If you’ve ever been in one, you know that relationships are hard work. Rewarding? Yes. Satisfying? Yes. Beautiful? Of course. But also, pretty damn hard. I’m in one now and I can tell you first hand that some days it takes some serious work to keep things moving smoothly.
But it doesn’t need to be such work!
Take the time to make small, mindful changes in your attitude, and your actions towards your partner. And soon, you will find that you are more connected, more passionate and more happy in your relationship. So, how to make a relationship work? Here are 17 of the principles that I use and live by, and that you can apply to your life too.
#1. Enhance Your Love Maps
Let’s start off with love maps. This term stems from the research of John Gottman PH.D. and references the part of your brain where you store information about your partner. Everything from their favorite color to their opinions, to their goals for the future.
By enhancing your knowledge about your partner, you can better understand their likes and interests and consider these things when you interact with one another. Keep learning, keep asking questions and do what you can to build your knowledge of your partner.
#2. Admire Your Partner and Focus on the Positive
This principle of how to make a relationship work is all about making a conscious effort to focus on the positive elements of your relationship. Keep the reasons you wanted to be together in the first place top of mind and appreciate these aspects of the person.
Basically, treat your love and affection like fertilizer and put it where you want it to grow.
Respond positively when they tell you about their day. Kiss intensely and tell them you are happy to see them. It’s that easy. Check out these other three great tips from Gottman to learn how to appreciate your partner everyday.
#3. Make the Everyday Romantic
While date nights and sexy weekends are essential to a healthy relationship, this shouldn’t be the only time that you focus on creating romance. Let it thrive in your day to day actions with small but present touches.
Even a cheeky booty grab or an extra long eye contact or a kiss can have a big impact. Touch and affection are the basis for a connection and there are a lot of health benefits too. According to Kory Floyd, physical affection reduces stress, releases feel-good hormones and makes us feel more satisfied in a relationship! Sounds good to me.
#4. Work Through Your Problems Together
In all relationships there are resolvable and non-resolvable issues. Focus on those that can be solved and work it out!
Focus on fighting the problem, not each other.
As, if you leave something for too long, the little problems become the big problems. Avoid petty behavior, no matter how tempting, and be honest with one another. If you need a moment to calm down, then take it. That way you will be able to look at things with a clear head.
#5. Communicate More!
This is the best way to ease some of the pain caused by those problems that cannot be solved so easily, but that doesn’t mean you should sweep them under the rug. Talk about them! They may always be there, but, with open communication and conscious listening, they will hurt a little less.
#6. Create Shared Goals and Indulge in Them Together
While you are openly communicating with one another, take the time to create shared goals to work towards. They don’t need to be huge, like starting a business or buying a home together. Even small goals like eating healthier or buying a new couch will help you focus on the inner life between the two of you and give you something to work toward together.
#7. Respect Their Point of View – Even If You Disagree
I know, I know. This is a tricky one! But try to remember that we all interpret things differently. Your interpretation of a situation may not always match your partner’s and that’s ok. You can disagree while staying respectful and avoiding an argument.
And, if you must argue your point, then make sure you focus on the issue and don’t get too personal about it. Try not to invalidate their point of view and keep the conversation respectful.
#8. Check in with Yourself Often
If something is bothering you, take the time to understand why before going all in with your partner. It takes two to tango after all, and becoming self-referring before arguing with your partner can make a very big difference. Take some time to think about past arguments and understand if there are some common triggers that upset you. Think about why they upset you so much and consider if there is anything you can do yourself to stop these problems from arising again.
#9. Take Some Alone Time to Love Yourself!
The best way to eliminate destructive behavior in a relationship is to take time out for yourself and focus on your own issues. Admit it or not, we all have issues and while we can’t change someone else, we can improve ourselves and make our relationship work.
Get to know yourself!
Yes, even the not so great aspects of yourself, and find a way to love yourself. It can take a little bravery, but soon you will start to see that you attract back what you project to the world.
#10. Give Your Partner Space to Do the Same
And please don’t forget it’s not just about you. We all need some alone time every now and then. Allow your partner time with friends, to exercise or to do some of their hobbies. It’s nothing against you, we all need time alone to refuel our minds and bodies sometimes.
#11. Give What You Want to Receive
We all heard some form of this one growing up right? It’s a classic for a reason and, it doesn’t just apply to life in the schoolyard. It can be easy to treat our partner badly. We know they love us and it often feels like we can get away with more when we take our anger or frustration out on them.
But, that is the exact reason that we should always treat them with love. It’s all about karma baby. When you put out loving energy, you will get it back. And love and respect are the basis of any great relationship after all.
#12. Consider Them When You Make Decisions
This is an easy way to make a relationship work. Don’t commit to things that you know will bother them if you can help it. Or, at least be open to discussing it with them first. It is much easier for a partner to accept a decision they may not like or agree with if it has been talked about first. When you exclude them, it might make them feel disconnected, unappreciated and left out.
#13. Focus on the Present – Not Only the Future
When things get busy and comfortable, couples tend to start drifting apart and not communicating in any meaningful way. This becomes especially apparent for me when I am working towards long-term goals with my partner. It can easily become, “It will be better in the new house” or, “I’m so busy this week, but I will put time aside next week for sex.” Don’t forget to keep that spark going now too. It’s common to burn yourself out trying to get where you want to be and forget to enjoy your present life.
#14. Keep it Playful!
This point is a personal favorite of mine as what is the point of being with someone if you aren’t having a good time right? Find ways to keep it fun, keep it sexy and keep it playful anyway and any time you can and any problems you may be facing will start to seem less important.
It’s as easy as trying something new in the bedroom or showing off some sexy new lingerie when your partner least expects it.
#15. Make Time to Deepen Your Connection
Sometimes, we can feel a little lost in our own relationships, so finding a way to make space for reconnection is important. You may want to connect sexually, spiritually or even by having a giggle together.
It seems so easy, and it is.
The hard part is finding the time to do it. So, book in dates with one another. You don’t even have to leave the bedroom! Watch a show on Netflix or spend time worshipping each other’s bodies and feel the passion coming back.
#16. Use the Word “we”. And Use It a Lot
Language is a magical thing and the words we use can have a major impact on how we feel about other people. Using the phrase “we” sets off a program of connectedness in our brains making us feel closer to that person. It’s so simple! Check the work of Dr. Chansky to understand how strong this word can be.
#17. Find Comfort in the Chaos
Our last principle of how to make a relationship work is to find comfort in the chaos. Because relationships are hard work. Humans grow and change, and, trying to maneuver that in yourself along with someone else can be difficult. Always remember that if it’s meant to be, it will all work out in the end, so you might as well enjoy the ride.
I know that this seems like a lot to think about but the more you practice, and become more conscious in your relationship, the easier it will become. For me, it all comes down to trying to become more mindful and present, and the rest should flow from there.
Know someone having a bit of a rough time? Send them this link and see if these tricks can help them too.