9 Ways to Strengthen Your Relationship
The quality of your relationship can affect the rest of your life. Don’t you want both to be the best they can be?
Tod Patkin, author of the Finding Happiness: One Man’s Quest to Beat Depression and Anxiety and—Finally—Let the Sunshine In (StepWise Press) thinks that, “…Because couples allow their relationships to run on autopilot, but still expect them to stay healthy and exciting…But the truth is, like everything else in life, relationships don’t work that way. We must learn to put as much—no, even more—effort into our marriages as we do in trying to succeed professionally or keeping our gardens, houses, or cars looking top shelf.”
Tod believes that a happy relationship and a happy marriage is really what can make or break you. As he says, “If a marriage isn’t good, you’re going to have trouble feeling fulfilled in other areas as well.
“I know from experience that if you get it right here, it’s easier to get it right in all of the other aspects of your life, because the person who’s closest to you will be there to support you and will have your best interests at heart,” he adds.
“When you let your marriage just ‘sit,’ it’ll eventually get rusty and break down, just like your car would,” Patkin points out. “And that’s a terrible tragedy. We all should have been told growing up that you do have to work on your marriage every day, too, if you want it to stay exciting and great.”
Here are his nine tips on keeping your marriage or your relationship the best it can be.
1. Recommit yourself to your marriage or relationship every single day
Tod states that, “people work on their cars, their houses, and their gardens on a regular basis…And just as these things need regular, constant attention to thrive, so does your marriage. Don’t let your enthusiasm for working on your relationship be short-lived.”
He suggests that you take the time to comfort, cherish and be there for your partner not just in the bad times, but in the good times to. In fact, he belives it’s just as important to let your partner know how much they mean to you when things go well.
2. Evaluate where your self-worth comes from
Lots of us use our careers as a way to boost our self esteem. We take pride in what we do and happily let people know. Tod asks how many people take that same pride in their relationships. “I understand all about being proud of your career accomplishments and of other things in your life, but I truly believe that the happiest couples draw a lot of their self-worth from their relationship with each other,” he asserts. “So please assess where your marriage or relationship really falls right now on your list of personal accomplishments. Are you consistently relying on something other than your marriage, like your job, to make you feel good about yourself?”
3. Verbalize to your partner what you love and appreciate about them all the time
Tod feels that what you think and talk about influence how you experience your life. Think about it, if you’re always complaining, then somehow, someway your life becomes one annoying event after another. If you start to change the way you look at things, your life can change too. Didn’t your mom once tell you, “Attitude is everything”?
He thinks that you should use that same philosophy when dealing with your relationship. Take a step back and remind yourself about all the reasons you fell in love with your partner. Make a list of how much more fabulous your partner has become since you’ve entered a relationship or marriage with them.
You know how you love it when someone compliments you? Then take the time to compliment your partner. Patkin states, “And not only will this make your partner feel great in the moment, but consistently complimenting one another is the single greatest long-term vitamin you can each give to one another for your marriage. Verbalizing such compliments to your spouse is especially important today because most of us have a tendency to dwell on our mistakes while disregarding all of the things we do right. And we don’t normally hear compliments from our kids, our coworkers, or even our friends either, so over time, we start to feel small and unhappy. Thus, as a spouse, it is your responsibility to continue to make your wife or husband feel as great about her or himself as possible.”
4. Acknowledge the little things your spouse or partner does, and return the favor.
It could be something as little as making sure that you’ve got your morning coffee ready to go, or something adorable like breakfast in bed. But your sweetie is taking the time to show you that he loves you. Whatever he does for you, don’t ever forget to say thank you to him. And to do something nice in return. All the niceness to each other can only lead to something good.
5. Learn—and then do—what makes your spouse feel most loved
Tod advises, “Don’t assume you know what makes your spouse feel the most loved.While any expression of love is, of course, a good thing, the fact is that we all feel loved in different ways. So it is important that you find out what makes your spouse feel the most loved. Simply ask the question, ‘What have I done in the past that made you feel the most special?’ Some people might want a date night. Others might need to be told verbally that they are the greatest. It’s always a good idea to ask your spouse what makes him or her feel most loved—and then include those actions or words into your regular repertoire. You’ll notice a big difference…and you’ll probably find that your spouse reciprocates, too.”
6. Don’t let resentment build
Whether you’re spending a lot of time with your honey, living with him or married, the fact is that when you spend A LOT of time together, you can get on each other’s nerves. It’s a fact of life. Instead of holding in how you’re feeling, Tod thinks that you should talk about what’s been built up inside. But do it calmly! “Always, always make it a priority to keep the lines of communication open,” Tod says. “Even if you have to go for a walk to clear your head first, be sure to express your grievances in a calm, constructive way—preferably before you go to bed angry. Also, remember that this is a two-way street. When your spouse or partner is upset with you, make every effort not to fly off the handle and to fairly consider what you’re hearing. Marriage does involve compromising and modifying your behavior for another’s well-being—and believe me, your mutual happiness is worth it.”
7. Take responsibility and stop trying to fix your partner
People are who they are, they’re not a pair of pants you can hem, or a chair you can paint. You can nag them to change or do more around the house, but the more you nag, it’s more than likely they’re tuning you out.
“The more time you spend trying to change your spouse, the less time you have for improving yourself,” Patkin points out. “As far as I know, there has never been such a thing as a ‘perfect’ husband or wife! And I bet that when you begin to take responsibility for areas in which you may have been dropping the ball, the dynamic of your marriage will change. Perhaps your spouse has been trapped in a cycle of negativity that has been fed by your own less-than-helpful attitude. And remember, people unconsciously begin to mirror the people they spend the most time with. This happens for the good as well as for the bad! So if you start working on yourself, your spouse will most likely do the same.”
8. Figure out what your strengths are and play to them
“I’ll be honest—I’m awful when it comes to doing projects around the house,” Patkin admits. “I have very little mechanical understanding or skill, and I have no patience for these types of jobs. For years, though, I’d try tackling these sorts of projects around the house. And then when I failed to put the pieces of a new desk together, for example, I’d feel like less of a man. Well, I’ve finally accepted the fact that I will never be Mr. Home Improvement, and I don’t waste my time or energy on that type of task. Thus, I get much less frustrated, I’m happier, and the people around me are happier too! I’ve learned that it’s definitely a good idea to ask your spouse for help or pay to have the job done if neither of you feels confident.”
9. Make a date night a regular event
“Vow to take the time to invest in the romantic part of your relationship,” Patkin advises. “It may not seem important, but this is the cornerstone of a good marriage. Without that so-called ‘spark,’ the other parts of your life, like work and kids, will suffer too. Try to act like you did when you were both in the infatuation period of your relationship: Bring home flowers or other small gifts. Plan a special date night (maybe involving a babysitter this time around!). Get tickets to the reunion tour of a band you and your spouse loved when you first began dating. Basically, get back to the essence of how you fell in love in the first place!”
Tell us: what do you do to keep your relationship strong?
PJ Gach is Senior Editor: Style + Beauty at BettyConfidential.