When is the last time your partner surprised you--stopped by a flower stand the two of you happened to pass and bought you a rose, or complimented you on something he doesn't usually notice? Of course, revitalizing your relationship isn't just about doing new or spontaneous things, it's mostly about opening yourself more fully to each other. In other words, it's not just what you do, but how you do it. So here's a list of 10 things to improve your relationship, covering both the "what" and the "how," but let them trigger your own imagination as well. The basic premise here is that a relationship requires putting energy into, but like anything else, the more you do, the more you'll get back.
1. Appreciation Practice
This is especially relevant for couples with children but can be helpful for anyone. Often one partner feels that they're doing more of the work, just the basic stuff that's needed to keep a house running. When they complain about it, however, it usually leads to their partner getting defensive, often with both of the claiming that they're each doing well more than half of the work. Regardless of who's right, what's missing here is appreciation. It's difficult to thank someone for what they do when you feel your efforts aren't getting acknowledged. So, instead of arguing who's doing more, try this:
At the end of the week sit down and take turns telling each other all the things you're aware that they did, and offer your sincere appreciation and thanks. Be sure to include little things, and things you've already agreed are theirs to do. When you're done, ask them, "Did I leave anything out?" and acknowledge anything that they want to add. Then switch roles, and listen to their appreciation of you. Sometimes imbalances will still need to be addressed, but often all that's missing is gratitude for all we already do, and you'll notice immediately how much better that feels than fighting.
2. Know Your Partner's Language of Love
In his book, "The Five Love Languages," Gary Chapman describes different ways we express love: words of affection, quality time, gifts, physical touch, and acts of service (such as cleaning, household repairs, etc). Often we express our love to our partner in the way that we respond to most strongly ourselves. For example, if compliments or praise (words of affection) mean a lot to me, I tend to offer them as expressions of my love--and as hints of what I'm looking for! However, that may not be what my partner responds to. So take the guesswork out of it and have a conversation about which expressions of love mean the most to you. This lets your partner know what he or she can be doing that will be most meaningful to you.
3. Act on Your Partner's Love Preferences