidelity
Here are a few tips for talking to your partner about the infidelity.
Answer all your partner’s questions. You may be afraid that discussing the details will hurt your spouse more than not knowing. But if your partner has questions about the affair, you have to be willing to answer them, even if it will be difficult for your partner to hear. Be as honest as possible. It’s the only way your partner will know you’re not just saying what he or she wants.
Remember, learning the truth may hurt, but not knowing is worse for many people. They are left to wonder and imagine what happened, and that can be far more difficult.
Follow their lead. Let your spouse guide the discussion. If they ask for information, provide it. But don’t offer up details they didn’t request. Stick to answering just the question at hand.
Be kind. Your honesty doesn’t have to be brutal. Think about the words you choose when you respond. And again, don’t overshare. Stick to what is asked.
Don’t lie – about anything. Even little white lies can seem like a major betrayal when you are trying to rebuild trust after an affair. Don’t hide anything – even if it is totally unrelated to the affair.
Don’t blame. Maybe you strayed, in part, because of problems you were experiencing in your marriage. Now is not the time to discuss that. Own responsibility for your actions.
Listen. Work to understand what your partner is going through and what your partner needs. If there are relationship issues you need addressed as well, you can discuss those later in the process, but especially in the beginning, focus on rebuilding trust first and listening.
Avoid a separation. If you need a little time after the initial hurt, that’s understandable. But separating for a longer period of time isn’t going to help. The issue won’t be resolved, and you won’t be dealing with it. If you really want to work it out, you have to address the problem.
Practice compassion and patience. Earning trust will take time – months or sometimes even years. Remember that this is hard for both of you.
Seek professional relationship help. An online relationship therapist can help you navigate those difficult conversations. Look for someone who has experience navigating this challenge. They can help you move past this issue, answer your relationship questions, and provide any other help you may need.
Is compromise a bad thing?
If your goal is to come to a compromise, you are coming at the issue thinking, “What can I get?” and maybe even, “How little can I give up?” As a result, some compromises leave both parties walking away with a “lose-lose” feeling. Neither person got exactly what they wanted!
When you seek a “win-win,” you shift your mindset. Your goal is for both you and your partner to get what you want out of the communication. You can encourage this type communication with the Imago Intentional Dialogue, which we’ll explain further in this online relationship advice.
Relationship Tips: What Is Imago Intentional Dialogue?
The Intentional Dialogue process was created by Imago founders Drs. Harville Hendrix and Helen LaKelly Hunt. It involves playing two roles: the Sender, who shares thoughts and feelings, and the Receiver, who listens without interrupting or responding. In a single dialogue, you will both take turns being the Sender and the Receiver.
As the Receiver, it’s important to remember that it’s not about you. Your partner is expressing a valid thought, feeling, need, issue, or judgement, but it comes from their reality and is not about you. Focus on accepting your partner’s point of view and agreeing to disagree.
Issues are unmet needs. Your job is to be curious and compassionate about those unmet needs and to listen, support, and mirror your partner. Dig deeper and really understand your partner’s issue.
Mirroring involves repeating back to your partner what was just said. You should not paraphrase, react, or share your interpretation. Instead, your goal is to give a summary of what was said, using words as close to your partner’s as possible.
As the Receiver, here are a few useful phrases to use:
- “Help me understand your issue.”
- “Do you have a request?”
- “What you need from me is…?”
- “Is there more?”
If your partner makes a request during the dialogue, avoid saying ‘no.’ Instead, provide a counterproposal, and then go back to that Receiver state again. Listen and mirror.
As the Sender, you are the one experiencing the issue, so this is your opportunity to share your thoughts and feelings. To experience real intimacy and connecting, you must be authentic and tell your full truth. That means sharing your thoughts, needs, feelings, wants, issues, and boundaries. If you censor yourself, you may avoid conflict… for a while. But that truth will come out in other unhealthy ways, leading to withdrawal, resentment, and ‘acting out.’ It can be difficult and scary to share your truth, but it will result in a happier, stronger relationship.
