The late, great comedian George Burns once said, “Love is a lot like a backache, it doesn’t show up on x-rays, but you know it’s there.” He could have used a lot of things in his simile, but he chose pain for a reason. Everybody knows that relationships can be hard. Really hard. Everyday life can sometimes use up all of your energy, so much so that you don’t have any left to give to your partner. But, it’s worth maintaining a relationship because even though the bad times are tough, the good times are so sweet. The great news is that there are a million ways to keep your relationship healthy. We’ve got the scoop on simple things you can do to keep the spark alive. Plus, our top tips for maintaining a relationship.
Healthy Relationships Require Work
After the honeymoon phase (or actual honeymoon), the novelty of a relationship can start to wear off. Those initial good times are great, but what happens when you start to factor your work, your hobbies, your kids, your friends, your day-to-day adulting responsibilities into the equation? Well, you get the point. Even those sickeningly sweet couples that post their happy, smiling pictures on Instagram all the time have days where being in a relationship is tough. But, as long as there is still a basis of love and understanding, maintaining a relationship doesn’t have to be. It takes some effort and compromise, on both your parts, but the result is a relationship that feels fresh, fun, and fulfilling.
Five Proven Tips For Maintaining a Relationship
- Show, don’t tell, that you care. Show the action, don’t just tell the reader. It’s known as the golden rule of writing, and it applies to relationships, too. Showing is different than telling. You can say that you love someone unconditionally until your face turns blue, but you’ve heard the expression, actions speak louder than words. They do.
Real-life isn’t like a fantasy novel–you don’t have to rescue your partner from pirates or pull them from a burning building to show that you care–you just have to do little things every day. You can hold a door open for them, cook them their favorite meal when they’re having a bad day, or offer to take care of some of the chores they usually do. You have to show up every day and let them know that you recognize and cherish them. As they say, it’s the thought that counts. Rest assured, the little things you do will go a long way in building your relationship.
2. Time is the most valuable thing you have. If you have the money, you can shower your partner with expensive gifts, but the best thing you can spend on them is time. Maintaining a relationship takes time, so don’t skip date night, and try to break out of your routine. Sure, you both may love the local pizza place, but try exploring new restaurants in your town. Find a new activity to do together. Or, learn a new skill that you can practice and talk about with one another. Your local community college probably offers fun classes like cheesemaking or pottery. Pick a course that interests you and surprise them with a fun activity, something that gives you a break from the humdrum. Routines can get a little, well, routine. So don’t be afraid to try something new.
3. Save the texts and go face-to-face for communication. The excitement that comes with getting to know someone might fade because you’ve heard their stories a zillion times and can predict which corny joke they’re about to tell, but it doesn’t have to disappear entirely. Carving a few moments out of your busy schedules to sit down and talk face-to-face can do wonders for a relationship. Instead of texting or DMing them, save your conversations for when you can discuss them in person. Listen to your partner and respond to them as you did on your first date. They aren’t just the other half to your relationship; they’re a person who wants to be seen and listened to.
Whether you’re having a meaningful conversation at home, at a coffee shop or even while taking a walk together around the block, take advantage of your times together. It will do wonders for the both of you.
Maintaining a relationship also requires honesty and transparency. You and your partner share a lot, but the most important thing you share is the responsibility to keep your relationship healthy. Talking to one another openly and genuinely (not a time for sarcasm) about how you can improve will make issues feel easier to overcome. You’re in this together, so make sure you’re both on the same page.
4. Make both a physical and emotional connection. Physical contact is essential to humans. Not only does it soothe your soul, but it also boosts the levels of oxytocin in your brain, which increases your ability to connect with your partner. Intimacy is part of every successful relationship, but it can’t just exist in the bedroom. Holding hands, hugging, kissing, and gentle squeezing also boosts oxytocin and are ways of being intimate without taking a trip to the bedroom. Here’s a fun tip, if your spouse or partner likes foot massages, break out the candles and foot cream. It takes very little effort and gives you the opportunity to connect with each other in a fun and relaxing way.
While physical contact with your partner’s body is incredible, it’s not the only way to be intimate with them. Intimacy is how we describe the affectionate familiarity we have with our other halves. It’s the knowledge that they always have your back, that you have theirs, and that you’re free to be stupid or silly with them because you know they love and accept you. Emotional intimacy is understanding your partner’s goals, dreams, and fears, and that you empathize with each one. Remember that intimacy isn’t just what happens between the sheets.
5. You only get what you give. Some people find it hard to take things that they deserve. They feel more comfortable supporting people around them, and if those people want to reciprocate, great, but they don’t ask for it. That’s a recipe for disaster in a relationship. Maintaining a relationship requires give and take. Both people deserve to be happy. Whether it’s something small, like deciding where to go for dinner, or something bigger like assisting your partner who decided to go back to school, it’s okay to take what you need as long as you reciprocate. Think about it as one of those take-a-penny, leave-a-penny trays on checkout counters.
If everyone just took coins, there wouldn’t be any left for when someone really needs it. You have to replenish the give-take balance in your relationship.
Of course, it’s possible to give too much. When you put in all of the effort and don’t get enough out of it, it can lead to discontent, harming your relationship. Knowing what you and your partner both need in life can help you recognize if there’s an imbalance in the give-take formula. Giving too much through sacrifice will only lead to resentment. Maintaining a relationship requires balance.
Three Relationship Exercises You Can Do This Week
- Give yourself space and relax. Codependency is not a good thing for a relationship. It’s a good idea to set aside time to be yourself, either alone or with your friends, pursuing hobbies or relaxing. It’s a great way to build self-confidence and independence, two things that will help you advocate for yourself in your relationship. It also gives you new perspectives, provides you with stories to share with your partner, and could give you a new skill to share with them. Self-care is important.
2. Make it a date. Work is crazy, the family is nuts, and there isn’t enough time in the day to break away for a date with your loved one. Everybody goes through hectic times like this. But, dates don’t have to be long, expensive, or even particularly romantic. When you’re in a relationship, dates can be anything you want, and they’re a great way to check in on how your partner is doing. Try finding half an hour at night before bed, or drinking coffee in the morning, doing dishes, grocery shopping, whenever, that you can spend together. Then, treat it like a date. Flirt, be courteous, be spontaneous and try something new that excites you, and ask your partner lots of questions.
3. Make eye contact. We are all too connected to our devices these days – and that’s a whole other blog topic. But when you’re talking to your partner, put down your phone and look at them. And no, Facetime or video chatting don’t count. Note their eye color. Smile with your eyes. Give your partner the attention they deserve. Instead of saying, “I hear you,” show them that you can hear them. Maintaining a relationship requires showing that you share your partner’s concerns, happiness, and love. You can empathize with their emotions. Eye contact shows that you are mentally checked-in and intimately focused.
Switch Off The Autopilot
When you’re no longer engaging with the other person in your relationship in a meaningful way, you’re not in charge of where it goes. Switch off the autopilot and grab the wheel. Small, everyday things can rekindle any spark that may have been lost, help you find something that you thought you lost, or simply keep your healthy, happy relationship feeling fresh. Little things really do go a long way in relationships. You can even think of them as relationship building blocks. The more you do, the stronger and healthier your relationship will get. Think about our maintenance tips and try our exercises soon. You and your partner will thank us.
- What are some things you currently do to maintain your relationship?
- What tips from above do you think will benefit your relationship?
- What does your partner feel needs maintenance in your relationship?