How to Make Your Relationship Stronger, According To The Experts

I consider myself a predominantly logic-driven person — until it comes to relationships. I then find myself overflowing with emotions, and when you’re dealing with everything from overwhelming resentment to slight jealousy, it’s not always easy to keep things straight. You make your relationship stronger when both partners are willing to cultivate habits that amplify the good feelings and effectively sort through the so-called “bad” ones. But because every couple has different needs, different expectations, and different experiences, said habits can be pretty tough to pin down.

Cue renowned relationship experts, Monica Parikh and Aimee Hartstein: Monica Parikh is a dating coach and the founder of the School of Love NYC, and Aimee Hartstein is a licensed clinical social worker and relationship therapist. Both of them agreed to help me out with better understanding what strengthens relationships, and their expertise definitely made something as complicated as committed love a whole lot easier to grasp. They explained over e-mail which habits lead to stronger, happier, and more successful relationships, and they had no shortage of helpful insights to offer up. That’s why I’ve compiled a list of their top tactics for turning a relationship from “could use some improvement” to “better than ever,” as well as some books to help you out along the way.

Take Time To Learn About Love

Love: What Life Is All About , $12, Amazon

“We spend far too little time studying love and relationships, despite the fact that they are the cornerstone of long-term happiness,” our experts say. A recommended read straight from Parikh and Hartstein themselves, Love: What Love Is All About is a book that defines what love is, as well as what it’s not. The author, Dr. Buscaglia, defies societal “codes” and instead, invites everyone to love and be loved, both within relationships and within themselves. Reviewers say it’s funny, easy to read, and enlightening, and in a world that doesn’t particularly harbor love the way it should, this book is a definite step in the right direction.

Overcome Codependence

Facing Love Addiction , $13, Amazon

While it’s always nice to lean on someone, there’s a very fine line between “You’re important to me” and “My happiness does not exist without you.” Parikh and Hartstein say, “A couple who is too 'together' and depends only on each other to meet their needs is inevitably going to run into some trouble." If you find yourself facing codependency, Facing Love Addiction could be a helpful resource for you. Rather than making you feel guilty about your constant need to feel loved, it helps you acknowledge the problem at its root and work towards fixing it. Author Pia Mellody provides an emotional narrative that speaks from personal experience as well as clinical, and reviewers say this book is lifesaver when it comes to pinpointing your insecurities, learning to love yourself without other’s approval, and fixing the relationships that are broken because of the pressure that comes with codependency.

Find Satisfaction In Your Sex Life

Come As You Are , $11, Amazon

While sex isn’t everything, it’s definitely something. When asked how couples can keep things healthy and fun in the bedroom, Parikh and Hartstein responded, “If we had to pick one, it would be for a woman to know how to satisfy herself. It's important for a woman to be comfortable with her own sexuality and have orgasms.” For a better understanding of women's sexuality, try turning to the New York Times best seller Come As You Are, which explores how understanding your own sexuality can lead to an unbelievably satisfying sex life. Emily Nagoski, Ph.D., uses groundbreaking studies and research to show how much emotion and confidence play into sex, and how to influence these factors in such a way that you’ll be reaping the benefits in no time. It’s considered one of the best, most accessible commentaries on female sexuality, and it’s definitely not your average sex ed book.

(Psst! Listen to this title on Audible now with a free 30-day trial, including two free audiobooks.)

Acknowledge That Everyone Thinks And Communicates Differently

Men Are From Mars Women Are From Venus , $9, Amazon

Reviewers say Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus is not just a commentary on gender — it’s a crash-course in communication, so just about anyone could benefit from reading it. Plus, this one’s a direct recommendation from the experts themselves: “Men and women really do see the world differently!” Parikh and Hartstein say. “Once you understand that, you have a much better shot at making a relationship work.” Written by psychotherapist and best-selling author John Gray, Ph.D, it helps readers of both genders acknowledge that sometimes, people are just different, and expecting them to process things and communicate the same way you do just isn’t realistic. Although the book came out when Full House was trending (the first time), it’s still considered one of the best relationship resources.