Remember to stay on topic. Don’t bring up unrelated problems. Communicate your issue. Instead of complaining, make a request. And when making the request, let go of how that request will be accomplished. Focus on what you want to happen – not a particular outcome.
For example, maybe your partner always puts laundry on the ground, and it drives you nuts. You just want your partner to put dirty clothes away in the closet hamper. Your partner may suggest instead adding a laundry basket next to the bed to make it easier to remember and more convenient to use.
You can run into problems if you get too focused on the outcome of putting dirty clothes in the closet hamper. You may lose sight of the fact that the new suggestions of adding a laundry basket takes care of the problem that bothers you and fulfills your request: no more throwing clothes on the ground.
It’s also important to speak with moderation. If you cannot communicate without expressing anger, sarcasm, contempt, mockery, or frustration, it is not a good time to start the dialogue. Wait until you have calmed down and are more in control of your emotional state.
The Power of This Form of Relationship Help
Both partners need to come to the dialogue with best intentions. Imago founders Harville and Helen recommend starting by sharing (and mirroring!) your appreciations for one another. This will set a positive tone from the start, and the result is a powerful form of relationship help that can transform your marriage.
In our book Rock Solid Relationships and our workshops, we share more about the Imago Intentional Dialogue process as well as additional communication and relationship tips designed to guide you to a “win-win” instead of just a compromise. You can also read more of our free relationship questions and answers on our website.
The power of sex and daily intimate connections
Sex plays such an important role in marital happiness. It is, after all, a basic human drive. And oxytocin, the love chemical that is released during the act, increases our feeling of connection to one another.
Yet sex so often goes by the wayside when the stresses and responsibilities of everyday life take over. In fact, all physical intimacy is often lost. After a long, hard day, sex may be the last thing on your mind.
But this leads to a problem when one partner does get the desire. When he or she tries to initiate sex, it’s like trying to go from zero to 60 in five seconds.
It’s normal to experience a decrease in sex after the honeymoon stage. And there are times in your life where it is simply hard to find time and energy, such as after childbirth. But it’s not healthy for your relationship when sex is completely off the table.
Here, we share relationship tips to help you prioritize your sex life and keep that physical connection alive.
How Much Sex Should You Have?
So, what is a good amount of sex to have? That’s something for you to discuss with your partner. You may find you have differing sexual appetites and have to navigate that difference.
I do want to note that you shouldn’t be fooled by the media, which often leads people to believe that everyone else is having a really hot sex life. That belief can set you up for frustration and disappointment. Research tells us that most couples are probably having sex on roughly a weekly basis.
No matter what you decide in terms of how much sex works for you, we want to encourage you to follow one of the most powerful relationship tips we have to offer: stay connected physically every day. Yes, every single day. We want you to make small intimate connections each and every day.
A minute-long hug twice a day. A passionate 15-second kiss. Caressing regularly. Sitting close and touching one another. Holding hands. This prevents you from having to go from zero to 60. Instead, those intimate connections keep you humming along at 35.
It keeps that physical touch and intimacy alive. It communicates your desire and desirability to one another. On a biological level, these types of connections cause your oxytocin level to rise. And that can lead to sexual arousal and improved sexual functioning.
In a way, sex never ends. You are constantly in foreplay – wooing and flirting with one another.
Relationship Tips for Reigniting the Flame
Daily intimate connections keep the flame going at all times. But what if the flame is out altogether?
Those smaller connections are a great way to start. Again, it’s about not trying to go from zero to 60. You’re just trying to get from zero to 35 here. And then that will make it much easier to get to 60 from there!
Another important strategy for reigniting the flame is engaging in stress-reducing activities together. This makes sense, right? It was likely stress that got in the way of sex in the first place. But it’s not just that you are reducing stress; it is also that you are doing it together. Engaging in the activities alone may help reduce your stress, but it’s less likely to boost your sex life.
Here are just a few examples of stress-reducing activities to engage in together:
- Going for a walk
- Listening to calming music
- Watching the sunset or sunrise
- Getting or giving a massage
- Painting, drawing, or coloring
- Going technology-free
- Swinging (yes, on a playground!)
