9 ways to strengthen your relationship with your partner
Have you and/or your partner been through a difficult time recently – and you feel you’ve lost your connection with them somehow? Or just not feeling as close as you used to be?
Perhaps everyday stressors, such as work and/or family, are stopping you from really connecting with one another?
Whatever the situation, it is completely normal for relationships to experience some level of disconnection on occasion, whether it’s due to heightened stress or simply struggling to find quality time together. As a result, many couples become concerned about the level of intimacy, togetherness, and genuine affection in their relationship.
And this is usually when the arguments begin.
According to the co-founder of the Gottman Institute, Dr John Gottman, most arguments in relationships aren’t about the in-laws, money, or sex – they are actually about a failure to connect emotionally. Therefore, if you’re struggling to connect with your partner, your whole relationship is likely to be affected.
From my professional experience, we are actually more likely to manage stress better if we are feeling connected in our relationship. So let’s start strengthening that special bond between you and your partner!
9 powerful ways to strengthen your relationship with your partner
1. Identify stressors
In many instances, stressors experienced outside of the relationship can actually cause distress in the relationship. It might mean you or your partner are unable to communicate effectively, connect emotionally, and/or manage any conflict that arises. Try using the Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale to identify your stress sources and compare scores with your partner. It’s also a great bonding exercise in itself!
2. Focus on the positives
Now that you’ve worked out the stressors, switch your focus to the positive things in your lives. What’s working well at work or in life in general? How are the kids doing? If all of your conversations surround stressors, you are likely to create more stress and not bring each other any closer. Set yourself the challenge; be clear with your partner about the positive style of conversation you’d like to have, and try to practise on a regular basis. It’s not always easy, and stress-related conversations can become a bit of a habit, but it’s crucial to limit them when strengthening and maintaining your connection.
3. Accept ‘bids’ for emotional connection
Dr. Gottman talks about ‘bidding’ for each other’s affection in micro-moments. For example, saying “Could you please bring in the washing?” and seeing how the other person responds. He says the simple shift of not taking everyday interactions for granted can do wonders for a marriage. Helping out with work around the house is likely to do far more for your relationship than heading on a 10-day cruise together. However, be mindful of any negative ‘bids’, such as “It never occurred to you to bring in the washing, did it?” as these comments are usually seen as criticisms and immediately put the other person on the defensive.
4. Connect daily
There are many ways you can connect daily, but the most important thing is that you at least try to connect. Showing effort in itself can bring meaning and connection to your relationship. Take some time together and discuss ways you can connect more on a daily basis and what actions each of you can take that would help or be important to the other.
For example, saying something kind and affectionate to your partner should be a daily habit. The expression of loving thoughts nourishes your relationship by helping you both remember the things you treasure about each other. Let your partner know how much you appreciate him or her, and be generous with compliments and expressions of affection.
Some other important areas to consider include:
- Making a conscious effort to make eye contact and give your full attention to your partner when they’re speaking. Your partner is more likely to feel heard, understood, and that you are interested in them.
- Being spontaneous is fun too! During the work day or when you are apart, send a text, make a call just to say ‘hi’ or let your partner know you’re thinking about them. A small gesture like this can go a long way.
- Have a hug and/or kiss when you reunite. Touch is a great way to feel close and connected.
5. Link love maps
Dr John Gottman talks about the principle of building ‘Love Maps’ in his book “The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work”. Love Maps simply refer to knowing the little things about your partner’s life and how this creates a strong foundation for your friendship and intimacy.
Remember, the more you know about each other, the more you feel a strong connection, and the more profound and rewarding your relationship will be.
When we first start out in a relationship, we usually want to know and learn everything we can about our new partner. However, over time we stop being as curious and/or asking as many questions because we usually think we know everything about them. This can be detrimental to our connection, so it’s important to be creative and keep asking questions – outside of the usual and mundane ones, such as “How was your day?” You never know what you might learn about them – even after years of marriage! For more creative questions, download the “Gottman deck app” It’s full of great ideas.
6. Create bonding opportunities
Don’t underestimate the power of a quality date night or weekend away, without the kids if possible, as it gives you the chance to really focus on one another. Organising a game or movie night or even heading out on a nature walk together are other opportunities for bonding, relaxation, and laughter. Try and set something up on a regular basis, and even take it in turns to plan something to add that element of surprise and excitement.
7. Creating a space for physical intimacy
Physical intimacy is an important part of healthy and happy relationships, however, intimacy begins long before we enter the bedroom. All the little things we do to build an emotional connection in our everyday lives results in more interest and desire to connect more intimately. In the midst of our hectic lives, it’s not unusual for physical intimacy to take a back seat – but it’s crucial to consider how you can create a space for touch/and intimacy to even occur.
Here are a few suggestions:
- Set some time aside regularly where you can relax together, whether it is on the couch or lying on the bed. Either way, you should turn off all distractions such as your phone, TV etc and just be present with each other.
- Allow yourself to be vulnerable and honest with your partner – trust is vital for intimacy.
- Be playful, have fun, and keep conversations lighthearted.
- Find those random moments to reach out and touch each other.
8. Become more socially connected
What are some interests that you and your partner share? Find social groups you can both participate in that share your common interests and values, such as charities, clubs, or community organisations. Either way, getting out and finding something fun to do together can be really valuable.
9. Take care of yourself
Make sure you are getting plenty of sleep, exercise, and enjoy a balanced diet so that you are functioning at your optimal level. It’s important to engage in activities either by yourself or with your partner to maintain a healthy body and mind. As a result, you are more likely to manage stress and not take it out on your partner!
When you combine affection and heartfelt appreciation, togetherness, and physical touch, almost any disconnected relationship can be repaired. Having strong communication skills are valuable, but you need to have a healthy connection in place first.
If you would like to discuss other ways to strengthen your relationship, call us now on 0404 032636 or book your free phone call online.
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If you need counselling support, contact Kylie Lepri for a FREE 15-minute phone call to discuss your situation and find out how she can help. Call us now on 0404 032636 or book your free phone call online.
Kylie Lepri is a registered Counsellor, Psychotherapist, Clinical Supervisor, and Training Consultant. Since 2003 she has helped individuals and couples work through life stressors, develop new goals and create better relationships. Get Kylie’s FREE ebook: 5 Proven Strategies to help manage stress today, by joining her newsletter below.