(Psst! You can also listen to this title on Audible.)

Appreciate Your Partner’s Flaws And Differences

The 5 Love Languages , $8, Amazon

While it’s important that you set boundaries, no relationship will work without tolerance. “You need to have high enough expectations so that you pick a partner who respects you, loves you, and treats you well. That’s non-negotiable,” Parikh and Hartstein say. “But after that, you really do need to learn to tolerate the flaws!” A New York Times best seller and the ultimate book about tolerance, The 5 Love Languages is an insightful and realistic book that teaches all about differences in a relationship. It explores the truth that everyone is unique, and the ways in which they express their affection might very well differ from yours. That does not mean, however, that they don’t care. Gary Chapman outlines the five different languages that people use to express themselves (acts, words, affection, time, and gifts), and does so in a down-to-earth and straightforward way. It’ll help you to appreciate your partner for all their quirks and unique qualities.

(Psst! You can also listen to this title on Audible.)

Keep Things Fresh And Interesting

52 Uncommon Dates , $10, Amazon

Routines cultivate comfort, but they can also cultivate boredom and lack of communication. If the two of you do the same things every day, you assume there’s nothing new to say about it. The experts’ advice? “Simply making a consistent effort can go a very long way. Turn off the television and put away the smartphone. Take a walk. Go try a new activity.” A great way to start some new adventures together? Try out 52 Uncommon Dates . It’s a fun and innovate book that not only suggests ideas, but walks you through making them happen. It aims to tie the physical, emotional, and spiritual together, so that your night together is both fulfilling and exciting, so you can feel those honeymoon-phase feelings all over again, whether it's year one or year ten.

Communication, Communication, Communication

Communication Miracles For Couples , $13, Amazon

“Communication is one of the most important things in a relationship,” say Parikh and Hartstein. “Early on when people are dating, they tend to talk much more and inquire more about the other’s feelings. Once people get comfortable in a relationship, the communication often plummets.” Communication Miracles For Couples teaches couples how to talk to one another from a place of understanding, rather than blame. If arguments tend to go in circles without any resolution in sight, this book is filled with easy-to-apply ideas that tackle the most common communication issues within relationships. Reviewers widely say it’s the best book they’ve read on the subject, and it’s been paramount in keeping their relationships strong and happy, both in good times and in bad.

(Psst! You can also listen to this title on Audible.)

Provide Your Own Happiness

The How Of Happiness , $12, Amazon

“Cultivating happiness is an art,” Parikh and Hartstein say. “Once you realize how to make yourself happy, you put a lot less pressure on a relationship and can come into it much more joyfully.” That’s why they directly recommended The How Of Happiness as a book that can help anyone find joy and satisfaction within their own habits and choices. It’s written by Sonja Lyubomirsky, Ph.D., who’s a professor of psychology, and the book itself is based on years of scientific research. It provides tons of practical tips and exercises that prompt you to take your happiness into your own hands, rather than waiting for someone else to provide it for you. Reviewers say that Lyubomirsky’s tone is real and edgy, her suggestions are realistic, and her evidence is super intriguing.

(Psst! You can also listen to this title on Audible.)

Laugh, Even In The Face Of Difficulty

Laugh Your Way To A Better Marriage , $13, Amazon

Irritation is unavoidable in a relationship — especially if you live together, or you’re seeing one another every day. “The best antidote to that is a sense of humor!” Parikh and Hartstein say. If you can tell you need some lightheartedness in this area, Laugh Your Way To A Better Marriage could be a great read for you. It isn’t just for those who are married — it’s a great resource for any couple who need a crash-course on communication through humor. It explores everything from societal myths to libidos, all with comedy in mind. This book is written by pastor and motivational speaker Mark Gungor, and one reviewer said, "[The book] provides the opportunity to look at your new life and roles you play as you grow in your relationship."

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