Although every romantic relationship is different, there are certain key things you can do to enhance intimacy and promote happiness. Whether you’re currently in a committed relationship or just thinking about how to maximize your chances of experiencing a great bond with your next partner, the following advice will help you create your best relationship yet.
1. Don’t depend on your relationship for happiness
When you pin all of your hopes on your relationship, unrealistic expectations naturally develop. Your partner is highly unlikely to meet all of those expectations, leading to profound disillusionment. Studies on relationship satisfaction show that those who are happiest before entering their relationships tend to be more content with their partners. Consequently, it’s vital to pursue multiple sources of happiness by cultivating hobbies, nurturing friendships and building self-esteem.
2. Seek out stimulating new experiences
A recent study conducted by researchers in California found that married couples score as having higher rates of marital satisfaction if they regularly share experiences that they describe as ‘exciting.’ In contrast, couples who merely engage in activities they call ‘pleasant’ tend to score as being less happy with their partnership. It is theorized that habitually repeating patterns and activities dulls pleasure responses and reduces interest levels, so try to keep spontaneity and variety alive in your relationship.
3. Prioritize open and respectful communication
Most unhappy relationships involve poor communication, with partners concealing their true feelings, failing to be honest about their deepest needs and sometimes even avoiding any kind of meaningful contact. If you want to have a good partnership, you need to be forthright with your partner and be willing to explain what you want from a relationship.
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4. Be constructive
When it comes to communication, openness is not the only virtue. In particular, you also need to take responsibility for your own feelings, avoiding negative forms of communication like blaming or name calling. Instead of being overtly critical or defensive, offer constructive suggestions for change and don’t be afraid to apologize.
5. Honestly evaluate your relationships
It takes two people to create your best possible relationship, so it’s very important to be able to objectively assess the worth of a partnership. Whether you’ve been with someone for months or years, regularly make time to take stock of how things are progressing. For example, consider whether your partner treats you fairly, whether you feel like you are really loved for who you are, and whether the dynamic is healthy. This type of evaluation can help you improve the relationship, but it can also give you a wake up call when it’s time to move on.
6. Understand each other’s backgrounds
Childhood experiences and family backgrounds can play a huge role in determining what you expect from relationships and what makes you happy. Since no two people have the same history, it can be extremely productive to compare notes and come to a deeper understanding of one another. This process can help you avoid unnecessary conflict that stems from incompatible assumptions about partnerships.
7. Expect to work
Sometimes, people cut good relationships short because they imagine that the best relationship is one that is effortless. In truth, no long-term relationship can succeed without a certain amount of hard work. Expect to have to use your imagination to keep your sex life interesting, know that you won’t always see eye to eye on everything, and be mindful of the difference between diversity and outright incompatibility. Your best relationship will encourage you to change and grow in healthy ways.
8. Use each other’s ‘love languages’
In a famous book that looks at how different people communicate love, Dr. Gary Chapman revealed five key love languages–acts of service, physical touch, words of affirmation, quality time and receiving gifts. Discussing which of these mean the most to you and your partner can help to ensure that you feel appreciated and connected. When it comes to anniversaries and other romantic dates, try to show your love in the way that your partner has identified as most significant.
9. Stay physically close
Even if physical touch is not your preferred love language, it’s still important to stay close to your partner. Cuddling, kissing and other forms of touching help to stimulate the release of a chemical called oxytocin, which is also released when mothers nurse their babies. This hormone promotes feelings of intimacy, optimism and trust.
10. Be affirming and positive
Finally, while it is undeniably important to work on dealing with conflict in a healthy way, it turns out that it is equally vital to respond with support and positivity when your partner communicates good news. Psychologists caution that an immediately dismissive, critical or self-involved response can dramatically influence the perceived quality of a relationship. When your partner receives good news, ask thoughtful questions, smile, offer congratulations and iron out any problems at a later date.