Being in a romantic relationship can bring up a myriad of emotions. No one ever teaches us how to engage in a satisfying relationship. We do receive messages about relationships from our parents and relatives, but those messages aren’t always helpful. It can be confusing for couples to know what to do to enhance their relationships and feel more satisfied.
Through my training and years of working with couples, I’ve come up with my top 10 recommendations for improving relationship satisfaction.
1) Connection– It’s really important to find quality time to spend with one another. Discovering new shared activities and reconnecting through old past times helps foster connection, nurtures your relationship, and most importantly, it reminds you that you do like your partner and spending time with him or her. Connection is especially critical during times of stress when it’s easy to forget what brought you together in the first place.
2) Love- One of the great mysteries of being in a relationship can be recognizing and understanding HOW your partner wants to be loved. Often, we make the mistake of loving our partners in the way WE desire to be loved.
3) Communication– Communication consists of much more than using your “I statements” (For example, stating “I don’t like it when you don’t do the dishes because it makes me feel unappreciated, and I would like you to make more effort.”). The most important component of communication is the art of truly listening and trying to understand your partner.
4) Fighting Fairly– Most couples argue from time to time and some argue fairly regularly. Arguing is a form of communication and in and of itself is not harmful. What can be harmful to a relationship is putting your partner down, name-calling, eye rolling, and dismissing your partner. Avoid attacking your partner, treating your partner as an enemy, and looking at conflict as a win-lose situation.
5) Triggers– Try to recognize your triggers and recognize patterns in your life and in your relationship so that you can act to break the cycle.
6) Expectations– Attempt to have realistic expectations of your partner and your relationship. It’s helpful not to expect perfection and to prepare for emotional ups and downs. You may not always feel happy or elated but this does not mean your relationship is doomed.
7) Physical Intimacy– Make time for physical intimacy, affection, and sex. Physical intimacy is often an expression of love, desire, and connection for some couples and can lead to greater relationship satisfaction.
8) Work- Relationships take WORK. If you work at your relationship like you work at other things in life that are meaningful and desirable, you will be nurturing and cultivating your relationship. Make your relationship a priority.
9) Strengths– It’s so important to remember your strengths as a couple. Often we get boggled down with the things that we don’t like and forget to appreciate and celebrate what we love about our partner. It can be helpful to remember what your first loved about your partner, how you felt loved by him or her, and what you dreamed about together. Look for positive qualities in your partner and appreciate attempts at showing you love. If it feels authentic, you might also point some of these strengths and positive feelings out to your partner.
10) Give and Take– All couples have at least one problem they argue about regularly that never gets resolved. What can be helpful is to move toward one another and meet half way.
Most couples have times when they don’t feel as connected as they would like, when they feel confused and angry, and when they don’t feel heard or understood. Next time you feel like you’re caught up in negative patterns, it might be helpful to try some of the suggestions listed and to work on loving, staying connecting, and enjoying your partner.