No matter how strong your connection is as a couple, maintaining that spark is crucial. Without ongoing effort, you and your partner might eventually find yourselves stuck in a loop of recurring problems, or living in a boring routine that winds up driving you apart. But all of that can be prevented if you look for little
ways to improve your relationship, every day.
"A healthy relationship is one based in trust and security, [which is why] small gestures are a great way to keep these two things strong,"
Dr. Kristie Overstreet, a relationship expert and certified sex therapist, tells Bustle. Unlike grand, sweeping gestures that happen once a year, frequent, small moments of love show that you're always prioritizing each other.
It's often in the seemingly insignificant moments that you feel closest. "For example, during the workday, checking in with your partner, sending them an emoji, or taking a few minutes to chat," Overstreet says.
Continuously making an effort also means you get to create the type of relationship you want,
Jeni Woodfin, LMFT, a licensed marriage and family therapist, tells Bustle. They offer the chance to be intentional every day, instead of letting your relationship happen to you, over time.
If you want to stay happy and connected, remember it's the little shifts — the small moments — that make the biggest difference. Here are 23 ways to
make your relationship stronger, according to experts. 1 Use "I" Phrases
If you and your partner tend to spiral into toxicity during arguments, experts says you may want to stop using "you" phrases — such as, "you did this" or "you made me feel" — and start using "I" phrases.
"Leading with the word 'you' nearly instantly
creates a defensive posture in your partner, who then goes into a strategy to defend themselves the minute you stop talking," Deborah E. Dyer, PhD, a psychologist, tells Bustle. But this simple switch can make all the difference.
"By owning your own thoughts and feelings about the situation," Dyer says, "you immediately reduce the defensiveness in your partner because they aren't feeling blamed or criticized." And from there, you can have more productive conversations.
2 Pay Attention To Small Moments
It's easy to overlook little things, like saying good morning to each other, or hugging before going to bed. But Woodfin says these are some of the most important parts of the day.
By savoring these moments, you'll both feel more "seen" and appreciated, which is a vital part of staying connected long-term.
3 Ask Questions Instead Of Assuming
No matter how well you think you know your partner, it's dangerous to make assumptions about what they're thinking, especially during tough moments. "Mind reading usually leads to misunderstandings and hurt feelings,"
Sameera Sullivan, a psychologist and founder of Lasting Connections, tells Bustle. So the next time you aren't sure what they want or need, ask for clarification. 4 Call Time Outs
If you find yourselves in the middle of a heated debate, and your tempers are flaring, don't be afraid to call a time-out before things go downhill.
To do so, simply "state the importance of the conversation and the desire to come together again," Woodfin says. Something like, "I want to keep talking about this, but I'm getting too upset to think. I'm going to take a break for an hour, but let's meet back after that to continue talking."
That way your partner knows they'll have another chance to be heard, but only after you've both given yourselves a chance to cool off.
5 Communicate Throughout The Day
Whether it's sending a quick text, or calling to say hey, communicating on a regular basis is key. "When you take intentional moments throughout your day to communicate, this is an effective way to show your partner that you are thinking of them,"
Beverley Andre, LMFT, a licensed marriage and family therapist, tells Bustle. 6 Share When You're Feeling Down
Whenever you're feeling vulnerable or upset, make an effort to open up and touch base with your partner, instead of holding it all in.
“Real intimacy comes from letting your guard down and allowing your partner to witness you in a less than stellar light,"
Dr. Jennifer B. Rhodes, a licensed psychologist, tells Bustle.
Basically, you can take moments of struggle or doubt, and turn them into a bonding experience.
7 Schedule Sex
It might sound strange, but ensuring you schedule time for sex — especially if you both tend o be too tired at the end of the week — might be the ticket to feeling closer as a couple.
As Woodfin says, "With scheduling sex, you don't have to show up ready to go, but rather show up with an openness and willingness to try. It's very similar to that feeling before you go to the gym — you may not want to go beforehand, but as soon as you finish your workout you feel great, energized, proud. This is the same thing with sex."
8 Schedule Regular Date Nights
Similarly, scheduling regular date nights is essential,
Michelle Gallant, a relationship and dating coach, tells Bustle, if you want to maintain a strong, close connection.
It's easy to get swept up with work and other obligations, but if you let the fun stuff slide — like going to the movies, meeting up for dinner, etc. — she says your relationship will start to crumble.
9 Do Something Scary
Maybe it's hiking in the woods. Or performing at an open mic night. Or facing a fear of heights and riding a rollercoaster for the first time. Whatever it is, tackle something that scares you — together.
learn the most about a person when they are placed in stressful situations; that’s when someone’s true colors show," Tiffany Toombs, a relationship expert and director at Blue Lotus Mind, tells Bustle.
Plus, scary moments offer a chance to practice problem-solving, Toombs says, which will help you feel closer as a couple.
10 Be Present, Physically
If you feel like you've gotten complacent, make more of an effort to be physical with your partner. "
Make eye contact, [or] touch your partner’s arm or leg to let them know you’re 'with' them," Tracy K. Ross, LCSW, a couples therapist, tells Bustle. You could also sit closer on the couch while watching TV, or offer a hug. These are all easy ways boost intimacy in your relationship. 11 Check In Regularly
Choose a time to have check-ins as a couple, whether it's daily, weekly, or monthly, and use this time to discuss the state of your relationship,
Kate Ecke, LCSW, a licensed clinical social worker, tells Bustle.
