Make Your Relationship Stronger
Relationships don’t just happen. If you’re reading this, I think you’ll agree that they aren’t easy either. Relationships require work – lots of it! In fact, Forbes estimates that 13.5 million relationship-oriented, self-help books are sold each year!
So, you aren’t alone in wanting to know how to make your relationship stronger. In fact, this is a main theme of many who come to the Couples Counseling Center in Chicago seeking guidance.
We certainly know that all relationships aren’t created equal either. You might consider the strength of your relationship based on a variety of factors (i.e., sex life, sense of security, trust, quality of communication, feelings when you’re apart, etc.).
Or, if you’re a fan of The Big Bang Theory and want to use an online tool to measure the strength of your relationship like they did on the episode featured in the video shown above, you can find one here. Although the test might help you “quantify” your relationship as Sheldon from the sitcom discusses, the strongest relationships continue to work at improving.
Oh and hey – if you aren’t familiar with “Big Bang” there’s always our super-duper, non-technical, straight forward relationship report card (see this page) that you can use as a tool for assessment.
In any event – you came here because you are interested in tightening that love connection, right? OK …
What follows are six, concrete suggestions to strengthen your relationship that you can begin doing right now. Some of these tips may strike you as common sense while others will cause you to reflect. Read them all in order to fully absorb their deeper meaning.
Are you ready? Let’s jump right in!
1. Be Interested
In the busy day-to-day, it’s all too easy to forget about checking in with your partner. Don’t let the daily grind and stress take a toll on your relationship. Yep, you need to reach out and show some interest.
To be a good partner, you should learn what’s going on in your mate’s world. How was their day? Or, if your relationship is really advanced, ask about your partner’s internal world (e.g., dreams, hopes, fears, insecurities, etc.).
Don’t forget to keep your questions open-ended and find a way to demonstrate that you’re listening by summarizing or paraphrasing what they’ve said. It’s called active listening for a reason.
If you really want to go out on a limb, ask a follow-up question! Research from the Gottman Institute, a recognized leader in the area of relationships, shows that couples that mastered their relationships responded to their partner’s inquiries about their life 86% of the time, as opposed to only 33% of the time for disastrous relationships. One of the main reasons couples split up is because they struggle with effective communications.
2. “I Value You”
These 3 simple words can be hugely impactful in relationships. Expressing appreciation in your partner builds and fortifies the bond between you. It also creates admiration, leaving little space for contempt to rear its destructive head.
Consider a daily exercise of listing 3 things that you are appreciative of about partner. Then, find a time to share one (or more) of these characteristics as well as an actual incident that illustrates it with your partner. You might have to be creative here but if you want to create more intimacy between the two of you, this tip can prove highly beneficial.
Want to improve the closeness of your relationship, get close. Yes, get physically closer to one another. Closeness is important for a lot of reasons. First, physical touch stimulates your brain to release oxytocin. Oxytocin (sometimes called the “love chemical”) creates bonding. In fact, huge quantities are released during childbirth in order to create an immediate connection between mother and child.
Second, touch can reduce cortisol, the “stress hormone” that is involved in hypertension, stunted healing, and heart disease. Finally, touch can stimulate the release of dopamine, epinephrine, and norepinephrine, impacting your mood and causing “butterflies” in your stomach. This is part of the reason why kissing is such a powerfully intimate activity!
4. Handle with Care
Why is it that sometimes we treat our FedEx packages as though they are more fragile than our relationships? Instead of focusing on criticism and blame, focus on your needs. Try stating requests as “I statements” (i.e., “I feel overwhelmed by the mess in our house, would you help me clean it?). This is a much more productive approach than attacking (see our posts on things to never say to your girlfriend or boyfriend).
5. Share a Vision
It’s important to know where your relationship is headed. Early in relationships, these conversations are common. Maybe you even discussed changing your relationship status on Facebook? Maybe you talked about whether or not you were dating other people? If you’re married, you must have discussed moving the relationship in that direction.
Unfortunately, couples often forget to revisit their shared vision over time. Take an opportunity to explore what your relationship is like for each of you. How is it working? How is it not working? What might you do to be a better partner? Which parts of your daily rituals could you change to feel more connected? Sadly, not having a shared vision is a major reason many relationships fail.
6. Repair Relationship Ruptures
When relationships are working smoothly, repairing ruptures seems natural. When they aren’t working smoothly, it’s important to come back to the basics. Take responsibility for the mistakes that you’ve made, and make, in the relationship. Tell your partner how you see your mistakes have impacted them and sincerely apologize for it.
All relationships will have ruptures – even the healthy ones. When imperfect people try to create perfection they are bound to fail. Fortunately, the key to healthy relationships isn’t avoiding all conflict. In fact, conflicts are opportunities to learn more about the other person and ways to love them better.
The key is learning to show remorse for your mistakes and exerting effort to correct them in the future. Repairing ruptures in this way can help you feel closer than before the rupture. This is why engaging in some form of couples counseling from time to time can be helpful. The process helps to address the ruptures.
Summing Things Up
As stated at the beginning of this post, relationships take work – and lots of it. It’s crucial that you take ownership over your relationship and shape it into what you want it to be.
If you looking for more tips on how to strengthen intimacy, communications and romance with your mate, we encourage you to stop by our relationship bookstore online. You’ll find plenty of resources that are designed to reinforce much of what has been share here.