Unexpected Ways To Have A Better Relationship

by Toria Sheffield

Despite what Disney and rom-coms might have us believe. relationships — even great relationships — take a lot of work. But that doesn't mean there aren't a few ways to improve your relationship almost instantly that will help make your connection with your partner stronger and more functional. Seriously, sometimes it's the small changes that can make the biggest difference.

I've always felt like romantic relationships are the ultimate paradox: when they're great, they're really great, but when they're bad, they're awful. Nothing can make you feel as good as when you're in a loving partnership, and yet nothing can feel as isolating as when you feel disconnected from your partner.

And I've found it doesn't necessarily take a big dramatic fight to feel disconnected or off-balance. Sometimes it's as simple as the way you greet each other when you come home each day, or the amount of time (or lack there of) you spend communicating throughout the day.

The good news is, there are absolutely small things you can do every day that will reap big rewards when it comes to a healthy partnership. If you're hoping to improve your relationship, here are 11 tips that should help.

1. Turn Off Your Phones

A study featured on Health found that there was a negative correlation between social media use and relationship satisfaction — meaning the more time people spent on sites like Facebook, the less happy their relationships were. They also found that couples might turn to texting instead of communicating about tough issues face-to-face. So try putting down your phones and tablets and block out some tech-free time together. Even if it's just a no phone during dinner rule!

2. Go To Bed At The Same Time

Relationship author Barton Goldsmith, PhD, noted that merely going to bed at the same time every night can make a big and positive difference. Goldsmith noted it might be the only time you're truly alone with each other all day, and that's incredibly important for emotional and physical intimacy.

3. Make Small Gestures

This is a personal tip that a decade of dating has taught me. A small gesture, whether it's a little note left for someone to find when they wake up, or a quick text saying, "Miss you!" goes a very long way in making your partner feel appreciated and secure, and that in and of itself can strengthen your bond.

4. Try Something New Together

A study out of the Journal for Personality and Social Psychology found a positive correlation between couples that tried new things together and relationship satisfaction. So take that painting course, or try that new complicated recipe!

5. Withhold Criticism

According to relationship expert Yvonne K. Fulbright, Ph.D., in a piece for Psychology Today, withholding minor criticism can make a big difference in your relationship. For example, if you partner is giving you a back rub, don't comment on what they're doing wrong. Instead, emphasize what they're doing right and encourage them to keep doing it. It might sound super trivial, but it can make a big difference.

6. Express Appreciation

Fulbright also reminded us to routinely express appreciation for our partner. And this doesn't just mean for the obvious things, like, "Thanks for making dinner," (which you should also absolutely thank them for!), but for the more intangibles, like telling them you're so glad you have each other before you go to sleep.

7. Don't Distort

A study dating back as far as 1980 found that happy couples tend to focus on what they like about their partner and relationship, whereas unhappy couples tended to focus disproportionately on what they didn't like. This goes to show that no relationship is perfect, and happiness often comes down to our outlook.

8. Be Vulnerable

This is my last personal tip on the list. If experience has taught me anything, it's that nothing good comes from hiding how you really feel because you don't want to "seem" a certain way. If your partner said or did something hurtful, or you're feeling threatened by their dynamic with another person, be calm and honest and let them know. Your relationship will be so much healthier because of it.

9. Give A Gift Just Because

A compilation piece for All Women's Health recommended getting your partner a gift — for no other reason than you know it will make them happy and let them know you were thinking about them. And this doesn't have to be anything extravagant — it can literally just be their favorite candy from your corner CVS.

10. Plan A Vacation (Or Staycation)

The same All Women's Health compilation piece recommended carving out some quality time with your significant other, noting that it's super vital for the health of your relationship. And it doesn't have to be a lavish trip to Europe. Just take a Friday off of work and go to that exhibit you've been talking about, or finally try that new restaurant.

11. Focus On Intention

On his YouTube channel, personal development coach Brendon Burchard stressed the importance of focussing on intentions. This means that you should start every day with the intention of being a great, present, and loving partner. He noted that this can be so vital, especially after you've been with your partner for several years and the newness and butterflies have worn off. Let this set the tone for your relationship.

Even the most loving relationships can get stale. But it's important to realize that there are simple things you can do every day to improve your relationship almost instantly — it's just about knowing how and being willing to try.

Images: Pexels (12); Bustle