How To Improve Your Relationship With 11 Subtle Changes
If it currently feels as if you aren't as connected to your partner as you'd like to be, don't fret. There are so many ways to get things back on track and feel close. And often all you and your partner will need to do is make a few subtle relationship changes here and there, and then maintain those things as a priority.
"By making an effort each day you will see your relationship grow, strengthen, and deepen," Emily Cosgrove, licensed marriage and family therapist and life coach for women, tells Bustle. Small changes that can make a big difference include spending more time together without your phones, listening more intently, talking about your day, and even going to bed at the same time.
But these changes aren't just reserved for couples who are experiencing problems or feeling disconnected. "Even small changes can be preventative and lead to big results when completed regularly," Cosgrove says. These are things you can do in order to build up and maintain a connection, for years to come.
With that in mind, here are a few subtle changes you and your partner might want to make, according to experts, in order to improve your connection.
1. Checking In During The Day
Checking in with each other throughout the day can make a big difference in how connected you feel. Not only does it show interest, but "it shows genuine concern for one another," Montigus Jackson, LMHC, CAMS, a therapist with Starting Pointe Counseling Services, LLC, tells Bustle. "Sometimes we get lost in our own worlds with work and everything else going on, so being intentional with checking in [...] will be very helpful."
This might look like sending a quick text on your lunch break, or calling each other to say hey once you get off work. These moments can be a great time to catch up, but are also meaningful in that they show you're thinking about each other.
2. Saying "I" Instead Of "You"
There's such a different feeling between "I" statements and "you" statements, especially if you're arguing. So the next time you want to talk about something that's annoying you, it may help to make this simple switch.
"Using 'I' statements when speaking to your [partner] can decrease defensiveness in the conversation," Jackson says. "This allows for the defense walls to come down and for each partner to hear the concerns of each other and not reply in an attacking manner."
Since neither of you will be busy defending yourselves, it'll be much easier to talk about whatever's going on, and finding ways to fix it.
3. Showing More Appreciation
As you get further into your relationship, you may find that you stop appreciating the things your partner does. And you may even start taking it for granted, yourself.
But there are ways to undo it by showing more appreciation, for both the big and little things. "Express gratitude toward your partner for who they are and what they do," Dr. Catherine Jackson, licensed psychologist and board-certified neurotherapist, tells Bustle. "Gratitude works wonders for both the giver and receiver. It can drastically improve how you both feel about each other and can strengthen the bond of a relationship."
4. Having Phone-Free Time
While it's fine to text and use your phone, you may also want to set aside time where you don't use technology for a while, Caroline Madden, PhD, a licensed marriage & family therapist, tells Bustle, especially since this habit has a way of shutting conversation down.
When you're scrolling through your phone, for instance, it's difficult to connect and truly hear each other. Over time, it can start to feel as if you don't value each other, or that you aren't listening. But by putting down your phones every now and again, you can prevent this issue from tearing you apart.
5. Going To Bed At The Same Time
If you have totally different sleep schedules, then this one may not be feasible. But if you can manage it, going to bed at the same time can drastically improve your connection.
First of all, as Madden says, it makes it easier to get in the mood and have sex, since you're both lying there in bed. It can also be great a time to curl up after a long day, talk about what's on your mind, or simply read side by side.
"Decide on a bedtime," Madden says, then turn off your electronics and make the rest of the evening all about the two of you.
6. Doing Chores Together
If you can, doing chores together, such as grocery shopping, washing dishes, or folding laundry, can bring to together — instead of going about it alone or dividing them up to do separately.
"Not only will you accomplish tasks on the chore list, you'll also be able to spend more time with your partner chatting about life, dreams or goals, developing a deeper connection, and strengthening your relationship," Cosgrove says.
It can also help prevent any feeling of unfairness, since you'll be helping each other get these chores done.
7. Sharing Something New Each Day
"Couples can maintain a healthy emotional connection by taking time every day to share their daily experiences with each other," Michelle Fraley, MA, WPCC, psychologist, relationship expert, and professional matchmaker, tells Bustle. "Sharing can be talking about your day at work, discussing current events, or even chatting about something as simple as what you had for lunch."
You can even share older stories as a way of connecting. "It’s not so much the content that you share that is important, but the fact that you are connecting with each other by actively giving and receiving information in an intentional and deliberate way," Fraley says.
8. Hearing Each Other Out
By not jumping to conclusions or immediately assuming you know what the other is thinking — no matter how long you've been together — you can improve your connection. Because trying to read each other's minds is a good way to feel misunderstood and/or have more arguments.
"Remember [...] you don’t know everything there is to know," Kathy Taberner MA, PCC, a certified executive coach, tells Bustle. "They still have their own unique perspective on everything and unless you give them space to share it and are open and non-judging, you will not really see, hear, and understand them."
9. Making Each Other A Priority
Making each other a top priority doesn't mean you don't care about work or hobbies or friends, but that you have a sense of urgency when it comes to your partner's needs, Charese L. Josie, LCSW, therapist and owner of CJ Counseling and Consulting, tells Bustle. And making that known can make all the difference when it comes to how you both feel.
This might look like putting your phone down to listen while your partner talks, and having them do the same. Small changes like these can help you both feel more loved and more supported.
10. Scheduling Time Apart
That said, spending time doing your own thing can improve your connection as well, which is why you'll want to schedule time apart into your week.
"Healthy couples don’t spend every moment of every day together," Mandy Watson, a professional matchmaker from It’s Just Lunch San Francisco, tells Bustle. "They have their own hobbies and interests."
So go ahead and do things together, but also make sure you retain your independence. "Time apart can help keep the spark alive in a [...] relationship," Watson says, "and can ensure that you both maintain your individuality."
11. Showing Affection More Often
If you used to hug and hold hands at the start of your relationship, it may be time to bring that back. Or make it a new tradition entirely. This includes everything from kissing, having sex, and sitting side-by-side on the couch.
"The more you touch and are physically connected in a romantic way it will help you feel more connected overall," counselor Dr. Sophia Reed, who has a PhD in human behavior, tells Bustle. "Touching someone is not something you do with everyone, so the fact that you are doing it as a couple will remind you of the bond that only you two share and ideally help you feel more connected."
These little changes can make a big difference in the overall vibe of your relationship. So if you're looking to reconnect, you may want to go ahead and give them a try.