1. Express Yourself
One of the foundations of a healthy relationship is being able to express your feelings to your partner and learning how to listen. Witnessing or mirroring [basically saying ‘I get you’] is a good basic form of communication. But saying ‘I get you’ doesn’t mean ‘I agree with you.’ In other words, hear your spouse out, but don’t just agree to keep the peace.
2. Schedule Quality Time Together
Particularly as you get further along in your relationship—moving in together, having kids, the whole shebang—you’ll have plenty of logistical conversations that need to happen. Who’s making sure the kids aren’t stranded at soccer practice and so on. That doesn’t give a sense of emotional bonding or intimacy that many people are craving. Carve out quality time when you’re focusing on each other and nothing else.
3. Fight for a (Specific) Cause
There’s a term in couples counseling we use called ‘kitchen sinking’. You probably already guessed what it means: That mountain of complaints that piles up like the dishes in your skank-ass sink—starting with his griping about you stealing the TV remote whenever he turns on the sports channel and then snowballs into an argument about house chores, date nights and the fact that you never wear the awful jewelry he bought you for V-Day. Don’t do it. Arguing about a bunch of issues all at once is too overwhelming to tackle. Stick to one at a time.
4. Introduce New Experiences
Now you don’t have to sign up for the next season of Survivor, but you do want to continuously introduce novel experiences into your relationship. Whether that’s traveling to Tahiti like you’ve always dreamed of, or taking a French class together, you want grow together—and challenge each other—with new shared experiences.
5. Express Appreciation
Everyone loves an ego boost. Tell your spouse what a great job he/she did planning your latest date so your spouse doesn’t feel taken for granted. Chances are it will inspire him/her to give you the same well-deserved pats on the back.
6. Make a Contract
A lot of couples have nonverbal contracts that are vaguely set up based on habits, but many haven’t made a conscious effort to agree on who’s doing what. For instance, you might be the better cook, but you want your better-half to step it up in the kitchen two days a week. Acknowledge your individual strengths, what you each would like to contribute (and where you’re willing to compromise). And renegotiate the contract every few years.
7. Request Permission to Talk
No, not in a submissive Gabby Reece way. Ask your partner if it’s okay timing to chat about a touchier (read: contentious) topic before launching into a monologue.
8. Be Spontaneous
Remember how fun the just-getting-to-know-each-other? Hold on to some of that magic even as you are together for a longer period of time. Make the effort to be creative, woo, and surprise each other. Take turns planning special dates.
9. Do You
Growing and changing for the better as a person will make your relationship a better place. One of the most important things about being in a relationship is you learn as much if not more about yourself as you do about your partner. By watching the way that you react to your partner and the ways in which you’re challenged, you’re forced to grow.
10. Don’t Give Up Your BFFs
Absolutely true that you want your partner to be the first person you call with good news, and also the first shoulder you want to cry on. But the idea that your spouse has to be your number-one best friend is a myth. Girls relate to best friends in a certain way, and I find a lot of women get dismayed expecting a man to react as a girlfriend would when he doesn’t. Rather than seeking a man who will empathize with every emotion you express, find a person you’re excited to share your life with.