6. Have outside support and interests
Your partner cannot meet your every need—best friend, stress-manager, mentor, conflict-resolutor, chick-flick watcher, sporting even spectator. It is important that you have additional sources of support in your life. This will take pressure off your mate to be your everything. Even better, pursue your own interests. Sure, it’s great to do things together. But you also want to respect your own areas of interest and follow those passions.
7. Do fun stuff
If going to Target is the most exotic thing you tend to do on weekends, it’s time for a change. And you don’t need a ton of cash or vacation days. Choose to do something fun together. This could be watching a funny movie, going for a hike, trying a new restaurant, learning something new by taking a class together, volunteering, or working out together.
Anything new and positive can help boost the happiness in your own relationship.
8. Focus on win-win
Stop keeping score of all that you do (and all that your partner doesn’t). Stop your need to be right.
People in happy relationships don’t view themselves as two different sides. There is no “I win, you lose” mentality. Instead, they focus on win-win. That means being willing to compromise, admitting when you’re wrong, and focusing on being happy instead of being right.
9. Reunited and it feels so good
When you and your partner reunite—at the end of a day, when one of you comes back from a trip, or even when you wake up—do something to show your love. When your partner comes home, for example, stop what you are doing (within reason) and devote just a few seconds to being completely present with her.
Give her a hug or kiss, look her in the eyes, and ask her how she is. Put down your phone, pause the TV, turn down the stove—do whatever you need to focus even just a short amount of time on your partner. You both will feel much more connected.
10. Be respectful
John Gottman is a pioneer in research about the longevity of marriages. In fact, in a longitudinal study, he was able to predict with 93 percent accuracy which couples would eventually get divorced. He has identified what he refers to as the four horsemen, which are predictors of relationship problems—criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling.
The quick antidote for these is to simply be respectful. Rather than criticize, openly communicate without criticism. Instead of contempt, express disappointment without eye rolls or passive-aggressive comments. Ditch the defensiveness; it is important to take feedback so you and your relationship can improve. And rather than stonewall, listen to your partner and have a constructive conversation when things are not going as smoothly as you would like. Learn to communicate even your disappointments with respect.
11. Just ask
This one takes an open mind. Ask your partner, “What is one thing I can do this week to be a better partner to you?” The response may be surprising. The goal is not to be defensive—“I already do that anyway!” or “Yay, I wish you would do that, too!”
Instead, simply absorb what you hear and take steps to implement your partner’s desire (as long as it is within your moral boundaries). This is a great way to meet needs that you may not have even realized your partner had.