By Leslie Becker-Phelps, PhD
It’s easy for relationships to get lost in the shuffle of life. So many things need to get done each day, and I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty sure that the days are getting shorter. So, it’s easy to take your relationship for granted when it’s going well and there are so many other items on your to-do list. When troubles crop up, it can be too tempting to push them out of your mind as you focus on other priorities. Either way, failing to nurture your relationship can spell trouble somewhere down the road. Too often, by that time, you’ll find that you are going different directions, or your relationship problems are blowing up like land mines.
If you start nurturing your relationship before problems mount, you’ll find that it can be a truly enjoyable task. Some simple ways to keep your relationship alive are:
Laugh together: However you do it – funny movies, comedy nights, just playing around with family or friends – you will feel much less stressed. You’ll think of your relationship as happier and will be better at overcoming problems that arise (as they inevitably do).
Do physically active things together: By getting your adrenaline going, you will feel energized and experience your emotions more intensely. If you enjoy your partner’s company during this adrenaline rush, you will feel your love for him or her more strongly.
Regularly show you care in small ways: It’s the everyday things that keep the pilot light going in relationships. You can show your love by making his coffee each day or waking her up each morning with a gentle kiss and an I love you. Although small, these gestures mean a lot.
Really listen: People are so attuned to multitasking or getting on to the next item on their agenda that they often move swiftly past their partner when they should really be giving their undivided attention. When your partner is trying to tell you something – whether it be what they need help with or what they are struggling with in their day – stop whatever else you are doing and just listen, really listen, connecting with how your partner feels and what they need from you. This can do more for your relationship than any bouquet of flowers you can buy.
Occasionally do something extra special: When you make an extra effort to show you care, your partner will feel cherished. This could mean getting tickets to the theater or a sporting event that they will enjoy, even if (or, maybe especially if) you don’t tend to like that kind of thing. Your effort does not have to be expensive. For instance, I love the scene in The Good-bye Girl (a 1977 movie with Richard Dreyfuss and Marsha Mason) when he invites her to the roof of their apartment building by pinning a note to her sleeping daughter. When she gets up there, he wins her over with an over-the-top planned romantic evening of soft music (played on a boom box) and pizza, illuminated by small lights strung around the area. You can’t get much more romantic – or cheaper – than that!
Celebrate: Any holiday or achievement or event that can be celebrated is a perfect opportunity to connect and build happy memories. This can be done with birthdays, anniversaries, Saturdays, or anything else you can think of.
Share all the things you appreciate about each other: Although everyone loves a beautifully written love letter, you can also make an impression with simple, off-the-cuff remarks such as: You make great omelets, or, You look handsome today, or, I love how you take care of our children. It doesn’t matter what it is you say so much as it’s positive and genuinely felt.
Ask yourself: How do you show your partner that you care? Could your relationship benefit from some added effort on your part? If so, decide what you’d like to do to create a more loving feeling. Then, take a deep breath and put your plan for ‘making love’ into action.
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