- Taking a bath
- Laughing together
- Any type of fun!
Also, talk about what gets in the way of sex for you. Maybe it’s the stress of preparing for the next day. Or the fear that your kids will walk in. Sometimes getting rid of the barriers to sex can do wonders. But you’ll only be able to make the necessary changes if you are willing to talk about it.
And that brings me to another powerful strategy that many overlook: plan for sex. Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it! At first, it may sound un-fun or un-sexy. But you may be surprised that it is exactly the opposite. Knowing sex is on the table for that day can increase the anticipation. It can lead to more playfulness leading up to it. And you can also enjoy imagining how wonderful it will be.
And lastly, does it really matter how you get there? In the end, you still get to enjoy the pleasure and connection that only sex can bring to you both. If you need help with your intimacy and relationship questions, reach out for help.
How to save relationships by building resilience
“The ability to return to the original state after being stretched or tested.”
That is the scientific definition of resilience, and it is apt for relationships as well! In fact, it is key for understanding how to save relationships.
Every couples goes through conflict, stresses, and challenges. And these will ‘stretch’ and ‘test’ your relationship.
The question is: can you return to connection, safety, and good humor afterwards? In some cases, you may even return to a stronger, deeper connection because of the trials you endured together.
That sounds great, right? But how do you go about building and maintaining resilience in your marriage?
Resilience Tips: How to Save Your Marriage During Troubled Times
Resilient couples don’t shy away from a good challenge. When you move out of your comfort zone, you grow and also get used to confronting difficulty. That means couples who do this more often have more practice with change and surprise when life throws it their way, so they are able to handle it better together.
Don’t play the blame game.
This is probably the most important tip on this list. In times of stress, it can be tempting to try to find something or someone to blame. When that someone is your partner, it can lead to serious conflict, and that blame often leads to counter-blame.
Instead, consider your own responsibility. What could you have done differently? How can you repair the connection with your partner? Your relationship is more important than ‘being right’.
When the responsibilities and pressures of life have gotten the better of you, sometimes laughter is the best medicine. When you can joke or use humor to defuse tensions or handle stressful situations, it can help you better cope and feel more connected to one another.
Be open and honest with your partner.
When you share your emotions with your partner, they have a better understanding of what’s going on in your heart and mind. It also takes strength to be vulnerable with someone else about your fears and hopes, and it requires a compassionate response from the person listening.
When couples are able to share in this way, it builds a strong foundation that can withstand even the darkest times.
Focus on communication.
When you’ve been with someone for a long time, it can be easy to assume they understand your heart and mind without you needing to explain. Unfortunately, this leads to misunderstandings and miscommunications.
Resilient couples don’t expect their partners to be mind readers, and they seek out more information when they’re feeling uncertain. The Imago Dialogue is one powerful technique that couples can use to ensure they are really understanding one another.
Don’t shelve problems; solve them.
Resilient couples know that problems don’t go away on their own. You have to deal with them. Otherwise, they eat away at you over time and often just grow bigger.
This involves accepting responsibility for your part of the issue and working to fix it. It also means communicating what is wrong, so the problem can be addressed.
Present a united front.
Resilient couples think of themselves as a team. They have each other’s back, and they fight for one another’s causes. When it comes to outside ‘threats’, they are ready and willing to protect what they have.
When they make accommodations for one another, it doesn’t feel like a sacrifice, because they are doing it not just for the other person, but for the relationship. And that’s something that benefits both people.
Tomorrow is another day! Resilient couples don’t keep a mental checklist of past wrongs. Instead, they put their energy on moving forward together and building a stronger future. They don’t have to worry about how to save relationships, because they are constantly working to build a better, stronger, happier one as a part of their personal growth.
This means practicing forgiveness and creating a space where you and your partner can change and grow in a positive way.
Ask for help.
You’re stronger together than you are apart, so when you’re willing to rely on each other for support and assistance, it can make a big difference in your ability to bounce back.
But it’s not just about asking one another for help; it’s being willing to ask for outside help, too. This can mean asking for support from family members and friends when you are dealing with stress or seeking relationship help from a professional when struggling with marital issues.
