Experts Reveal Their 12 Essential Relationship Advice Tips
We all want our relationship to be the best it can be. But with so much literature out there on how to create and maintain the perfect relationship, how do you know which advice to follow? Sometimes the prospect of improving it can seem more overwhelming or intimidating than simply staying where we are. After scouring the internet, the minds of professionals, and the work of experts, here are the 12 essential relationship advice tips you should be following to live your best life with your partner:
1. Remember that you can only control yourself.
It’s much easier to point fingers than it is to analyze our own behavior. And that’s what over 80% of partners do that wind up in couple’s therapy - they say their problems are their partner’s fault. It’s a simple lesson that just takes time to learn, but we cannot change anyone but ourselves. So, if your biggest problem in your relationship is communication: be a better communicator. If you want more affection: shower your partner with hugs and kisses. Although most issues in relationships are more complex and cannot be simplified so easily, starting from a place of internal change - and shifting away from the ease of blame - is a really healthy place to start.
2. Sometimes you just need to HALT.
A good thing to remember is that there are actually some times where we are simply not able to talk about things reasonably with our partner. A good acronym to remember is HALT: Hungry, Angry/Anxious, Lonely, Tired. Sometimes our emotional resources are low, we are stressed or worried, and we don't have the space to be interested or empathic. This is useful to remember when considering when to have big conversations - making sure you are both rested, somewhat relaxed, not affected by alcohol, and have had some time to think through what you want to say. This gives you the best chance of successfully talking things through and emerging with a good outcome.
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3. Understand your dynamic.
We can't underestimate the power of our early relationships on how we manage our adult relationships - a lot of this has to do with whether we see others as welcoming, loving, uncaring, threatening or withholding. Understanding your attachment style and looking at how it plays out is the best investment you can make for your relationship - it puts everything into context. As a couple, understanding how each of you relate to each other, and the unspoken expectations that you hold, means that you can navigate challenging situations with greater awareness about each other's needs.
4. Be each other’s biggest fan.
Cheering each other on is an essential element of a healthy and happy relationship. After all, your life partner should be your #1 fan, right? Implement the Michelangelo Effect: the idea that beneath a shapeless stone lies the potential for the most beautiful of Michelangelo’s sculptures. You possess the power to carve the best version of your partner, and they have the same influence over you. Laugh the hardest at their jokes, be the first to support them when they are down, and never stop believing in their potential.
5. Create healthy boundaries.
Too much of a good thing, any good thing (candy, sunshine, vacation, etc) is a bad thing. Same goes for relationships. Vocalize what you need and what you’re comfortable with, and encourage your partner to do the same. Without setting expectations around boundaries, arguments and hurt feelings are inevitable.
6. Practice gratitude.
The research that has come out in the last several years around gratitude shows the profound positive impact this emotion can have on various aspects of our life - mostly, our relationships. Why do we say “practice gratitude” instead of simply “be grateful?” Because it’s not enough simply to think about why you’re lucky. You have to be vocal about your gratitude and use it to inform your behavior. A great habit to get into is to journal about 3 things you’re grateful for every morning… bonus points if you share those thoughts with your partner throughout the day.
7. Broadcast your emotions.
Poor communication becomes reactive: you’re always reacting to what your partner said or didn’t say, arguments go from 0 to 60 at the drop of a hat, and feeling misunderstood is often at the root of our resentments. This can be resolved with only a few behavioral changes, and a big one is to broadcast your emotions. This means getting out in front of how you feel, instead of waiting until your partner gets their feelings hurt to come clean. Example: if you had a terrible day at work, walk through the door and tell your partner: “I had an awful day. I’m going to take a few minutes to collect my thoughts and be alone so I can be more present with you.”
8. Speak to your partner in their love language, not yours.
Like attachment style, finding out our partner’s love language is an exceedingly useful piece of information to have. There are 5: quality time, gifts, acts of service, physical touch, and words of appreciation. Most of us speak to our partners in our own love languages. Example: if your love language is quality time, your idea of showing them how much you love them is clearing your weekend’s schedule to be with them. But if theirs is acts of service, the time together means nothing if you don’t spend it showing them with your actions how much you care (doing a load of laundry, bringing them coffee in bed).
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9. Prioritize each other.
One of the simplest ways to show your partner you respect them is to make eye contact with them while they speak. That means turning away from the TV, or putting down your phone. Relationships aren’t formed perfectly at the beginning and then enjoyed for the next several decades - they need to be constantly worked on. You have to repeatedly show each other that their time is valuable, their feelings are important to you, and you make them a priority above everything else.
10. Focus on fun.
Laughter is an essential ingredient in a happy relationship, but many of us treat it like an optional one. By making time for fun - just like you’d make time for doctor’s appointments or workouts - you are making this element of your relationship an important one.
11. Be positive.
John Gottman’s 5:1 ratio is a great metric to put in place. For every negative thing you say to your partner - whether it’s nagging them to pick up their clothes from the floor or getting angry with them for forgetting an important event - say 5 positive things to them as well. Compliments, thank yous, flirty texts, or simply an “I love you.” But that ratio will make some serious magic in your relationship.
12. Trust is everything.
Think of trust as the foundation, and your relationship as the house. You cannot build a home on shaky foundation, and you cannot have a relationship if you don’t fully trust each other. If you breach trust, you have to work doubly hard to regain it from your partner, and nothing else will matter until you get it back. If you have it, continue to honor it by being forthright, honest, and open with each other every single day.
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