1. Prioritize your relationship
Let’s be honest – most of us talk a big game about the importance of our marriage or love relationship, but when the rubber meets the road, we aren’t really putting the relationship first.
Over time, you begin to take one another for granted. You get busy and distracted with your own stuff and neglect to tune in to the needs and desires of your partner. You view the relationship as a given, something that’s just a by-product of your connection to this other person.
But the relationship is an entity on its own. There’s you. There’s your partner. And there’s the relationship. Of these three, the relationship should be in first place. In fact, it should be in first place over everything else in your life, including your children, work, hobbies, or extended family.
2. Create a couple bubble
A couple bubble reinforces the goal of prioritizing your relationship by thinking in terms of “we” rather than “me.” This is hard for most couples because it requires viewing yourself as part of a team first, above your independent needs and habits.
But rather than this inter-dependence weakening you, it strengthens you because each person feels safe and cherished. You know you have each other’s backs, and you create a space of reassurance and protection that keeps the relationship healthy and strong.
3. Have daily connection time
An important daily goal for your relationship is spending one-on-one time together to reconnect.
If one or both of you work outside of the home, it’s especially important to carve out this time without distractions or interruptions (from children or otherwise). Try to do this both in the morning before the workday begins and in the evening before you are pulled away to chores and responsibilities.
4. Communicate with kindness
Have you ever noticed how couples can speak to each other with such cruelty and unkindness? They say things to each other that they’d never dream of saying to a casual acquaintance or even someone they don’t like.
When we feel hurt, angry, or frustrated, it’s so easy to lash out and say hurtful things. Sometimes we employ passive-aggressive words and behaviours, using subtle digs, manipulation, or stonewalling to express how we feel.
Both overt and covert words and behaviours like these are deeply wounding, and over time they accumulate enough to cause serious problems in a relationship. You lose trust, mutual respect, and eventually love.
5. Embrace vulnerability
Each partner enters a relationship with past baggage, insecurities, feelings of shame or guilt, and tenuous hopes and dreams. We have vulnerabilities that we want to hide from others so they don’t think less of us.
As trust and intimacy grow within a relationship, you share some of your vulnerabilities and inner pain with your partner. You expose your soft underbelly in hopes of finding a place of safety and security where you can be yourself completely.
Nothing is more wounding to a relationship than having your vulnerabilities disparaged, disregarded, or worse, thrown back in your face in order to make you feel bad about yourself.
The ability to safely be vulnerable with one another can strengthen the bond between you and foster a deeper love and intimacy than you thought possible.
6. Plan for fun together
Life is already serious and stressful. Your days are spent working, caring for children, running errands, dealing with problems, and worrying about future problems.
Your relationship should be a place of peace and respite from the tribulations of daily life. In fact, your relationship should provide an outlet for enjoying life to the fullest.
Think back to the time when you first met your spouse or love partner and how much fun you had together. At that early stage of your love, you didn’t have to work too hard to have fun. Everything was fun, and you delighted in finding fun things to do together.
As your relationship has matured, you may need to work a bit harder to create fun times together, but it is still possible.
7. Learn and support your love languages
You and your partner may not have the same love language, and that’s why it’s so important that you both learn and support each other’s love language.
You can do that by observing how your partner shows love to you and by analyzing what he or she complains about within the relationship.
Once you and your partner are aware of each other’s love language, your goal is to offer your partner more of what he or she needs in the relationship.
8. Maintain a satisfying sex life
No matter how great your sex life was at the beginning of your relationship, it is inevitable that it will grow boring or even burdensome from time to time.
If you are 15 or 20 years into a marriage, maintaining that romantic spark can take real effort and commitment. But a healthy sex life is vital to a healthy relationship.
Maintaining a satisfying sexual relationship involves understanding your partner and their needs related to sex, as well as acknowledging your own needs.
Women need to feel secure and comfortable with their partner in order to be willing to try new things and be sexually adventurous. Men need more visual stimulation and variety than women do.
For women, sex can become a stressor if they see it as yet another chore they have to accomplish. Men see sex as a stress reliever and need this physical connection to feel closeness. The key to bridging these differences in sexual needs is regular communication.
9. Support one another’s goals
As important as it is to create a couple bubble in your relationship, you are two individuals who have goals and dreams of your own.
Having your own goals and dreams don’t undermine your connection as a couple. On the contrary, it should enhance your relationship as each partner has something unique and interesting to bring to the relationship.
10. Have a yearly review
If you and your spouse take the time to set relationship goals and work toward achieving them, then it’s important to measure the success of your efforts.
At the end of the year, sit down together to discuss each of the goals you have defined for your relationship.
What have you done in the past year to actualize those goals?