If you’d like to learn more about how to save relationships through resilience, consider seeking help for your relationship questions in online couples counseling, where you can create an action plan together.
The importance of gratitude for your partner
Those are two of the most powerful words in the English language – and that is especially true when it comes to relationships.
When you share your appreciation for your partner, they feel seen. They know their actions and contributions are valued.
Studies have also shown that expressing your gratitude helps you feel more connected to the other person and more committed to the relationship. You are also more likely to work to maintain the relationship.
Gratitude also improves your overall well-being. Research shows that people who are grateful are happier, healthier, less aggressive, more mentally resilient, more social, and more self-confident. Heck, grateful people even sleep better!
So, when you express your gratitude, you’re not only making your partner feel good; you are also making yourself happier and more satisfied with your relationship.
Unfortunately, over the course of a long-term relationship, it can be easy to take your partner for granted. Instead, we often focus on the negative: the problems, the conflicts, and the mistakes. You can see how that can lead to dissatisfaction in a relationship.
There are many “roadblocks” to gratitude.
Stress: If you’re consumed by worry and anxiety, those things take the focus off the positive things in your life.
Responsibilities: When you have a seemingly endless to-do list, it can be hard to find the time to take a step back and be grateful for what you have.
Distractions: Smartphones often get the blame for taking our focus off the here and now, but there are so many other things that can distract us: TV, careers, kids, hobbies, anything that takes you away from your relationship.
The first step in expressing gratitude is noticing the positive. This may take some practice at first. But if you make an active and intentional effort, it will become second nature.
Relationship Tips for Greater Gratitude
Here are a few relationship tips for bringing more gratitude into your relationship with your partner.
Start a journal.
If you’re having trouble expressing your gratitude, this can be a great way to get started. Take a few minutes every day to write down the things you are grateful for. It will not only help you see the positive things, but also figure out how to put that appreciation to word. That will make it easier to share with your partner.
Make it a goal to share one appreciation each and every day. Both partners can participate, setting aside a specific time of day to share them, such as right before bed. Feeling anxious about finding the right words? Go back to that journal! You can just read straight from it. You may be surprised to find how much easier it gets with practice.
Don’t just say it. Show it.
Yes, “thank you” is a powerful phrase. But actions that express your gratitude are even more powerful. Give your spouse a gift. Cook a favorite meal. Complete their normal household chores. Run an errand for them. There are so many ways you can let them know they are appreciated.
Spread the word.
Share with your friends and family how appreciative you are of your partner. Tell them about the wonderful things he or she does.
Not only are you encouraging your loved ones to be supportive of your relationship, you may also be surprised to find that your kind words make their way back to your partner. And it always feels good to know that someone has been saying nice things about you when you aren’t around.
This is particularly useful if you are in a rough patch. You may not feel very appreciative of your partner right now, but you once did. Look at photo albums. Dig deep in your Facebook timeline. Revisit a memorable date night.
This can help both of you remember all the qualities you appreciate about one another that brought you together and are still present today, despite the current challenges.
Attend a couples workshop.
If the daily grind is making it hard for you to connect, take some time to just focus on one another. A couples workshop is a wonderful way to do this, and you’ll be learning valuable relationship tips and communication tools as you do.
Simply the act of going to the couples workshop is a way to express your appreciation for your partner. It shows that you are willing to make an effort to your joint long-term happiness.
Still Need Help Expressing Gratitude?
Consider working with a relationship counselor. With their guidance, you can set goals for bringing gratitude into your relationship, get answers to relationship questions, and receive specific relationship tips and insight for your particular situation.
The value of goal setting for a couple
Setting goals is an effective way of ensuring you prioritize your relationship. It encourages you to make an effort and set aside time for what matters to both of you.
In fact, that’s where relationship help from a counselor can really bolster your growth together as a couple. With guidance, you can set annual and five-year goals, then break those goals down into action steps.
Here are a few reasons that intentionally setting goals as a couple is so important to do.
Goals encourage regular communication.
When you create the goals together, you’ll have more opportunities to learn about your partner’s thoughts and feelings and to share your own. You’ll have a better understanding of who your partner is today – and who he or she wants to be.
