Relationships – particularly the one we have with our partner or spouse – are vitally important. But as they are familiar and constant, we often take them for granted. Amongst the busyness of life it often feels like there is no time to ‘improve your relationship’.
The good news is that even small changes can help. Here are The Spark’s 5 simple ways to improve your relationship:
1. Say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’
With the familiarity of a close relationship comes a reduction in gratitude to our partner. Take a trip back in time and remember when you were first dating – both of you were super polite, eager to impress, generous. When your other half made you dinner you probably thanked them five or six times. How many times did you say thank you to your partner for last night’s dinner? Did you even say it at all?
Say thank you for the little things that have become mundane: when they make you a cup of tea; record your favourite TV programme; or put a washing on. Showing appreciation can make a big difference and improve your relationship.
2. Suck up your pride and say sorry
Not backing down in an argument can become the hallmark of some relationships. No one wants to admit they were wrong in this battle of wills, even though both parties know, deep down, one of them is wrong.
If you know you are in the wrong, admit it and apologise. In the heat of the moment it can be hard but consider what there is to lose by arguing on. You could be causing hurt to your partner, potentially undermining their confidence and damaging your relationship.
In taking responsibility and apologising you can save all that hurt and possibly encourage your partner to reciprocate next time you are right. No one can argue this is not going to improve your relationship.
3. Be an individual as well as a couple
Spending time together in a relationship is really important. Partners and spouses that rarely see each other, rarely last long together. Equally it is important that each party to the relationship enjoys aspects of their life defined individually and not as your other half.
Join a sports club, book group or pick up an old hobby (or a new one). Simply engage in something, ideally each week that is something you do as ‘you’ and not as one half of a couple. Having space and time apart – in manageable doses – makes your time more precious when you are together. It also gives you interesting things to talk about and share.
4. What if they were gone?
This one is particularly difficult to do in the heat of an argument but is highly effective. When you are in the middle of a fight, particularly about something really trivial like who left the milk out of the fridge, ask yourself this question: what if they were gone?
It seems like a backwards way to improve your relationship but imagine your partner in a job where they were away from home for months at a time. Imagine they were not around for some reason or had not stuck around. At that point it is very likely your feelings of frustration or anger will be replaced by a sensation of loss and sadness. This is a real demonstration of your feelings for them, not the temporary, emotionally charged petty annoyance.
5. Stop shouting
The advice here is not that couples should never argue. Arguments are a part of relationships that will always exist. How we manage our behaviour during and after is where the problems lie.
In our frenetic society we have come to believe that the person shouting the loudest will be heard. In reality the person shouting is demonstrating an inability to manage their emotions; much like a toddler throwing a tantrum after not getting their way. When you find yourself starting to shout in an argument with your partner, try to lower and soften your voice.
It is easier to come to a compromise when you and your partner are not screaming at each other. So as your mum always used to say: indoor voices please.
Do you feel like the relationship with your partner needs more support? Are your arguments becoming more aggressive and more frequent?
Couple counselling and marriage counselling with The Spark provides a safe environment where a skilled counsellor can help you and your partner work through any underlying issues. Confidentiality is guaranteed and all of our counsellors are BACP or COSCA accredited.
Improve your relationship
The Spark operates 12 counselling centres across Scotland. Find your local counselling centre.