Take for example your relationship with your dog (or any pet). Have you ever noticed that a pet will typically show more affection to people that feed it on a regular basis? Simplistic, yes, but the fact is that animals (much like humans) respond to certain actions in certain ways, developing ongoing memories and feelings about individuals based on how they’re treated. Human beings are much more complex and require a bit more depth in understanding, but there are absolutely certain actions and behaviors that can dictate the overall health of your relationship with your partner.
Now, I should say, I’m by no means a weathered relationship expert, which is why I’ll be leaning on several citations to support my claims, as well as the Emi app, which is a relationship advice platform that helps people set reminders to perform relationship-acts on a regular basis. Let’s face it, we’re all very busy, but technology can help. Let’s get started!
1. Reward good behavior with compliments
Here’s the thing- people are different. You know what you like and your partner knows what they like (assuming a general maturity in both parties, it’s pretty different for children). So if you want your partner to do certain things, then you need to reward them when they do it! It’s positive affirmations- giving a person praise when they perform a certain act or behavior. Repeated, this develops positive affiliation with that act and thus, you continue to be made happy. It works inversely as well, and you probably aren’t even aware of it. If your partner takes the time to give you praise for taking certain actions, then over time, you’ll do more of that action because you know you get a reward (feeling) from it.
Challenge: Every day, praise your partner for doing something that you like them doing. It could be treating you a certain way, giving you something, supporting you at work, or even just acting a certain way in a particular situation.
2. Make a genuine effort to celebrate important dates
Everyone gets busy, but there are certain occasions that deserve regular celebration. For example: birthdays, anniversaries, holidays, etc. As humans, we need these special occasions to disrupt the status quo and add a bit of flavor to life. In fact many sources like the Family Holiday Association report that taking these special occasions to heart, can drastically improve emotional satisfaction, and “reset” our overall well beings. With a partner, this is especially important. Your first date, first movie together, first kiss, all of these are worth celebrating, if even just a simple text reminder. Couples are in this game together and it takes two to tango. Remember your first dance together? That counts!
Coming from experience, I know how difficult it is to remember dates like this. I’m a huge Facebook-birthday-reminder type of person, but there are other ways to remember the important dates and build a strong relationship. Emi (mentioned earlier) helps you with daily reminders for important relationship steps. You can learn more and download their app from their website.
Challenge: Pick a significant occasion (something other than a birthday) that you can celebrate this week and make a point to celebrate it!
3. Develop a daily relationship routine
I know, I know, more things to add to your plate! The reality is, many of the steps that build a healthy, romantic relationship, can be done in tandem with your daily routine. A FaceTime call on the drive to work, sending a funny meme on your lunch break, bringing home some flowers while doing your weekly shopping, etc. Quality time can certainly be held in its own space, like a weekly date night or weekend vacation, but by developing an easy daily routine, you can stay in contact more and maintain a healthy relationship with your partner.
Many well-vetted sources harp on the notion that consistent communication is key to a healthy relationship, and I agree completely. That said, every relationship is different, and some people might need less frequent contact than others. Some are very focal on body language, which makes long distance relationships especially challenging. Others simply need good communication, which can be achieved through a simple phone call. Different people have different ways of communicating- identify what yours and your partners is, and find the common ground.
Challenge: Evaluate your schedule and set aside a day/time to spend with your partner, doing literally anything, as long as it’s together.
4. Have some tough times (but be careful)
I don’t wish anything ill upon anyone, but it has been shown that couples who are able to endure tough times and support each other, end up coming out stronger in the end. However, there is also the chance that tough times can cripple a relationship- depending on how the tough times affect each individual. This isn’t for the faint of heart, but I believe that going through hardships will expose new things about each partner, and the ability to support each other through these changes, is what will define a long term relationship.
A great example is moving in together- when you move in with your partner, your private space becomes their private space as well (unless of course, you set up boundaries). For some people, this shared space might be too overwhelming. For others, it might be just what they need. Nobody is a mind reader, so going through these experiences together will help your relationship grow or decay, faster. It’s not the prettiest tip, but for those that are confident in themselves and their partners, it can really solidify a healthy relationship.
Challenge: Evaluate the current hardships you’re going through, or have gone through in the past, and talk about it’s effects with your partner. Reflection can be a useful tool.
5. Eat together whenever you can
It’s been statistically shown that couples who share a meal together, end up staying together, and I think that’s so true. The eye contact, the satisfaction of a full belly, not to mention it’s a fun way to spend time together- who doesn’t love eating? Through a shared meal, partner’s nonverbal cues are also evident, as the attention isn’t solely on the individual. If you’re looking for healthier ways to maintain a healthy relationship- just eat (healthier) meals together!
If you’re like me and constantly swamped with work, then set yourself a reminder to share a meal with your partner at least once a week (once a day preferably). Tools like Emi help make the process of reminders so much easier, so if you’re technically inclined and/or forgetful, give it a try.
Challenge: Schedule at least one meal per week with your parter, where you sit down together and enjoy food, talk about your day, etc.
In conclusion, maintaining a healthy, committed relationship takes effort from both parties. Some people might say that true love doesn’t need to be managed, but I believe that all good things need to be worked for and earned. There are so many other aspects of a healthy relationship that I didn’t touch on (physical intimacy, positive emotional cues, etc), but I hope that these tips at least give you some ideas for how to toughen up your relationship foundation.
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