7 relationship tips for building a good and healthy relationship
The reality is that relationships can present challenges, such as finding quality time to spend together, parenting, or even disagreeing over what to watch on television.
Moreover, these challenges have become increasingly difficult to navigate.
A study conducted by Pew Research Center revealed that nearly 50% of Americans believe that dating and romantic relationships are more complicated now than they were a decade ago.
“Nowadays, our lives are all on social media, which affects our level of privacy and priorities and can complicate relationships,” says Abigail Hardin, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist at RUSH. “And the COVID-19 pandemic only adds a level of stress to our lives and can affect how we cope in relationships.”
According to research, a strong and healthy relationship can lead to better personal health outcomes, such as a reduced risk of heart disease and a lower mortality rate.
Therefore, it is important to prioritise the maintenance and strengthening of your relationship. Here are some helpful tips to achieve this goal.
1. Communication is critical.
Research suggests that communication is the cornerstone of all relationships, and if it is lacking, problems can arise. In fact, communication is the leading cause of divorce among couples in the United States.
“When two people are communicating, roughly half of the message that is being passed and received is nonverbal,” Hardin says. “So it’s really critical to take a step back and think about your partner’s perspective when you’re communicating, especially when navigating text messages and emails.”
According to Hardin, adopting a communication technique called a “bid for affection” is beneficial, which involves one partner seeking connection and validation from the other partner.
“A bid can be a really simple, small thing like checking in with your partner about their day or even sending your partner a funny video or GIF,” she says. “By consistently responding in a positive, supportive way, this can benefit the relationship.”
2. Arguing in a constructive way can be helpful.
Hardin states that it is normal for couples to have occasional disagreements, and what truly matters is the way they handle these arguments.
“For a productive argument, couples need to converse with respect and dignity, and actively listen to their partner, versus getting emotionally activated, which can cause more issues,” she adds.
Hardin recommends taking a break from the conversation and agreeing to resume it at a later time if either you or your partner become overwhelmed.
Additionally, physical proximity can be helpful when discussing difficult topics.
“Physiological connection, like holding hands or sitting very close together, can keep people emotionally grounded through the argument,” Hardin says. “This can really help couples to continue to feel connected and loved so that the argument can stay productive.”
3. Intimacy can be an important factor.
According to Hardin, if physical intimacy is a significant aspect of your relationship, it is essential to communicate your personal needs to your partner.
“As humans, we do a terrible job of helping people figure out how to communicate successfully around physical intimacy,” she says. “Start by talking openly about what works and what doesn’t work, what you like and what you don’t like, and then making adjustments at the moment.”
Hardin recommends seeking the assistance of a professional sex therapist if the issue of physical intimacy persists in your relationship.
4. Make time for your relationship.
Our attention can be diverted from our relationships by various factors such as work, school, and children, among other things. Hence, it is essential to maintain balance and prioritize our relationships.
“If you’re giving 100 percent to work or 100 percent of yourself to other activities, then you’re not leaving much else for your relationship,” Hardin says. “Keep in mind that you need to save part of your energy for yourself and for your partner to productively engage.”
Hardin suggests taking a step back from work, employing the services of a babysitter, scheduling date nights, or even planning physical intimacy as ways to prioritise and strengthen your relationship.
5. Maintaining individuality is important, too.
At times, couples become so enmeshed in each other’s lives that they can lose their sense of individual identity.
“if you maintain your individual interests, this can help strengthen your sense of self,” Hardin says. “So then no matter what is going on with your partner, you are stable and can support them but also you both have the ability to stand yourselves back up on your own.”
Hardin suggests incorporating regular self-care practices and pursuing personal values, hobbies, and interests either independently or with friends to maintain a sense of individuality within a relationship.
6. Small things can make a big impact.
According to Hardin, while grand gestures on special occasions like birthdays or Valentine’s Day can be a meaningful way to express appreciation, consistently engaging in small acts may hold more significance in a relationship.
“Responding positively to your partner in everyday things — such as checking in with your partner throughout the day or picking up flowers on your way home — is the most important thing you can do for your relationship,” she adds. “Show them you care each day — that’s how you can keep a strong connection with your partner, and ultimately, a healthy relationship.”
7. Keep expectations realistic.
In a relationship, it is unrealistic to expect someone to fulfil every desire we may have. Instead, a healthy relationship involves accepting and embracing individuals for whom they are rather than attempting to change them.