Wherever you may find yourself in your relationship, there are things you can do to keep up the energy, excitement and stability. Here are some tips for maximizing your body’s biology to strengthen your relationship.Reinvent Your RelationshipMany couples slowly grow apart and have to reconnect. Why? A woman will often marry a man because she appreciates his potential. She then may try adjusting him to fulfill this potential. A man may marry a woman who is exactly what he wants, and then she may change.Couples sometimes go in different directions after they get married. Thankfully, dopamine and oxytocin come into play to keep you together. But as levels wane after five to seven years, you need to constantly reinvent the marriage. People who have been married for 30 years really have four marriages. (Next time you’re not talking to each other, you can use this as an icebreaker!)Share Your ExpectationsDepending on personality, your partner may not easily pick up on subtle cues. If this is the case, tell them what you’re feeling. It’s a lot safer to share your expectations rather than assuming they already know them.QUIZ: How Do You Act in Relationships?Do the Little ThingsSometimes we think relationships are made or broken by grand gestures and big fights. But we can strengthen our relationships with more attention to the details (which prevent big problems from surfacing).
- Do something positive each day to “deposit” a good feeling into the relationship. A note on a napkin, kiss on the cheek, helping hand on a home project. (If you feel good about yourself, that’s a great gift to someone you love, FYI.)
- Make a date. Share meals when possible. Take a walk, hold hands, or just sit on the couch and catch up.
- Compliment daily. It’ll keep you from taking each other for granted. And it doesn’t take much time!
- Reflect. Remember how your spouse was when you first met. Focus on the characteristics that first attracted you two.
NegotiateAny rules or policies between partners may be negotiable, as long as no one is harmed. This includes everything from parental discipline, to talks about vacations and finances. P.S. Vacations help you retain vitality and passion. Compromise on larger issues, or agree to take turns taking the lead on big decisions. Stay FocusedWhen you have kids, you’re driven to protect your gene pool. This translates to answering to their needs—when they’re crying, when they need a ride. The happier the marriage, the easier it is to deal with raising children. And tending to your marriage will give your children the opportunity to grow up under a loving partnership. The kids will treat themselves the way you treat yourself. So sacrificing all your happiness and giving up your aspirations for them will encourage them to do the same later in life.Develop a Shared VisionIt’s important to be able to talk through and develop a shared vision as your relationship evolves. Your values pre-marriage will certainly have changed after years (deciding not to have children or to never buy artificially-flavored drinks). If you disagree over your new plans, take advantage of the different approaches to solving the problem.Give Your Spouse SpaceYou both still need to live your own lives, with individual interests and friends. It’s unrealistic to expect one person to fulfill all your needs. Couples grow when individuals can remain independent. Each of you will bring more back to the marriage if you’re relaxed and refreshed.MORE: Relationships as RegulatorsBe UnpredictableIf you can name three things that would please your spouse right now, do one of them. Remember, the surprise isn’t necessarily what you do. It’s the fact that you unexpectedly took the time to do something special.Embrace a Little TendernessPlacing blame or judging your partner will only distance you more. If the issue isn’t serious, don’t take yourself so seriously. Laugh at your own foibles (but not your partner’s). And one of the hardest but most effective things you can do is say you’re sorry and admit you’re wrong every once in awhile. This is the relationship Band-Aid that can heal a lot of wounds.Try The Your Way/Their Way Four-Week TrialHere’s how it works. For two weeks, you make every decision. This means all big and small decisions (except for sex, which is always consensual). What kind of decisions? Whether you’re spending Saturday cleaning or at Starbucks, what time you go to bed, etc. Then switch. This plan works because you reaffirm your trust in each other. It also separates the issues you’re experiencing, from the power struggles. Each person will feel safer after realizing the other isn’t power-tripping them.