The honeymoon stage is over and you and your partner have reached a level of comfort with each other. The nerves you once felt at the beginning of the relationship have settled and even time spent together in silence now feels relaxing and pleasant. At this point in a relationship, it’s easy to fall into patterns and routines with each other. You might take the relationship for granted and not put as much effort into showing love and gratitude for each other as you did at the start of the relationship. But it doesn’t take much energy or effort to bring back that loving feeling, make your partner feel loved and cared for, and take your relationship from good to great.
What are some of the things you can do?
1. Ask questions
No matter how long you and your partner have been together, whether it’s three months or three decades, there are always going to be aspects of the other person that you don’t know and opportunities to get to know them better. Make a point to ask them open-ended questions – ones that require more than just a yes or no answer: “Tell me about your day.” “What do you see our life looking like in five years?” “How are you feeling about your job?” These are simple ways to build a closer bond with your partner and show them they matter to you.
Listening is such an important part of a relationship. We all want to be heard – make sure your partner knows that they are.
2. Give thanks for the little things
As a relationship progresses, you and your partner will inevitably build routines and each of you will naturally fill certain roles. One person might always pay for dinner or drive the other home. If you live together, one person or another might always regularly do certain chores.
Notice these routine tasks your partner does for you or your home, whether they are expected or not, with gratitude. “Thank you so much for doing the dishes,” or “I really appreciate when you make us coffee in the morning.” These mindful points of gratitude show your partner that they are appreciated. Try to find something that you can thank your partner for every day.
3. Gently bring up conflict
In any relationship, conflict and disagreements are going to happen. This is completely normal. Arguments can start for any number of reasons, but it’s how you approach these topics together that is going to be the difference between an opportunity to build your relationship and a cause for resentment. If there is a concern that you want to address with your partner, you will get the best results if you bring up the issue gently. What does that mean?
You’ll want to take into consideration the timing of this conversation. If you or your partner are angry or emotional, a conversation of this nature may only increase those negative feelings. Take a break and bring up the concern when one or both of you have had the time to return to a calmer emotional state. When bringing up a potential conflict with your partner you also want to focus on your side of the experience – your feelings and emotions. Let them know how the situation or their behaviour made you feel without making accusations.
4. Pay attention
It’s so easy to get wrapped up in our own lives – the things we feel, our busy jobs, our plans and dreams. But a relationship is a joint experience of two people – each person’s feelings, thoughts, and experiences need to be nurtured and validated.
When your partner reaches out to you through conversation or affection, reciprocate, don’t turn away from them. Acknowledge them and honour their desire for connection.
Put the screens down and make a conscious effort to connect with your partner. Look them in the eye. Set aside 20-30 minutes a day to just be with each other. Listen to each other. Make dinner together. Choose to enjoy each other’s company.
An intimate relationship can be so rewarding and filled with joy. But like anything of value, they take work to sustain and grow. Approach your relationship mindfully. Small, loving actions add up and can make a big difference in the quality of your relationship with your partner.
If you and your partner want help to strengthen your relationship, we can help. We offer couples counselling with no wait list and fees on a sliding scale. Learn more about our counselling services. Our Marriage Preparation Workshop also runs monthly and will give you and your partner the tools for a lifelong, joy-filled relationship.
Check out this video where registered psychologist Elisa Lutz talks about building trust in relationships through communication.