Like everything in life, even when things are great, there is always room for improvement — especially when it comes to improving your relationship and making it happier. Your significant other might be your best friend and partner in everything you do, but there are still ways to be more aware of each other's needs and find a happier balance. Whether you spend too much time on your phones or have some trust issues with one another, there are always solutions if you want to fix the problem at hand. For many couples, rediscovering the happiness felt at the beginning or peak of a relationship is the biggest issue of all, and luckily, with a little expert advice, it's not an impossible task at all.
Megan Fleming is a relationship expert in nearly all ways imaginable. A clinical psychologist, sex and relationship therapist, and voice behind the website Great Life Great Sex, Fleming knows exactly what couples need to improve their relationships. If you're willing to build on your relationship's foundation and think of each other as a team, there are plenty things you can do to redirect the course of your love life. Here are five tips from Fleming for how to make your relationship happier for good.
1. Reiterate What You Think Your Relationship Needs
You probably got together with your significant other in the first place because you had a lot in common — especially what you value in a relationship. However, after months or years of being together, those lines that were once crystal clear can get a little fuzzy.
Fleming tells me over e-mail that it is important to share "core values, a commitment to growth, and learning how to lean in and toward your partner during the good and bad times."
Simply setting aside some time to be very specific about what you think defines a healthy, loving relationship, and if anything is currently lack, how you would like to go about fixing it can make a world of difference.
2. Understand How, When, And Why You Fight
"Relationships take effort that pays off in spades," Fleming says. "Learning why and when your partner frustrates and disappoints you is the key to turning it around. Over time most couples automatically hit a power struggle, which brings out the worst in both and becomes a vicious cycle."
The best way to get through the worst of times unscathed, and even grow from it? "Learning how to create positive cycles that automatically make it easier for you and your partner to show up with the best of yourselves is the key to happiness in long-term relationships," Fleming says.
Consider showing more appreciation for your partner, like making small gestures to make them feel cared for.
3. Turn The Negatives Into Positives
The "honeymoon phase" doesn't need to be a phase at all — the main difference between the excitement of a new relationship and the monotony of a long-term one is the loss of appreciation for one another. Everything that once felt special might start to bother or even disinterest you, but you both must make a conscious effort to bring those good feelings back.
"Practice Gottman’s 5:1 Rule," suggests Fleming. "For every negative thing you notice about your partner (and in life) think of five positive things that are also true. We need to actively work against our wired for survival negativity bias. Don’t let the negatives fuel noticing more of them."
4. Avoid Extremes
Turning arguments into a big game of who is better or worse at being in a relationship is an awful idea. Fleming says to avoid "all or nothing complaints," like "You always make such a mess," or "You never call me back."
According to Fleming, it's much more productive to cite specifics, in which a particular incident upset you and why — try to keep blanket statements out of your arguments, to spare your partner's feelings and eventually kicking yourself for being so harsh.
5. Remember That Romantic Gestures Never Fail
When is the last time you thought, "Wow, I'm so upset my significant other cooked me dinner and picked out a romantic movie for us to watch. And all these candles? How rude." Truthfully, that would probably never happen because everyone loves being thought of in a romantic way.
Romantic gestures aren't a romantic comedy staple for no reason. Fleming thinks it is crucial in a long-lasting relationship to put in the effort of making each other feel cared for and surprised. "Share appreciations, take time for small and occasionally larger gestures that show you care, and throw in the surprises now and again — the brain likes novelty," says Fleming.
Whether you've been with your partner for years or months, every relationship has moments of doubt or less-than-perfection. There's no reason why you can't get back to you and your partner's magical beginning, though. All it takes is a little work and thoughtfulness to make things happier.
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