Let’s face it: there is a staggering volume of marriage/relationship help advice out there. Any Internet search on the topic will give you page after page of relationship “How to’s” and “What not to do’s.” Depending on your perspective, this can be either good news (the easy availability of helpful information) or bad news (trying to navigate the overwhelming maze of relationship tips).
The truth is, there is also a great deal of overlap in what is being said about how to strengthen a marriage/relationship—and while some authors are more eloquent in how they get this information across than others, often the underlying message is consistent. This is good news. The repetition in marriage/relationship advice suggests that there are important hard-and-fast principles that couples should pay attention to.
So rather than searching for the golden goose that will magically send you down the path of marital or relationship bliss, it’s time to roll up your sleeves and give your relationship the attention it deserves.
Twenty (Often Cited) Relationship Tips:
1. Couples need to set up a clear boundary around their relationship—this boundary involves saying “no” to the influences that can undermine your relationship.
2. Healthy marriages/relationships require balance between having shared couple-experiences that will feed the relationship while at the same time nurturing their individual interests and pursuits.
3. Without a clear expression of commitment to the relationship, trust and emotional security will suffer. A strong relationship foundation is built on mutual commitment.
4. Direct, clear communication should always be a top priority.
5. Being attuned to your needs, wants and desires is the first step in getting them met—when you’re unclear about your own needs, how can your spouse/partner ever meet them?
6. Not everything needs to be discussed, analyzed and “processed” between partners. Letting go, giving your partner the benefit of the doubt, and practicing forgiveness will go a long way in creating a fulfilling relationship.
7. Words have the power to build empathic bridges between partners, and words also have the power to hurt and create a wasteland of distance between you. Choose your words wisely.
8. Important issues that are repeatedly ignored, minimized or go underground will resurface with a vengeance. A healthy relationship requires facing uncomfortable issues from time to time.
9. Like a wildfire, emotional wounding and defensiveness can spiral out of control and quickly consume a relationship. Couples need to be mindful of the negative cycles that arise in their relationship.
10. Deliberately creating positive experiences and interactions between the two of you (while facing the uncomfortable issues that need to be addressed) should be an ongoing priority.
11. Emotional intimacy and closeness are built upon both partners being consistent, emotionally available and responsive to one another.
12. Expecting to get all (or even most) of your needs met whenever you want is like expecting the weather to change based upon your whims and preferences. Unrealistic expectations lead to unhappy marriages/relationships.
13. For some, emotional closeness is a prerequisite for sexual intimacy; for others, sexual intimacy leads to emotional intimacy.
14. Passion and fulfilling sex often needs to be talked about, planned and negotiated (a lack of sexual spontaneity isn’t necessarily a sign of marital/relationship problems).
15. What makes you feel loved and emotionally connected may be very different from what makes your partner feel loved and emotionally close. Communicating and understanding these differences can go a long way in improving your relationship.
16. Certain differences between your and your partner’s communication styles and emotional expressiveness need to be accepted. You can’t make an introvert outgoing, and likewise, don’t expect an extrovert to happily sit home every evening.
17. Friendships are built on joint activities and common interests. In addition to being lovers, couples need to learn to be friends.
18. Couples who actively practice gratitude and appreciation feel a deep sense of connection with one another. It’s too easy to simply focus on what bothers you about your mate while ignoring why you fell in love with him/her in the first place.
19. While a relationship obviously takes two committed people, one person can make a difference in improving the overall quality of the relationship.
20. Fulfilling, healthy relationships are co-created, not found. Couples who work together (at keeping their relationship strong) are more likely to stay together.
While it can be easy to feel overwhelmed by the information presented in this article, remember that you can pick one or two items from the above list and began implementing them into your relationship right away. As a marriage/couples counselor, I’ve seen couples make big differences in their relationship with a simple and relatively small change—the goal is to be consistent and persistent with whatever positive change you’re trying to make.
Wishing you and your relationship all the best!
Dr. Rich Nicastro