At one time or another, we all get into a rut in our intimate relationships. The spark fades, the conversations lose excitement, and the sex feels routine. We all enter relationships with high expectations of “how it’s going to be,” but reality hits and we soon find ourselves feeling frustrated and disappointed. It is easy to fall in love; it is quite difficult to stay in love, and have a happy marriage. Have you ever seen a couple in their mid 80’s who still have that spark, respect, and openness in their relationship? It is a rare find, but I’ll tell you what, when you see it, it’s a beautiful thing. Here are ten practical tips that you can utilize to improve your relationship now. Some of these tips are adapted from the research gathered by John Ghottman, a word renowned marriage expert. Feel free to leave your comments or additional tips; we would love to hear from you.
Give and receive a lot of “Emotional Bids” every day
What is an emotional bid? Good question! It is so basic. An emotional bid is a concept developed by Dr. John Ghottman. It’s the building block of emotional connection. A bid is any attempt to keep the relationship moving forward and in a positive direction. Bids can be verbal, nonverbal, physical, or non-physical. A bid needs to be received and acknowledged for it to count as a bid. It can be a gesture, touch, a look, or response. A bid is perhaps saying hi to your spouse and they saying hi back, or touching your partners leg and they smile. Asking your wife a question that she answers can be a bid. It is any form of connection made where the other person acknowledges the connection. The happily married couple engages one another as many as 100 times in 10 minutes during a dinner conversation. The couple headed for divorce engages only 65 times in ten minutes. So bid and bid some more.
Kiss every day for at least 10 seconds
This may sound silly, but the research shows that couples that connect through physical touch every day are happier overall in their relationships. Now at times, the last thing you may want to do is kiss your spouse; I understand that. However even if we are not feeling something, sometimes the action changes how we feel. So plant a big one on your spouse tonight!
Say you’re sorry, sincerely, when you have made a mistake
We all make mistakes and often times bitterness grows in relationships when you do not make the reconciliation necessary to let the other person know you are sorry.
Compliment your partner at least once a day
For every time you criticize your partner, you should be complimenting them at least 3 times.
Date your spouse
Reserve one day each week where you and your spouse go out on a date. Don’t worry if you don’t have money. No biggie. Create fun, frugal dates where you don’t have to spend money. Like packing a picnic, driving close to the airport and watching the planes come in!
The saying, “a couple that prays together stays together” is true. In prayer, we present our requests to God and we can pray for our spouse, family, and friends. Pray works like glue in a relationship; it keeps people unified. It is hard to stay mad at someone when you are bowing your head with them, lifting up your loved ones.
Spend at least 20 minutes each day talking to one another
Talk about something other than the kids. Ask questions like you did on your first couple dates; get to know each other in new and exciting ways. In other words, study your partner.
Talk openly and honestly about your relationship
Be honest with one another about your preferences, likes, and dislikes; this includes the sexual part of your relationship. Be honest about what your sexual likes and dislikes are. Do not take it personally if your spouse does not like something sexually; try to be open to feedback and trying something different. It takes time and effort to learn how to be a good lover—we are not born that way.
Service to others is a wonderful thing. Get involved in a community event or an outreach event. Through serving we can get outside of ourselves. In my opinion, prayer and service can work as a wonderful cure for selfishness. We are all selfish at times, but we can do things to put others first. Ironically, when we start to put others first, we feel happier about our own lives.
This is important and its value can not be undermined. I have seen countless couples get stuck in the bickering game with no real solutions; it’s heartbreaking. Here are some articles on fighting fair.
- Fair Fighting: Step by Step
- Conflict Resolution Strategies: Give Yourself a Time Out
- Conflict as a Path Back to Love
Fake it until you make it
Lastly, I would like to say this. The phrase, “Fake It Until You Make It” is true in relationships. Sometimes, we will NOT feel ANY love towards our partner and the thought of trying any of these tips may disgust us. However, when we attempt some of these behaviors in spite of our feelings, the feelings towards that other person often start to come back.
Kelly Johnson is the founding therapist from Aurora, CO with the Colorado Center for Healing And Change. Kelly sees people for a wide variety of issues, but has a special passion for empowering people with a strong sense of self esteem and identity which results in healthier relationships and families.