Relationships require work and ongoing effort. If you’re looking to improve your relationship, here are five helpful things you can try.
Go to bed at the same time as your partner; couples with mismatched sleep schedules have higher rates of conflict and less sex.
Set boundaries around screen time.
Learn each other’s love languages so you can show each other love and appreciation in ways that the other person understands and values.
Have empathy for each other.
Consider couples therapy; your relationship doesn’t need to be at risk or in crisis for you to attend.
Romantic movies and Disney fairytales have long set the stage for unrealistic relationship expectations. In the real world, relationships take effort and ongoing maintenance to work. This is true no matter what your couple status is; whether you’re dating, living together, married, or living an alternative lifestyle.
It can be all too easy to put our relationships on the back burner and prioritize life’s other issues, such as work and child care. But avoiding the problems in our relationships won’t make them go away; in fact, it can eventually amplify them as a rift and resentment grow. Intimacy and vulnerability are required for a relationship to function healthily, and these take putting in work.
If your relationship has been feeling burned out lately and you’ve been avoiding putting time or effort into it, here are five constructive ways you can start to nourish it and improve it.
1. Hit the sack at the same time
Hitting the hay at a different time than your partner can negatively impact your relationship. Nearly 75% of couples don’t go to sleep at the same time. Couples who have mismatched sleeping schedules report higher levels of conflict, less quality conversation, and less sex than those who go to bed at the same time. Being in the bed together at the same time doesn’t count, either; you need to be present with each other, not scrolling through social media.
2. Set boundaries around screen time
Research has shown that spending excess time on your phone is negatively affecting relationships. Almost half (40%) of people are “at least sometimes bothered” by how much their partner is on their phone. More than half of people (51%) in romantic relationships report that their partner has been distracted by their phone when they’re trying to have a discussion.
Set healthy boundaries and expectations around screen time, such as no phones at the dinner table, and the expectation that when you start talking to each other, the phones are put down. The phone can be a great device for connection…but don’t let it destroy the connections that are right in front of your face.
3. Learn each other’s love languages
When you and your partner first got together, chances are you did nice things for each other and regularly dated, right? Sometimes, once you become comfortable with each other, you stop dating each other. Small gestures can be a way to show kindness and that you’re thinking of the other person.
The “five love languages” are a concept developed by author and counselor Gary Chapman. They are:
Words of affirmation
Acts of service
Once you and your partner understand each other’s love languages, you can make efforts to show your love in ways the other understands, values, and appreciates.
4. Be empathetic
If you and your partner haven’t been seeing eye to eye lately, try to understand what might be going on for them. Are they going through something at work or are they stressed out about something? Try to understand what they may be feeling and how those feelings could be influencing their current behaviors and actions. When your partner feels like you’re listening to them and understand them, they’re much more likely to open up to you – and you’re more likely to be able to solve the problem together.
5. Consider couples therapy
Sometimes, no matter how much effort you’re putting in or how empathetic you are toward your partner, it seems like you’re struggling to communicate. The support of a professional, such as a couples therapist, can be a gamechanger. You don’t have to wait until your relationship is in crisis to attend couples therapy. Couples therapy is for anyone who wants to improve their relationship and their communication.
Couples therapy can help you and your partner address challenges together, make mutual goals, and have someone to hold space and hold you both accountable for the changes you’re trying to make in the relationship. Couples therapy can even help you with struggles in the bedroom if those are an issue.
Get support from a qualified, caring couples therapist in the South Florida area
Just like anything else worth doing, relationships take effort and work. While going to couples therapy may seem like it means your relationship is in crisis, it’s not, and it can actually help strengthen the bond between you and your partner. If you want to improve your communication skills, understand each other better, break repetitive patterns and roles in the relationship, or even talk about challenges with intimacy, couples therapy is a great option.
Couples therapy can also help you and your partner navigate life transitions and recovery following an affair. Having the support from a highly-trained therapist who is able to hold space and guide you and your partner through the therapeutic process can help create a huge shift in your relationship.