How To Keep Your Relationship Strong With 11 Simple, Everyday Habits
It's only natural that, over time, you and your partner might start to feel as if you're losing touch or becoming less connected. This can happen to any relationship, to one degree or another, especially since it's so easy to get caught up in everyday life and take each other for granted. But there are ways to keep your relationship strong by making a few simple changes.
"Relationships naturally ebb and flow, and with that, we need to make sure we are continuously cultivating meaningful and intentional connections with the one we love," Michelle Herzog, LMFT, CST, therapist and owner of Center for Mindful Living, tells Bustle. "Relationships don't remain healthy just because. They require real work and commitment, which includes keeping things alive and healthy with intentional actions towards connection."
Of course, some relationship issues may require extra effort to overcome, and that might mean going to couples therapy or having deeper heart-to-hearts about whatever's missing in your relationship. But small, daily habits can be a great way to maintain your connection, and maybe even make your relationship stronger as time goes on. Read on below for a few things you and your partner might want to try, with that goal in mind, according to experts.
1. Stay In Touch During The Day
You definitely don't need to monitor your messages 24/7, or text each other all day long. But in order to keep your relationship strong, it can help to up your phone game a little and try to stay in touch.
This might include sending a quick text to say hi, as well as "responding to your partner when they reach out, even if you can't talk in that moment," Stephanie Macadaan, LMFT, a licensed marriage and family therapist and creator of The Happy Couple Plan, tells Bustle, simply by saying you'll get back to them soon.
"These [things] are important because in our relationships we are constantly evaluating whether we can count on our partner and whether we are valued and important to them," Macadaan says. "Feeling these things are true is what creates emotional safety and feeling connected and bonded." And texting can be a great place to start.
2. Make Time To Catch Up
On a similar note, keep in mind that many "successful couples take time every day to share their daily experiences with each other," Michelle Fraley, MA, WPCC, psychologist, relationship expert, and professional matchmaker, tells Bustle. So if you don't already, get into the habit of catching up and talking about life, even if that means chatting about mundane things.
"It’s not so much the content that you share that is important," Fraley says, "but the fact that you are connecting with each other by actively giving and receiving information in an intentional and deliberate way without assumptions or expectations."
You can do this at any time of day. Just make sure you're fully focused on each other. As Fraley says, "Limiting distractions during this time is important in making the other person feel heard and respected."
3. Surprise Each Other In Small Ways
You can't expect every day of your relationship to be meaningful or exciting. But you can get into the habit of surprising each other in small ways, with the goal of keeping your relationship strong.
"Little gestures of kindness speak volumes," Susan Trombetti, matchmaker and CEO of Exclusive Matchmaking, tells Bustle. This might include making coffee for each other in the morning, picking up their favorite takeout on your way home, or doing one of their chores, especially if your partner's stressed out or sick.
Gestures like these show that you're paying attention to each other, and they can be easily sprinkled into your lives on a more regular basis to make your connection stronger.
4. Leave Notes
"This is one of my favorite mini intimacy builders," Herzog says. "It can be playful and provide a little boost of, 'hey, I'm thinking about you,'" which can be more meaningful than you'd think.
"It can take less than a minute to write something funny, loving, or intimate on a [note] and stick it on the bathroom mirror, the coffee maker, or the steering wheel of your partner's car," Herzog says. "Little notes like these can go a long way, especially if they are left by surprise or just because. This is another quick way to send the message that you are prioritizing the relationship all while being creative and playful."
5. Be Affectionate
It's so easy to fall into a rut and forget about showing affection towards each other. It might even get to the point where you stop hugging or kissing, simply because you're both busy.
But these things are so important that it's definitely worth turning them into a habit, and doing them more often. "Whether it is holding hands when out for a walk, offering them a warm hug [...] or giving them an impromptu back massage, small gestures of physical affection can help maintain your emotional and physical connection," Fraley says.
6. Get Ready For Bed Together
If you happen to live together, consider going to bed at the same time as a way of connecting and maintaining your relationship. This can start at any point in the evening, and look any way you like.
"Creating bedtime rituals, going to bed at the same time, and engaging in pillow talk are all things that can increase emotional and physical intimacy and keep your relationship going strong," Fraley says.
If you live apart, take time in the evening to chat on the phone, or do a video call while you're getting ready for bed. Whatever you choose, it'll be a sweet way to end the day, and doing it together can keep you close.
7. Relax With Zero Expectations
"Life can be busy and we often feel pulled in a lot of different directions, which is why sometimes we just need our interactions with our partner to feel easy and effortless," Fraley says. And that's where a relaxing evening at home can come into play.
"Couples in healthy and satisfying relationships allow each other to stop over-thinking and over-doing and just be," she says. "Taking some time each day to just enjoy sharing space with your partner without any expectations or judgements can lead to increased feelings of positivity and authenticity in the relationship."
8. Eat A Meal Together
While it doesn't have to be fancy, sharing a meal — even if it's just splitting a bagel before you head off to work — can be a beneficial habit to add to the day. "When couples eat together, they’re interacting instead of mentally being elsewhere," Dr. Catherine Jackson, licensed psychologist and board-certified neurotherapist, tells Bustle. "While you eat, you can talk about your day, your next vacation, dreams and goals, etc. No matter what meal it is, eating together will allow the two of you to stay connected with what’s going on with one another and enjoy each other’s company."
9. Share What's Bothering You
If you've had a tough day, or aren't feeling so great, go ahead and let your partner know. "Remember no one is a mind reader," Laura Cross, LMFT, a certified emotional therapist, tells Bustle, and this habit can keep you both on the same page, while also allowing room to talk about whatever's going on.
"Take a minute each day to check in and share how you are doing and ask your partner how they are doing," Cross says. "Not only will 'clueing your partner in' to your inner world help avoid big misunderstandings, it will also provide a great opportunity to connect and support each other on a daily basis!"
10. Say "Thanks"
As time goes on, and you get used to being in each other's company, you might start taking each other for granted — possibly without even realizing it. This can take a toll on your relationship, as one or both of you might not feel seen or appreciated. And that's why it can help to make a point of saying "thank you" more often.
"Say 'thank you' when your partner does something thoughtful for you, no matter how small," Gabrielle Applebury, LMFT, a licensed marriage and family therapist, tells Bustle. "This shows your partner that you can see their effort and that you are appreciative. This also encourages your partner to do the same for you."
11. Keep Things Fun
While life can't always be light and fun, it never hurts to get into the habit of looking for ways to remain positive as a couple — and that can include joking around and making each other laugh.
"Laughter not only relieves stress, it releases endorphins that make us feel physically better," Cross says. Positivity can also make it easier to weather tough times as a couple, which is a skill that'll definitely come in handy in life.
Laughing or texting more often may not seem like that big of a deal, but if you do these things on a regular basis — and make an effort to turn them into habits, that you practice as a couple — it can help keep your relationship strong.