Relationships don’t come with instructional manuals or specific ingredients that result in success. They’re all unique, different, and built on a solid foundation of communication, connection, intimacy, and of course, love. The more time you spend together, the more you will need to invest in one another to find continued happiness. Don’t worry; your relationship can thrive with some small yet meaningful routine changes. These won’t require much of your time (or mental load), but they will make a big difference in how close you feel to your one-and-only.
Here, love experts make their top recommendations for your happiest, healthiest year yet:
Learn—and practice—each other’s love language.
You’ve likely heard about The Five Love Languages before, but have you taken the time to explore what its philosophies mean for your dynamic? In short, this book argues that everyone prefers to give and receive love through five different languages: physical touch, quality time, words of affirmation, acts of service and gifts. What makes one person in the relationship feel loved is not necessarily the same for their partner, explains Mara Opperman, a relationship expert and the co-founder of I Do Now I Don’t.
“By knowing and understanding your partner’s love language, you can show love to each other in the ways they need, and it will help strengthen your relationship,” she explains. How can you figure it out? Either buy the book or take their online quiz here.
Write down three specific qualities you appreciate about your partner every night for a week.
Sadly, as humans, most of us are hardwired to only focus on the negative aspects of our lives rather than leaning into the positive experiences. While it may be an uphill mental battle to switch this way of thinking, it can make a difference in your life and your relationship, says Amber Trueblood, a licensed marriage and family therapist. “Purposefully focusing our attention on the positives gives us a more accurate view of reality and makes for a far more pleasant relationship,” she explains.
The key is to schedule this practice into your calendar, so it becomes a priority. Trueblood recommends doing an appreciation practice right before bed to reduce stress and anxiety in your life and increase the chances you’ll wake up in a good mood. “The more specific you can be, the better. Bonus points if you tell your partner or list them out in a note at the end of the week,” she adds.
Make time to date one another.
If you’ve been together for more years than you can count, you’re likely far past that newlywed stage of getting to know one another. And sure, you may not have as many dinner dates over candlelight as you used to have before the responsibilities of life settled in. However, just like you’ve changed in your time together, your partner has too, and Opperman says it’s essential to date one another continuously.
She recommends finding a consistent time each week where you and your partner can simply get together and focus on each other. “The date can be as easy as grabbing a cup of coffee or taking a stroll around the park or neighborhood,” she continues. “After all, date night is not about the place where you go; it’s about creating time for you and your partner to reconnect.”
Tell your partner when you feel happy.
Trueblood says we often walk around feeling stressed, distracted or anxious—and it shows in our facial expressions, body language, and tone of voice. Because your partner loves you and is always cued in to your state of mind and reactions, they may feel as if they’re doing something wrong or they are somehow responsible for how you’re feeling. While it’s vital to create an open policy for communication with your one-and-only, it’s also worthwhile to express not only your frustrations but your joys, too.
“Sharing your happiness out loud—with eye contact and a smile—will remind your partner that it’s not all bad and that they’re not to blame,” Trueblood says. “This is an exceptionally powerful yet simple strategy to build a close emotional connection with your partner.”
Many women, for instance, don’t realize that the man in their life is pulling away emotionally because he feels like he’s failing in his job to make you happy, and nothing he does works, Trueblood adds. “Show him he’s wrong, and you just might be surprised to see how he lights up again.”
Cut back on screen time.
How often do you spend scrolling through TikTok vs. cuddling with your partner? Social media is an easy way to escape life stressors, but quality time with the person you love the most can be even more beneficial. That’s why Opperman says it’s time to put down the cell phone and turn off the television. “Spending less screen time allows you to enjoy real quality time together without constant distraction and lack of focus that screens provide,” she continues. “When you turn off the screen, you are sending your partner a message that you are fully present and listening.”
Say ‘you’re right.’
Trueblood says no matter how ‘wrong’ your partner is daily, there’s always something you can find they are right about. So instead of only pointing out the ways they fall short, give them props for being right, and it’ll win you lots of relationship points.
“Many of us are so hard on ourselves, we can really use a pat on the back from someone we care about,” she continues. Hearing ‘you were totally right’ from your spouse will send them the vital message: ‘I notice you. I see you. I value you.’
Set relationship goals as a team.
Much like you set personal aspirations for yourself or your career, relationships should come with goals, too. Take time to describe how you feel, what matters to you, and how you want to work as a team to be happier, stronger and better. “The goals should focus on areas of your relationship where you see room for improvement,” Opperman says. “By creating and achieving these goals together, you will strengthen your bond and the future of your relationship. It will also serve as a way to make sure you’re on the same page…you don’t want to look back in a few months and realize you’re working towards different things.”