And as you work toward those goals, you will regularly check in with one another about your progress, ensuring you remain on the same page.
Goals ensure you are headed in the same direction.
Goal setting can be especially valuable if you live hectic lives. Even if you make a regular effort to stay connected, sometimes the challenges and crises of life can take over for a period of time.
You may sometimes feel like two ships passing in the night. With goals in place, you can have confidence that your two ships are moving in the same direction during those trying times.
Goals strengthen your connection.
With shared goals, you’ll have a shared sense of purpose and meaning. And as you make progress, you’ll feel a sense of accomplishment together. You’ll be proud of your work as a team, and you will feel accountable to one another.
Goals give you reasons to celebrate.
Don’t wait until the end result is accomplished. Take time to commemorate the milestones along the way.
It doesn’t have to be something big. It could be as simple as a conversation acknowledging one another’s efforts so far or sharing a decadent dessert in the evening.
Creating this kind of reward system will also keep you motivated to keep working together.
Goals help you focus on the positive.
You may have heard that, “energy flows where attention goes”. When you set goals, you’re paying attention to it. You’re more likely to think about it. And that will make it more likely for you to actually work on it and get it done!
Shared goals help you accomplish twice as much.
You have two people working towards a goal instead of one. Doubling your efforts means you’re likely to reach your goal that much faster.
Consider how this works with even very small goals, such as keeping the kitchen counter clean. If you and your spouse (and better yet, the kids, too!) are working towards that end, it is much more likely to get done and stay done. Teamwork is even more powerful for long-term goals.
Here are just a few areas to consider creating goals for:
Money is one of the top reasons that couples seek relationship help. Setting financial goals – both long- and short-term – can help you stay on the same page.
But don’t just discuss the serious stuff, like getting out of debt and planning for retirement. Make sure to talk about other financial priorities you both have, such as a bigger home, a new baby, a big vacation, starting a business, or a major shopping spree.
If you do a quick Google search about setting goals, you’ll find countless articles about careers and finances and organization. It’s something we are used to thinking about in relation to the “serious” stuff. And maybe that’s why so many of us forget to have fun!
Think about the things you enjoy the most. You could have goals related to gardening, painting, crafts, or cooking. Or they could be related to attending concerts, sporting events, or other performances.
This is related to the fun category, but it’s worth discussing separately. A 2010 study found that the act of planning a trip makes you happier than actually taking it! So really enjoy the planning process together. Set long-term goals. Research. Compare. Plan. Anticipate your time away together.
One type of travel to consider for goal setting is couple retreats. Family vacations are wonderful, but time away for just the two of you can make a big difference for your connection. That’s even more true when the retreat involves learning and working on your relationship. For example, you can attend a weekend-long couples workshop in Oregon from Rock Solid Relationship Solutions to dive deep into your relationship patterns and learn more about one another.
Do you frequently feel stressed or anxious? Setting relaxation goals may be particularly important for you. This can include actively doing things like massages, meditation, or enjoying a warm bath. But it can also include reducing responsibilities, so you have more room for free time on your schedule.
Raising children can be chaotic. Many couples can use relationship help at this stage. Because when you’re in the midst of that chaos, it can be hard to discuss the big stuff, like your parenting style, values you hope to share, and how to handle discipline. By setting parenting goals together, you’ll provide more consistency for your children and reduce family conflict.
I see many couples who have conflicting home improvement goals. One is focused on building the deck outside, while the other is working on reorganizing the spare bedroom. But if you can get on the same page and work on goals together instead of having two unfinished projects, you can finish both of them faster!
Health and Fitness
You want to stay together for your entire lives, so help one another ensure you both live long, healthy ones. This can include eating healthier, going out for fast food less, exercising more, and having regular medical appointments.
Think Outside the Box
Don’t just limit yourself to these areas. There are countless ways you can set goals together, and many of them may be unique to who you are as individuals or couples.
For example, maybe you are both musicians, so you can set goals for your musical knowledge or accomplishments. Or perhaps you both feel strongly about environmental causes and would like to make sustainable living a goal.
