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10 Tips For Couples

Relationships are hard work! It takes time and effort to really put your partner and your relationship as a top priority in your life. There are many different factors and aspects that we have to take into consideration to maintain a healthy relationship. Below are 10 helpful tips to keeping good balance, communication, priority and intimacy in your relationship. 

1. Take Time:

It’s important to set aside time to commit to speaking to your partner about your relationship. This dialogue should include your likes and dislikes about the partnership and anything you see that you can try to change for the better. This exercise is designed to allow partners to express their feelings rather than allowing resentment to build over time. This could simply be 15 minutes at the end of the week when you and your partner can commit to not be disturbed by other things and actually communicate with each other. The purpose is to “check-in” every once in a while about how both parties feel about the relationship to ensure an opportunity for open lines of communication. 

2. Work on Communication Skills:

Healthy communication is the ability to speak in a way that allows you to feel heard and also giving your partner that same opportunity. The point is to have effective communication that is productive and allows you to solve problems and make progress. Learning how to communicate better with your partner should include the ability to also listen, which can be key. First, you must learn how to communicate your thoughts and feelings in a productive way rather than placing blame. When we point blame, it often raises defenses in the other person and creates resentments over time. During communication, try using “I” statements, such as “I feel _____”. This allows you to speak from your own perspective without pointing blame. For example, “I feel angry when you come home late at night” is more productive than, “you’re always coming home late!” It’s a small change that has a big impact. The two examples carry very different tones and meanings. This can greatly impact your partner’s response. This allows you to express how you are feelings without blaming your partner. Again, communication is about getting feelings across productively and working to find resolution.

3. Make Love a Priority:

Be sure to make your relationship with your partner a priority in your life. After being together for quite some time, it can be easy to put our relationship on the back burner and not actively work toward maintaining communication or passion. It can be difficult to manage all of the different activities and aspects in our lives. There are lots of things are important, such as our jobs, our health, our alone time, our children, social life, hobbies, etc. But be sure that you are also putting forth thought and effort toward your relationship. This sends a message to your partner that he or she is an important factor in your life. It is essential that we not only send the message to our partner that our relationship is important, but we also maintain a good balance of the different priorities in our life. 

4. Be Attentive:

The idea of being attentive and having high awareness to what is happening in your relationship and with your partner is crucial for it’s success. Many times, people attempt to “brush problems under the rug” and ignore the obvious. Or they may be physically present with their partner, but not really taking the time or fully paying attention to them. This can build resentments and hurtful feelings over time. People should address problems as they arise and discuss them regularly, rather than hiding from them and allowing them to accumulate. We should also take time to be really present with their partners so they feel heard and cared about. It may be impossible to do this 100% of the time, but be sure to devote some time and attention to your partner on a regular basis. This also relates back to taking that time to have healthy communication and “check-in” on your relationship is doing. 

5. Express Assertively:

The healthy balance in between being passive on one end and being aggressive on the other is assertiveness. Being assertive in the way that you speak to your partner allows you to state your needs in a direct and reasonable way.  Many times people do not think about the way that they speak and may do so in an aggressive manner, which can be very unhealthy or they may chose to not speak at all and remain very passive in their relationship, which contributes to the building of resentments and unsolved problems. Being assertive allows you to express thoughts, opinions, feelings and ideas in a healthy matter. Finding this balance can be difficult, but worth the time and practice. You can go back to the suggestion of using “I” statements to be sure and address things with your partner in a way that does not place blame and allows you two to communicate productively.

6. Practice Self-Soothing:

Soothing our own feelings and sitting with difficult emotions is an important part of taking responsibility for our own feelings as well as being in a relationship. People often project their feelings onto their partner rather than self-soothing and dealing with their own emotional state. We must learn how to deal with and heal from our own emotional baggage without needing validation or emotional soothing from our partners. The ability to comfort yourself means you can calm yourself in a healthy way even when your feelings are hurt or your partner is not validating you and telling you what you want to hear. When two people are able to both self-soothe, it makes for a much happier and healthier relationship. The communication becomes more productive and each person feels more in control of their own emotional state.

7. Engage in Conflict Resolution:

Resolving a conflict can seem overwhelming and at times, impossible to do. This is especially true when we allow conflicts and arguments to continue for a long period of time and resentments build. Not allowing conflict to go unresolved or those resentments to arise is essential for couples. Conflict resolution should take place when you and your partner are calm and willing to talk things through until you can reach a compromise. Resolving a conflict involves coming into the discussion with ideas of things that you want to change and an agreement that you are both willing to change the things that you can. That means that each party is involved in the change process and has to take responsibility for how they can work toward resolving a problem. This is where that self-soothing comes in because when we discuss resolving conflict, emotions can run high and communication can be difficult. Remember to self-soothe, calm yourself down, and remember that the goal of the discussion is to reach compromise and resolution. 

8. Build Your Sexual Relationship:

Your sexual relationship can often be a metaphor for the health and functioning of your relationship as a whole. Therefore, it is important that you are monitoring the state of your sexual relationship and ensuring that is a priority in your life. It is important that you are open and honest with your partner about how you are feeling. It is key that couples check-in occasionally about how they feel about their sex life and intimacy levels. Are both parties feeling that their needs are being met? Are there things that you wish you could change about your sexual relationship? Again, these are important aspects to share with your partner, but sex can be a difficult topic for couples to discuss. It may be helpful to set up a time to talk when both parties are aware of the discussion so that they go in prepared and ready to share their feelings. 

9. Focus on Self-Awareness:

Looking within ourselves and thinking about how we contribute to the challenges in our relationship is something that is essential to creating healthy change. Most people stray way from this; however, as it is much easier to blame your partner for things that are wrong. It requires you to be very vulnerable and honest with yourself on how you can also change in order to better the relationship. First, think of the common arguments you and your partner have and explore ways that you may contribute to these disagreements. Most of the time, we seek to change our partner rather than change ourselves so in this example, come up with a few items that you can do differently in the future. Taking responsibility for our own actions and things that we can change will help to create overall change and betterment in the relationship.

10. Find Personal Balance:

Maintaining a balance between your identity as an individual and your identity as a couple can be very difficult, but it can be a key component to relationship satisfaction. We actually tend to appreciate our relationship much more when we also have our own independence and autonomy. So be sure to maintain your own social life, activities or hobbies and encourage your partner to do the same as this will allow for better balance and health in your relationship.

Be sure to JOIN our free Facebook group about Love & Relationships. This is an online support group that provides tips and inspirational material for couples and supportive discussions on challenging relationship-related issues.

Blog written by: Dr. Shelley Sommerfeldt, Clinical Psychologist, Relationship Coach & Founder of the Loving Roots Project, an online wellness practice specializing in personal growth, mental wellness, & relationship betterment.

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