Romantic relationships are dynamic. They continuously change, reflecting circumstances, stresses, and the everyday ups and downs experienced by both partners. What happens to “me” and to “you” ultimately affects “us.” The healthiest relationships have partners who routinely (if subconsciously) check in with themselves, their partner, and their relationship to see how things are going and to make changes as necessary.
How can you respond to relationship changes? A great starting place is to evaluate your own contributions to your relationship. What are you doing that helps—or hurts—your relationship happiness? How are your actions and beliefs influencing the quality of your and your partner’s everyday interactions?
Scientific evidence supports the idea that each partner is responsible for the health of his or her relationship. To do your part, consider these simple changes as a guide toward a happier and healthier partnership:
1. Get more sleep
Taking care of yourself is a win-win for you and your relationship, and sleep is at the top of the list. Not only can sleep deprivation affect your energy, mental alertness, and mood, but it reduces glucose levels, which adversely affects self-control. And self-control plays a big role in relationship success: Those with higher self-control are more able to respond in constructive ways to their partners and the more self-control couples have, the higher their relationship quality tends to be.
2. Take action
Certain behaviors make a difference in relationship happiness. These maintenance behaviors often come naturally, but intentional efforts to engage in them could benefit relationships
- Positivity. Express happiness and pleasure when spending time together.
- Understanding. Listen, forgive, apologise, and refrain from judgment.
- Giving assurance. Talk about the future; remind your partner what he/she means to you.
- Self-disclosing. Share feelings and encourage your partner to do the same.
- Openness. Share what you need or want in the relationship.
- Sharing tasks. Equitably share responsibilities (e.g., family, household, relationship).
- Involve networks. Spend time with your partner’s friends and family.
3. Express your gratitude
Feeling grateful is one thing, but telling your partner is another. Do you express your gratitude? It turns out that sharing your feelings of gratitude is linked to positive partner perceptions and a willingness to voice relationship concerns, which helps maintain healthy relationships.
4. Spend quality time together
Much anecdotal evidence suggests that spending more time together increases relationship satisfaction, but only recently has research scrutinized whether time really does increase satisfaction, or whether perhaps relationship satisfaction increases time spent together. Contrary to widespread belief, long-distance relationships are no different. The results suggest we attribute more to the quality of the time spent with our partner, rather than the quantity.
5. Be kind to yourself
To be the best partner you can be, start by being kind to yourself. Self-compassion is a habit of gentleness towards yourself during times of failure, inadequacy, and imperfection. Evidence shows that self-compassion predicts the types of behaviors that translate into healthier relationships, such as offering care and concern for a partner. In other words, working on ourselves can benefit our relationships.