Relationships have good and bad times. What matters is that you keep improving and sticking together through those times, with positive thinking and love. But what if your relationship feels troubled lately? How can you improve it?
For many couples, sex is a go-to that feels like it’s solving problems and bringing them closer together. But it isn’t and shouldn’t be the be-all-end-all solution.
Here are six ways to improve your relationship without sex
1 – Seek To Listen And Understand
Positive communication is crucial for the health of a relationship and vice versa, but it’s a two-way street. You simply cannot call it “communication” if you’re doing all the talking and not nearly enough listening, after all. Here are some tips for listening and understanding:
Empathy is how you and your partner can strengthen bonds, even in times of disagreement. Put yourself in your partner’s shoes and see the world through their eyes. Think of their own experiences, temperament, fears, and dreams and how that shapes their perspectives and opinions. Step outside of yourself and take the time to imagine the world through their eyes.
Slow Down Communication
When arguments start to heat up, it’s not unusual to fall into an unhealthy pattern of defense, criticism, and more defense. The communication becomes toxic and slowly but surely devolves into fast exchanges of half-processed ideas and thoughts that can’t possibly be understood at that speed. So slow down. When things get too fast, hit the brakes and take the time to fully listen to your partner as they talk. This reduces the tendency to make statements based on empty reactions.
Be Curious About What Your Partner Feels
You don’t have to agree with your partner’s opinion to be curious about it. Practice being interested in how your partner thinks, feels, and behaves. What makes them tick? What drives them? This interest can dramatically slow down arguments as you ask more questions and listen to the answers instead of trying to convince them that your way is better.
Make Your Goal Understanding Your Partner
It’s easy to focus purely on getting your point across to the extent that all you do is repeat yourself in the hopes of being understood. But that isn’t a productive way to communicate, as it will only provoke your partner into doing the same, and soon you’ll just be talking over each other. Instead, focus on understanding where your partner comes from and how they feel. The rest will follow.
2 – Plan Exciting Date Nights – and Make Them Regular
When your lives are busy, you stop going on dates as much as you used to. This is especially true if you’ve moved in with your partner. You’re always together, so you don’t see the need to go out just to be together again.
But date nights are very important. They keep things fresh and help the romance stay alive. More importantly, these date nights should be exciting and new, involving doing something you haven’t done before. Experiencing new things together has been proven to aid the feeling of mystery and surprise that fades as relationships progress. You can:
- Go somewhere you’ve never been (for example a museum, a new mall, a night trip to another state)
- Try a new activity (for example ice skating, yoga, or going dancing – or taking a new class)
- Watch scary or suspenseful movies in the cinema
- Go for something that gets the adrenaline going (for example bungee jumping, skydiving, or visiting a shooting range)
Of course, not all date nights can be exciting, as you need the time, money, and energy to make them so. Plus, there is some evidence that suggests that weekly date nights can cause planning stress that is more harmful than helpful. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t plan more “boring” date nights weekly that require little to no planning. You can simply:
- Go out for a nice dinner
- Go for a walk in a park or for a stroll
- Go to the cinema
- Stay in and watch movies while eating takeout or junk food
- Bake or cook together and share the resulting meal
- Spend the evening cuddling
What’s the takeaway? One exciting and unusual date night per month, with little simple, no-plan date nights during the other three weeks!
3 – Keep Yourself In Check
Improving relationships is often about each individual in that relationship working to improve themselves. That means knowing when you need to reign yourself in, instead of continuing to want things out of your partner. Here are some areas to focus on:
Regularly Assess Yourself
Contrary to popular sayings, a happy relationship does not involve two halves forming a whole. It involves two individual, separate wholes coming together as a pair. Consider your self – your strengths, your flaws, your struggles, and everything else. Then, work on yourself and steadily move towards goals.
Using “I” Language
When you say things like “You did (insert action)” or “You made me feel (insert emotion),” you’re using “You” language. “You” language tends to immediately provoke a defensive reaction from a partner, who will now do all they can to protect themselves from your statements. Switch to “I” language – “I feel like you…”, “I’ve noticed that…”, and “I worry that…” are good examples that are received with more positive thinking than “You” language.
Find Your Emotional Triggers And Manage Them
Everyone has emotional triggers, usually a result of leftover emotional “baggage” from experiences past. Trauma, childhood experiences, previous relationships, and lessons learned the hard way could all contribute to this baggage. When something triggers that baggage, you can act in a way that seems unreasonable to others and can hurt those around you. Learn to self-soothe when these triggers are activated, and make sure your partner knows about them in case you don’t deescalate in time.
Apologize When Needed
You are an imperfect human being, as is your partner. You will make mistakes and be in the wrong just as many times as them. Besides, being “right” should never be your aimed-for outcome in an argument. Sometimes, you need to decide what fights are worth the effort and which ones are small and unimportant in the grand scheme of things. Pick your battles, and when you know, something isn’t worth arguing about, apologize, and move on. Your partner will apologize, too.
Make Time For Yourself
When you are in a relationship, it’s easy to get very caught up in being together that you forget who you are as individuals. You may rely too much on each other or become codependent. As such, remember to take time to just exist by yourself, doing what you like. Trust us, as strange as it sounds, your relationship will be stronger when you get to spend a little time apart!
4 – Reminisce On The Fun Times
Hard times are going to come no matter what. There’s no stopping them. But you can maintain your positive thinking through them with your partner. How? My reminiscing on fun times of laughter and happiness!
Research indicates that relationship satisfaction can increase when you think back on moments with shared happy laughter. Perception of good humor from your partner can reduce conflict by 67%! Plus, the more you laugh together, the less you fight! It can also put your relationship in perspective, showing you what matters.
You don’t need to have been dating for a long time to reminisce, and you don’t need to be going through a rough patch to do so, either. Whenever you feel like it, think back, share, and laugh together all over again!
5 – Focus On Increasing The Positive, Not Decreasing The Negative
Everyone has flaws, and there may be some concerning your partner that you are trying to change. Guess what? According to research, no matter how happy and positive a long-term relationship or marriage is, you are highly unlikely to be able to improve your relationship by changing things about each other.
Of course, we are by no means telling you to compromise on your relationship needs. But consider what unimportant “flaws” your partner has that you can easily overlook by building on the positive! These may include:
- A short (but non-abusive) temper
- Social awkwardness or shyness
- Slow thinking or decision-making
Building on positive things instead of focusing on destroying negative ones is a much more productive way to improve and work on your relationships. Work on your strengths, and the weaknesses will fall behind.