- Relationships are complicated, and they take a lot of work.
- But that work can be fun – and easy.
- Here are some easy strategies for strengthening your relationship on a daily basis, from saying “thanks” to putting a ban on talking about housework.
Relationships take work. A lot of work. But a week at a couples’ retreat – while potentially nice – isn’t the only way to reestablish intimacy.
You have multiple opportunities every day to show your partner you care, get to know them better, and defuse petty arguments.
Below, find seven strategies for strengthening your relationship, none of which take more than 10 minutes.
Try ‘mindful conversation’
“Mindful conversation” isn’t designed to help romantic couples, per se – but it’s a useful exercise in learning to actually listen to what your partner is saying, instead of tuning out or waiting for your chance to jump in.
Here’s how it works (one of you can be “A” and the other can be “B”):
1. A talks and B listens for a set time period (say, three minutes)
2. B responds with, “What I heard you say is …”
3. A gives feedback and B responds until A is satisfied.
4. A and B switch roles.
It might be awkward at first, but it gets easier over time.
Hug or kiss your partner
Happiness expert Gretchen Rubin previously told Business Insider that she and her family make a habit of practicing “warm greetings and farewells.” Every time someone comes or goes, everyone gives a sincere hello or goodbye.
It’s a habit most couples could stand to adopt. According to IKEA’s “Life at Home” report, while most people surveyed say it’s important to hug or kiss their partner in the morning, far fewer people report showing this kind of physical affection before heading out the door.
And yet research suggests that physical affection is related to greater satisfaction in romantic relationships. So take a minute or two to show your partner how much you care about them.
Say ‘thank you’ for something small
In “The Gratitude Diaries,” journalist Janice Kaplan chronicles her yearlong experiment with being more grateful for everything and everyone in her life – including her husband.
She writes that thanking her husband for something as small as fixing a leaky faucet ended up improving her overall marriage.
As Business Insider’s Erin Brodwin has reported, psychologists have known for a while that couples who express gratitude toward each other are more likely to stay together. In fact, thanking your partner even once can bring you two closer months later.
That’s possibly because a single act of gratitude sparks a cycle of gratitude and generosity: You thank your partner, so your partner feels appreciated and invests more in the relationship, which in turn makes you feel more grateful to them.
Reassess the division of household chores
There are two steps:
1. Each person writes down all the family responsibilities they’re currently taking care of.
2. Each person shares which of those responsibilities they enjoy, and which they don’t.
The point is to figure out how much of the burden you’re really shouldering, and to figure out if you can “swap” some chores so everyone’s doing the things they enjoy.
Try the ‘just like me’ exercise
In his 2012 book, also called “Search Inside Yourself,” Tan explains how he handles conflict with his wife:
“I visualise the other person in the next room. I remind myself that this person is just like me, wants to be free from suffering just like me, wants to be happy just like me, and so on. And then I wish that person wellness, happiness, freedom from suffering, and so on.
“After just a few minutes of doing this, I feel much better about myself, about the other person, and about the whole situation. A large part of my anger dissipates immediately.”
Practice the ’10-minute rule’
The 10-minute rule is a suggestion from sociology professor and relationship expert Terri Orbuch.
As Orbuch describes it in her book “5 Simple Steps to Take Your Marriage From Good to Great,” the rule is a “daily briefing in which you and your spouse make time to talk about anything under the sun – except kids, works, and household tasks or responsibilities.”
For example, you might want to ask:
• Do you think you are/were closer to your mum or dad? Why?
• What age do you feel like inside? Why?
• What do you think are the top-three worst songs of all time?
• What is the one thing you want to be remembered for?
According to Orbuch, learning new information about your partner makes things feel fresh and new again, and “mimics the emotional and physical state you were in during the first few years of your marriage.”
Learn something new about your partner
In his 2014 book, “Mindwise,” psychologist Nicholas Epley cites research suggesting that we think we know our partners a lot better than we really do. (Epley had a personal experience in which his wife bought him his least favourite ice cream flavour, thinking he’d love it.)
So Epley puts forth a simple solution: Don’t assume you know everything about your partner. Ask questions and listen to the answers.
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