Consider sitting down for relationship help from an experienced counselor. You can explore your priorities together, get answers to your relationship questions, and learn how to more effectively communicate along the way.
The importance of couples rituals in a marriage
Are interactions with your partner a part of your normal routine?
Not just a quick “hello” in the morning or brushing your teeth alongside one another at night. I mean couples rituals that help you feel connected each and every day.
You may associate rituals with religion, but a ritual is any behavior or series of actions that you repeat consistently in a specific way. You already have many rituals as a part of your life.
For example, you may have a ritual every morning to help you stay on top of grooming: brushing your teeth, then combing your hair, and finally applying make-up or maybe shaving.
Or you may have a ritual when you arrive at the office to get you focused on the day’s important tasks: checking your calendar, updating your to-do list, and answering your emails.
These rituals have specific goals. They help you achieve something. It’s similar with couples rituals. The objective is to help you to enrich your relationship.
The Gift of Quality Time
You may enjoy sitting next to one another watching TV at the end of the day, but unfortunately, it isn’t a meaningful couples ritual. You may be in proximity, but you aren’t really together.
A good couples ritual involves spending quality time together. You are giving one another your undivided attention.
So, for example, if you both enjoy your TV routine, you could make it a couples ritual by turning off the television a little earlier and discussing what you just watched every evening. That time is meaningful to your connection because you are sharing about yourself and learning about your partner.
But it does mean prioritizing time alone together when you are undistracted. In this case, you may sacrifice a little bit of TV time to build a stronger relationship.
If you are having trouble finding time to connect now, consider what competing interests are taking you away from one another, such as children, hobbies, careers, or even pets. Then think about how you can make changes to ensure you give your relationship the time it deserves, too. Turning off the TV a little early is a good example, but you can also:
- Go to bed a little later.
- Wake up a little earlier.
- Find a dog walker.
- Budget for date nights.
- Cut back on overtime at work.
- Let go of commitments.
- Put the kids to bed a little earlier.
- Set a shut-off time for cell phones and computers.
- Cut back on girls/boys nights.
Take an honest look at your schedule and see where you can make changes to return your relationship to the priority status it deserves.
A Few Ideas for Couples Rituals
When creating a couples ritual, what matters most is that you are able to focus on one another. You have to find what works for your particular connection, but here are a few ideas to get you started!
Gratitude is such a powerful force in a relationship. Set aside time each and every day to share appreciations. Tell your spouse why you are happy to have him or her in your life. Thank them for how they contribute to your relationship and your family.
If you have trouble with the exercise at first, try writing your appreciations down. That way, you have something prepared and don’t feel pressured to find the right words to express yourself.
Touch helps keep our emotional and physical connection going, so find excuses to hug, kiss, cuddle, hold hands, and more throughout the day.
Find as many ways as you can to incorporate touch into your everyday routine. Snuggle up while watching TV. Share a nice loooong kiss before parting ways. Hold hands at the dinner table.
Find time in your daily routine to talk. Some couples prefer chatting before they drift off to sleep, while others talk over a cup of coffee in the morning before the kids get up. It doesn’t matter when you do it, but you should set aside at least 10 minutes every day completely free of distractions to just share and listen.
In our busy, always-on, always-connected world, many of us have lost the art of being present. You may try to listen to your spouse… but really your mind is somewhere else, maybe thinking of household chores or a work deadline.
If this sounds like you, meditation can help you can learn to be mindful. This means putting your attention on what you are experiencing at the current moment. Then you can use this skill when you are with your partner.
One great way to incorporate this into your routine is to meditate together just before the time you set aside to talk. You’ll be more relaxed and more focused for the conversation.
The Illusion of Sacrifice
Setting aside more time for couples rituals does mean giving up time you spend on other things. But the truth is you are not sacrificing anything for your relationship. After all, you make up half of the relationship, so when your relationship benefits, so do you!
If you’re having trouble establishing couples rituals in your life or need help with other relationship questions, consider online relationship counseling. You can explore options and set goals for building a stronger, happier connection.