Love, Self

14 Life-Changing Tips To Improve Your Relationship Happiness FOREVER

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happy woman

Relationships are rarely as easy or simple as people wish they would be. And unfortunately, in my 30 years as a therapist I can tell you that these challenges affect everyone the same regardless of their age, education, income levels, race or nationality. But there are ways to transform your pain into happiness. 

In the love game, the challenges that plague people have more in common with the underlying psychological reasons than some other arbitrary demographic reason. For instance:

• Unrealistic expectations of the relationship and/or the person you’re involved with
• "Unresolved” feelings or pain from the past that interfere with enjoying the present
• Overly passive OR overly controlling
• Difficulty addressing things directly
• Afraid of conflict and avoiding addressing your real needs or feelings
• Constantly putting someone else’s needs ahead of your own
• Constantly trying to “fix” others
• Disbelieving that someone can “complete” you or make you whole
• Failing to be honest or honorable in your relationships

And of course there are others — sexual issues, differing values and being intolerant of difference between you and those that you love top a very big list of issues that lead to stress in relationships.

While there are many challenges thankfully there are also many things that can be done to improve your relationship.

Here are 14 ways to improve your relationship (and yourself):

1. Focus on yourself. This is extremely important. Often people focus on others and want them to change. You cannot change, control or fix someone and you are not responsible for how someone feels or acts. You can only be responsible for yourself. Cultivate an awareness of your habitual mental and emotional patterns and reactions so that you know what your internal conflicts and “issues” are and see what you can change.

2. Stop blaming others. People will also often start a conversation by saying,  “You … ” and then cite what the person is doing or not doing. This typically results in the listener feeling blamed and becoming defensive and angry and blaming back. Avoid this and again, keep the focus on yourself. 

3. Be assertive and direct. If you feel controlled, let your partner know this and express how you feel when it is happening. Identify what you want and need in your relationship and express these directly. Don’t expect your partner to read your mind. 

4. Show appreciation for yourself and your partner.

5. Listen closely to what is being said and reflect back what you heard. Often strong feelings can be evoked when we are communicating about deep personal issues. These feelings can interfere with our ability to pay attention and can also prompt us to want to defend ourselves and/or rebut what is being said. Continue to pay attention to what is being said rather than preparing a defense or rebuttal.

6. Be patient, maintain eye contact and give your undivided attention when listening.

7. Allow your partner to finish what he/she is saying without interrupting them.

8. Accept constructive criticism. Ask yourself if what is being said to you is true and, if so, see it as an opportunity to make healthy changes.

9. Say, "Because our relationship is important to me" as you address concerns.

10. Use “I” statements rather than “you” statements. An example of this would be, “I feel angry when you leave your dirty dishes in the sink and your dirty laundry on the floor.” Rather than saying, “You are such a messy slob”.

11. Set aside time to talk and share regularly. Especially if you are a parent try to set time aside to focus on your relationship with your partner. 

12. Ask your partner what he/she needs when he/she wants to speak with you. Ask him/her if he/she simply wants to be listened to and/or whether they would like input as well.

13. Negotiate and compromise. Things cannot always go the way that we want them to. Putting aside our needs, at times, is healthy. 

14. Try this exercise, especially when things get heated or you’re feeling like you’re not connecting: One person begins and has two minutes to say whatever they want to. At the end of the two minutes the listener, rather than responding to the content of what has been said, says, “What I hear you saying is” and simply repeats what he/she has heard. He/she then asks, “Is that accurate”? The speaker says yes or corrects an inaccuracy. The listener then takes his/her turn for two minutes. Repeat.

Please note that some of the suggestions above do NOT apply in situations that involve violence and abuse.

Under the best of circumstances know that relationships are challenging, and that, as noted above, there are many things that you can do to improve your relationship.  If you cannot do this on your own then seek professional help to assist and support you.

Jeff Schneider is a N.Y. State licensed clinical social worker and relationship expert in New Paltz, NY. He has helped people from all walks of life struggling with relationship problems, addictions, depression, fear, low self-esteem and how to integrate counseling and spirituality. You can learn more about him at