The beginning of love is to let those we love be perfectly themselves, and not to twist them to fit our own image. Otherwise we love only the reflection of ourselves we find in them.
Our lives, whether we appreciate it or not, are made richer, warmer and lighter by the people that we are close to. Unfortunately these same people often drive us crazy and / or break our hearts. Below we look at and discuss 10 great tips for improving relationships by certified sex therapist Sari Cooper.
1. Express yourself
Cooper quite rightly says that an important foundation of any relationship should be the ability of both partners to express themselves. When we don’t feel safe to share what is troubling us in a relationship then we often find ourselves withdrawing from our partner. Choosing to remain silent rather than risking being misunderstood – or even worse ignored. Relationships take work and courage. Be sure to work as hard at listening as you do at being heard.
2. Set aside Quality Time
As relationships develop, says Cooper, especially if you move in together, get married and have kids, there are endless ‘logistical conversations’ that need to be had. Who will collect the kids, prepare the supper, do household chores.
“That doesn’t give a sense of emotional bonding or intimacy that many people are craving, carve out quality time when you’re focusing on each other and nothing else.”
That probably means switching off the smart phone and the TV and waiting till the kids have gone to bed. Remember the early days when it was wonderful to just chat, share things, learn about your partner. That feeling does not need to fade away – but time and effort need to be spent to make sure you both continue to grow in the relationship.
3. Don’t sweat the small stuff
“There’s a term in couples counseling we use called ‘kitchen sinking,'” says Cooper. You probably already guessed what it means: That mountain of complaints that piles up like the dishes in your skank-ass sink—starting with his griping about you stealing the TV remote whenever he turns on the sports channel and then snowballs into an argument about house chores, date nights and the fact that you never wear the awful jewelry he bought you for V-Day. Don’t do it. Arguing about a bunch of issues all at once is too overwhelming to tackle. Stick to one at a time.”
Words said in anger can’t be taken back – so before unleashing the inner brat or bitch take a deep breath and remind yourself that you are talking to someone that you have chosen to spend you life with. You wouldn’t want a stranger to be mean to your lover so don’t do it yourself!
4. Share new experiences
“Now you don’t have to sign up for the next season of Survivor, but you do want to continuously introduce novel experiences into your relationship. Whether that’s adding a new sex toy into your routine, traveling to Tahiti like you’ve always dreamed of, or taking a French class together, you want grow together—and challenge each other—with new shared experiences.”
A relationship is not a prison sentence and you don’t need to replace your partner with a new improved version in order to be able to continue growing, learning and enjoying life. So make the effort and do those exciting things together that you’ve always spoken about while you still can.
5. Express Appreciation
You know that you really appreciate your partner but does he or she know it. How would they know if you don’t speak up? One of the best cures for feeling sad and irritable is gratitude. So become aware of the things that you appreciate about your partner and let them know. And guys – make the effort to buy that occasional bunch of flowers or box of her favourite chocolates. It’s often the small acts of kindness that really make a person’s day!
6. Make a contract
Often couple’s have ‘nonverbal contracts’ that are really just habits, Cooper explains. She suggests that partners should acknowledge the individual strengths, decide who will contribute what and also discuss any compromises that need to be made. And remember that situations and people constantly change so the contract should be renegotiated every few years.
7. Tell your partner when you need to discuss something important
This tip goes together with knowing how to express yourself (discussed above). Let your partner know that you have something on your mind and let them agree on a suitable time to have those touchier conversations. All too often one partner will just launch into a monologue because he or she has been obsessing about an issue for ages without ever letting their concerns be known. Discussion is a gentle art and not a martial art!
8. Be Spontaneous
“Remember how fun the just-getting-to-know-each-other, unpredictable sex period of your relationship was? Hold on to some of that magic even as you are together for a longer period of time. Make the effort to be creative, woo, and surprise each other. Take turns planning special dates.”
It’s a bit of a paradox but couples need to plan being spontaneous. Only until spontaneity becomes a habit 🙂
9. Keep Evolving
“One of the most important things about being in a relationship is you learn as much if not more about yourself as you do about your partner, by watching the way that you react to your partner and the ways in which you’re challenged, you’re forced to grow.”
It might feel as if your partner is stifling you but many times that’s just projection. You yourself may have stopped growing and you are blaming your partner. It’s ok to change – we’re human and are meant to adapt and evolve – but focus on changing yourself. It may be hard but it’s a damn site easier than changing someone else.
10. Don’t give up your friends
Cooper says that the idea that your spouse has to be your “number 1 best friend” is a myth. The joy and comfort that you get from your friends will only add more positivity to your life which will be available to be shared with your partner. And anyway guys are never going to notice the difference between shades of lipstick and women won’t always have an opinion about the latest boy toy or gadget.
Try putting theses fantastic suggestions into practice today and enjoy an immediate improvement in your relationship – both with your partner, and yourself!