7 Approaches to Better Your Relationship

by Kerry Hart, LLMFT

Invest in a better future for yourself by devoting time to your relationship. When you’re in a romantic relationship, a good deal of your happiness depends on how that relationship is going. Beat the odds by taking a more positive approach to bettering your bond, and remember that you are worth every moment of happiness!

Go to Bed at the Same Time

Research from the Gottman Institute shows that a whopping 75 percent of married couples do not go to bed together after three years of marriage. The same study found those that did not go to sleep at the same time reported more marital conflict, less time spent in serious conversation and less sexual activity, as well as less time put toward shared experiences. Keep in mind that the moments before you drift off to sleep ignite your most authentic self–who better to share those moments with than with your partner?

Physical Touch

Hormones are released when you interact with the people who make you happy. The hormone oxytocin is released when people cuddle or caress each other, increasing intimacy and sending serotonin, the happy hormone, throughout the brain letting it know you are pleased. Feeling gratified through your partner’s touch connects that pleasant feeling with your companion, bringing the two of you closer together. While this is not limited to sexual intimacy, research has shown that couples who connect during sex may have deeper conversation afterward and are more likely to disclose positive feelings toward the other, resulting in increased trust, closeness and relationship satisfaction.

Date Night

Long term relationships need loving care, just like you! Be sure to nurture your relationship by treating your partner to an unforgettable night out. Find a babysitter and go to a show, or head out for dinner and dancing. Put the kids to bed early and surprise your partner with a picnic on the living room floor. Getting out of the rut that often develops in long-term relationships is important to keeping your connection fresh, and keeping your partner feeling like they are your priority.

Spend Time Apart

Give your partner the gift of being able to miss you; when you spend all your time with your significant other, there often isn’t much to talk about at the end

of the day. Allowing yourselves to have separate interests enables you to connect to more than day-to-day musings where you are bound to each other. Bring a fresh topic to the table by trying a new hobby with some friends. Give your partner the gift of alone time and the opportunity to refresh. Once you return from your fabulous new hobby, the hours will fly by as you bond over new and exciting topics.

Let It Go

You do not need to win every argument you have with your partner. If you start to obsess over being right, you stop realizing the goal of your relationship is to stay together. You can either be always right or be in a relationship. Learn to pick your battles and let the little things go. If you are accustomed to being right, odds are your partner is also used to the same. Allowing them to win an argument or two may mean more for your relationship than it does for your winning streak.

Get Physical

Physical fitness makes you a happier person, and being with someone who cares about her health makes your partner happy as well. Exercising creates happy endorphins in your brain and working out together doubles the fun! Is your partner too competitive? Maybe just hitch a ride to the gym together and find your personal workout zen once you get there. Taking care of your body increases your mental health, which has a positive effect on your relationship.

Limit Screen Time

It is too easy to lose yourself in your phone, tablet or computer while sitting side by side with your partner. Studies that have shown that looking at your phone while sitting with your partner can lower relationship satisfaction. Consider putting your phones on the “do not disturb” setting an hour before bedtime and make dinner time a no phone zone.

Set aside time to connect without the soft LED illumination on your face, the competitive edge at the gym or the subtle grudges that slowly tear at your happiness. Practice these approaches within your relationship and discover a deeper and more fulfilling connection that will keep you warm during Michigan’s coldest months.

“You can either be always right or be in a relationship.”

Kerry Hart, LLMFT is a couple and family therapist in private practice. She is located in both East Lansing and Grand Rapids. www.kerryhartcounseling.com

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