During the check in, you might chat about problems, triggers, or good things that have happened recently, that you'd both like to see more of in the future.
12 Maintain Shared Interests
"In the beginning of relationships, we sometimes find it almost impossible to stay away from each other,"
Jennifer Weaver-Breitenbecher MA, CAGS, LMHC, a psychotherapist, tells Bustle. As time goes on, it's natural to drift apart, but you can stop that process in its tracks by purposefully doing more things together.
"Find shared interests, even if you’re into different things," Weaver-Breitenbecher says. "Or find something new, something you’re both willing to try."
13 Figure Out Your "Love Language"
Take a quiz online to
figure out your love languages, so you can better cater to each other's needs.
"For example, if your love language is quality time, discuss what that means for your partner specifically,"
Tyra Berger, MSMFT, LCPC, a licensed clinical professional counselor, tells Bustle. What can they do — have meaningful conversations? hang out with you more often? — to help you feel loved.
Then, figure out what
they need, and do it often. "Practicing each other's love language will [you] stay connected and in tune with each other," Berger says. 14 Take Turns
If you want your relationship to feel equal, there's a really simple trick you can use.
Dr. Erika Martinez, a licensed psychologist, tells Bustle. "Whether it's planning date night, cooking, cleaning, or doing laundry, taking turns divides the responsibility, creates more equality in the relationship, and helps keep these tasks from feeling like a burden, which also fends off feelings of resentment down the line." 15 Take A Daily Walk
Whether you go for a walk in the morning, on your lunch breaks, or after dinner, fitting 15 minutes of outdoor time into your day can do wonders for your relationship.
During your walk, "talk about what's working well in your relationship, what's not working, and what you'd like to change," Martinez says. Or simply hold hands and chat mindlessly about the TV shows you're loving right now.
It's little rituals like these that keep couples close.
16 Create Routines
Little rituals have a way of improving relationships,
Aimee Hartstein, LCSW, a relationship therapist, tells Bustle, so look for little ways you can add them into your lives.
Even it's just ordering pizza every Friday, or making popcorn while you're watching a movie, "rituals like these are are bonding, even if you don’t realize it," Hartstein says.
17 Compliment Each Other
It's so easy to fall into the habit of nit-picking in a relationship, but if you want to stay together happily, you'll want to focus on the positives instead, Weaver-Breitenbecher says.
This can be done by keeping an eye out for good things, and then offering sincere compliments, like pointing out how much you enjoyed a dinner your partner made.
Encourage each other to notice the good things and to say them out loud, more often.
18 Be Thoughtful
If you're looking for a simple but meaningful ways to show your love, try surprising your partner with little gifts or tokens of affection, like a hand-written note tucked into their coat pocket,
Joshua Klapow, PhD, a clinical psychologist, tells Bustle. He says these are "tangible gestures of love" and they go a long way in helping you stay connected. 19 Honor Alone Time
Not all relationship-building activities require you to spend time together. In fact, "a sign of a healthy relationship is when both parties have individual interests," Andre says. So go ahead and encourage each other to spend time alone, whenever necessary. You'll both come back to the relationship feeling renewed.
20 Ask How You Can Help
If you're getting the sense that your partner is overwhelmed, ask how you can help, Overstreet says. "This simple question can improve your connection because it shows how much you are there for them," she says. "It shows you support them as well as a willingness to step in to help with whatever they need."
21 Unplug Together
Another way to keep your relationship strong? Unplugging on a regular basis, so you can look at each other instead of your phones,
Susan Trombetti, a matchmaker, tells Bustle.
Use the time away from social media, texts, the news, etc., to catch each other up on daily goings on, to talk about mundane things, or to simply enjoy distraction-free time together.
It's also good to occasionally show you're more invested in each other, than whatever's happening on social media.
22 Apologize Quickly
If you say or do something hurtful, talk about it ASAP — and don't hesitate to apologize.
"Of course, you need to be authentic with the apology but it shows that you are willing to own your mistake," Overstreet says. "Then ask for a 'do-over' of what you should have said or did instead. Don't let hours or days pass — apologize quickly, own up to what you did, and then move forward."
23 Remind Yourself How You Feel
Remind yourself of all the reasons why you're
grateful for your partner, especially if you're starting to take each other for granted. This is after all, "probably the single reason that most relationships fall apart," Klapow says. But if you both make a point of reminding yourselves why you fell in love, and all the good things you share as a couple, that's far less likely to happen.
Even if you've been together for a long time, there are always new ways to make your relationship stronger and bring you closer together — so you can both feel happy, supported, and ready for the future.
Experts: Dr. Kristie Overstreet, relationship expert and certified sex therapist Jeni Woodfin, LMFT, licensed marriage and family therapist Deborah E. Dyer, PhD, psychologist Sameera Sullivan, psychologist Beverley Andre, LMFT, licensed marriage and family therapist Michelle Gallant, relationship and dating coach Susan Trombetti, matchmaker Dr. Jennifer B. Rhodes, licensed psychologist Tiffany Toombs, relationship expert Kate Ecke, LCSW, licensed clinical social worker Jennifer Weaver-Breitenbecher MA, CAGS, LMHC, psychotherapist Tracy K. Ross, LCSW, couples therapist Tyra Berger, MSMFT, LCPC, licensed clinical professional counselor Dr. Erika Martinez, licensed psychologist Aimee Hartstein, LCSW, relationship therapist Joshua Klapow, PhD, clinical psychologist
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This article was originally published on
Jan. 18, 2019