Most of us hunger for a strong relationship with another person. It makes us feel wanted, visible, and hopefully, understood. Finding a relationship can be relatively easy. Keeping it alive and vibrant is another story.
The older the relationship, the greater the chances of us taking our partner for granted. We still love our partner, but the relationship can grow stale if left unattended. Even the most beautiful rose can wilt if not watered regularly. Strong relationships don’t just happen. They take constant upkeep and work.
There is an abundance of research to show that being in a strong relationship builds our self-esteem, reduces our stress, and increases our state of wellbeing.
Below are some tips on how to “freshen” a stale relationship and keep it healthy and strong.
Talk about the state of your relationship:
You may think you know your partner, and he or she knows you, but no one is a mind reader. For a relationship to remain strong, it is important to schedule specific times to discuss what thoughts, positive or negative, that either one of you has. Perhaps set aside an hour a week to discuss your feelings, goals, and hopes, as well as your disappointments. Make it clear that your relationship is your top priority.
It is important for both of you to be honest. No topic should be off-limits. Cover the bad along with the good. Tell your partner how disappointed you were that he forgot your birthday, but you never loved him more than when he remembered to pick up your favorite pizza. These little things add up.
Address the issues in your relationship:
Every couple has them. One person is always late. The other one never helps with the housework. These issues frequently become a standing joke, but they can fester and drain the energy from a relationship if not resolved.
Figure out the recurring issues in your relationship. Then, do something about them. There should be no blaming, as in, “You are ALWAYS late!” This is not about casting blame. It’s about finding solutions.
First, listen to what your partner has to say and don’t dismiss his or her feelings. (“Geez, why is being five minutes late such a big deal!”). Then, instead of blaming, express how the issue makes you feel. “You’re on time for everyone else. It makes me feel unimportant when you keep me waiting.”
Your partner cannot be your everything:
Our partner is most likely the most important person in our life. But he or she can’t be everything – lover, parent, best friend, and problem solver. When we expect our partner to satisfy every need in our life, we are bound to be disappointed.
That is why is it is important that we have other people in our lives. Friends, especially same-sex friends, make excellent listeners, and it takes a burden off the main partner. Friends can also help us solve certain problems.
Our partner is our soul mate. He or she is our love beyond everything else. But we need to be surrounded by other people to maintain the quality of that all-important relationship.
Repeat what your partner is saying:
It’s amazing how easily words can be misinterpreted. He says one thing, and she hears something completely different. For example, your partner is complaining about all the time you spend with your friends. You demand defensively, “Are you telling me who I can spend time with?” It turns out, your partner was trying to indicate that he or she is lonely when you are away. This is an entirely different story, and one which can easily be resolved through compromise.
Practice the skill of active listening to prevent misunderstandings.
Show, Don’t Tell:
In truth, of course, you should tell your partner how you feel. You should be saying, “I love you,” regularly. However, words can quickly become meaningless when they aren’t backed up by action. An unexpected bouquet of flowers does more for the health of your relationship than a perfunctory, “I love you.”
Most couples argue about money. But they rarely discuss the subject. Sit down and talk about your financial goals and what you will do – and not do – to achieve them. On which issues do you agree? Where do you differ?
Show your love every day:
It’s so easy to take our partner for granted. In a long-term relationship, it’s even easier to focus on his or her flaws or somehow overlook the positives. How we react to our partner is a choice we make every day. We can start the day with, “Don’t forget to pick up your clothes for once,” or we can say, “I’m so glad we’re going out to dinner tonight. I love spending time with you” The first statement fills the air with irritation. The second one brings a smile to our faces and brightens the entire day. We make that choice.
Fight the right way:
This relates somewhat to dealing with chronic issues. Couples disagree and fight. However, calmly talking about why we feel the way we do can make all the difference. You can snap at your partner about how inconsiderate he or she is being about not calling as promised. Or you can explain how it makes you feel. “When you say you’ll call and you don’t, I worry. I imagine the worst.” No blaming. Simply a bit of honest sharing will further the relationship.
We face stress and negativity every day. Our neighbor is a nuisance. Our coworker is undermining us. There surely is a lot to complain about. But no healthy relationship thrives on an overload of negativity. Instead, feed it nourishing positivity – share more good stories than complaints. We can choose to focus on the positive or the negative. But our relationship will be stronger when the positives far outweigh the negatives.
You don’t need to ignore disagreements or unpleasantness. But you don’t need to focus on them, either.
Remember when you were dating? Gratitude came naturally. You said thank you when your partner brought you a cup of coffee. You were appreciative if he or she remembered to pick up ice cream. Perhaps it helps to remember what it was like when you were dating and didn’t take the relationship for granted. Gratitude is a habit that can be developed. And it’s a habit that can help grow your relationship. The words thank you and please hold immense power.
Show Some Passion:
Passion while you were dating was no problem. You could barely keep your hand off each other. Sure, you still love each other, but now, it is a hurried peck on the cheek.
For the majority of couples, the more sex they enjoy, the more passion-infused their relationship becomes. However, the quality of the sex matters. If sex is reduced to a perfunctory five-minute event, it can make you feel worse, not better.
The quantity of sex in marriage can decline with time. That is normal. But you can still work on quality. Perhaps arranging for an evening or weekend at a romantic hotel can light a few fires and remind you why you fell in love.
If sex has become nothing but a memory in your relationship, you should both see a doctor to ensure there are no medical issues.
If you want more sex, talk about what you want. Be honest. Don’t forget to do simple, non-sexual but fun things together that can rekindle desire. Engage in non-sexual touching, such as holding hands while walking and hugging.
Have sex an agreed-upon number of times per week, even if it is only once. Make time for it. This may sound forced, but any sex is better than no sex, and mediocre sex can rekindle the passion for better-quality sex.
Work on Fidelity:
It’s a sad fact that marriage can involve cheating. Many instances of infidelity are simply opportunities. There is an unexpected chance for a sexual encounter and things happen. Feelings have little to do with this. A logical way to avoid “opportunity infidelity” is to remove temptation.
People who are honest about wanting a committed relationship don’t spend their evenings in bars or carousing with co-workers. They don’t have an “innocent” lunch with the attractive person in the next office. Like so many things in a strong relationship, that is a conscious choice that must be made.
If temptation does happen, remind yourself of your relationship and everything it offers you. Is it worth risking or diminishing everything for a night with a stranger? Focus your thought on your partner instead of the sexual possibilities of a one-night stand.
Resisting temptation becomes more difficult if your relationship is already stale and boring. That is why working on your relationship is so critical to keep things healthy and thriving.
Relationships are what make our lives worthwhile. But, as has been stated, anything worth having is worth working for.
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