Happy couples know that good relationships take work. It’s a joint effort by you to keep a good thing going. But you don’t have to make grand gestures like sweeping them off to a second honeymoon to have a healthy relationship. Sometimes it’s the small things that make all the difference.
No matter how good things are with your partner, they can always be better. For couples looking to improve their relationships, here are 5 little things you can start doing right away.
5 Little Things That Will Improve Your Relationship
1. Eliminate “Yes but” from your vocabulary.
When your partner wants to do something you don’t want to, you can easily disappoint them by saying no to their request. “Yes but” is a little phrase that really means the same as saying “No.” The “but” is usually followed by an excuse for why you don’t want to do what your partner wants.
For example, if your partner wants to go for an afternoon of golf and you’d rather go to a movie, instead of saying, “Yes, but I want to go to a movie,” say, “Yes, AND then we can go see a movie after we golf.” With “Yes and,” you both get what you want and have two activities you can share.
2. Let the little things go.
In a relationship, it’s all about compromise. You can’t have your way all the time, and neither can your partner. Accept that your partner has different preferences than you do, and that’s what makes them unique.
Avoid arguments by releasing the need to have things your way. When your partner wants something their way, let them have it. Don’t keep score either.
The same goes for the need to be right all the time. If your partner and you are arguing over what time your favorite TV show comes on, one of you is probably wrong. In the big picture of your relationship over your lifetime, you won’t still be debating this ten years from now, so let it go. Otherwise the nonstop arguments over little things could be the reason that you don’t have that ten year anniversary.
3. Listen intently.
Think about the last time that you heard someone speak who captured your full attention. Maybe it was a famous person making a speech about a topic that was interesting to you. Now think about the last time that your partner spoke to you. Can you even remember what they said? What was the difference in your attitude and behavior toward each speaker?
We speak at a slower rate than our minds are capable of processing information. As a result, while our partners are talking, our thoughts often wander to the little things that are important to us like what we could be getting done instead of listening to them talk.
Rather than disrespecting your partner by not giving them your full attention, practice active listening. Remove distractions like your cell phone, turn your body toward your partner, make eye contact, and don’t interrupt them. As they speak, try to summarize their meaning in your own words mentally. When they finish, clarify that you understood what they were trying to communicate.
4. Play together.
A study in The Family Journal found that relationship satisfaction was higher for couples who played together more frequently. The shared experiences of a fun time together create a bond that improves intimacy.
Play can be anything from physical activity like a sport to movie night at home. Finding opportunities to have fun doesn’t have to be a planned activity either. Playing with your partner could be as simple as sharing a laugh.
Find humor in everyday things that you can playfully tease your partner about. For example, laugh with each other over the fact that you almost poured orange juice into your cereal. If you two have an inside joke that no one else could understand, you share that private connection in your relationship.
5. Express gratitude to your partner.
Margaret Paul, Ph.D., author of Do I Have To Give Up Me To Be Loved By You? says that “Complaints create stress, while gratitude creates inner peace, so gratitude creates not only emotional and relationship health, but physical health as well.” Reducing stress is a great reason to appreciate your partner.
Focusing on positives rather than negatives also improves your attitude toward your partner. If your spouse just fixed the dishwasher but left a mess of tools and dirty parts on the counter, focus on the good and not the bad. Instead of saying “Why can’t you put your tools away where they belong?,” say “It’s wonderful to have a loving partner who can fix things when they break.” When your words express what’s going right in your relationship, your thoughts agree with them.