Five Things You Can Do Right Now to Make Your Relationship Happier

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Have you started taking each other for granted? Do you wish there was more affection and fun in your relationship?

KEY POINTS

  • Saying “I love you” is always appreciated, but expressing gratitude toward one’s partner also goes a long way.
  • Touch helps romantic partners feel connected and strengthens a relationship.
  • Taking a walk or hike with one’s partner, especially when there is something important to discuss, can ease tension.

Show Appreciation/Gratitude


You may sometimes say “I love you” and that is always appreciated. But, showing what,
specifically, you love is even more treasured. For example, if your partner spontaneously
cleaned up a messy room, say you noticed and you appreciate it. You don’t always have to give a compliment—just show you noticed something specific that your partner has done or said and that it meant a lot to you. Oh, those are tasks my partner is supposed to do you may think.

But, saying you appreciate what your partner does shows you are aware of what your partner
contributes to your relationship. These expressions of appreciation can go a long way toward
giving you currency in the bank when you have to resolve differences in the future.


Some couples have a nightly “gratitude session” where they express what they are grateful for
in their lives and grateful for in each other. Even if you don’t do this nightly, having a weekly
scheduled time to express gratitude can not only help your relationship but can uplift your
spirits so that the stresses of daily living can be lessened.


Give an Empathic Response


Everyone wants to feel they were really heard. When you repeat back the essence of what you heard, your partner feels you listened and understood what was communicated. Instead of giving your quick response, take a moment to let your partner know what you heard. That will clear up any misunderstandings and bring you both closer together.


Don’t Forget the Warmth of a Smile and of Touch


A hello kiss upon coming home from work, some cuddling in bed at night, and a goodbye kiss all signify your partner is important to you. We all need touch to feel connected to each other and doing so strengthens our relationship.


Make Time for a Date Night


Your relationship is more important than your work or the kids. Yes, you have to make time for
them but your relationship can get squeezed out with attending to all their daily activities.
After all, the kids are going to leave someday but, hopefully, your partner isn’t.


Set aside time for just the two of you. You may have a romantic dinner at home when the kids
are reading in their beds before falling asleep. Or you may get a babysitter and go out to dinner or out to a movie or a play.

Schedule a Fun Event at Least Once Every Two Weeks


Find an activity both of you enjoy, and participate in it together. Each of you can write out a list
of what you enjoy doing outside of the house. Then compare your lists. There may be some
activities that overlap or are similar. Then consult a website such as Meetup.com to find an
activity in your neighborhood.

Another way to spend meaningful time together is to volunteer together. Giving to others
moves you out of yourself and your own problems while bringing you closer together through
this shared activity.


A fun event does not have to cost money. You can just take a walk. Taking a walk or hike
together can help ease tensions, especially when you need to discuss something important.
Walking encourages talking and you often can come to a solution or a helpful compromise
during your walk.

How Resilient Are You?

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Working from home, taking care of children who are doing online schooling, missing social contact and get-a-ways all are creating heightened stress.  Some days it may feel like you want to cave in from all the stress. Other days you may feel you are able to handle everything.

Being able to handle stress is known as being resilient.  To find out how resilient you are, take the following short quiz from Davidson and Begley’s book The Emotional Life of the Brain.

Answer each question True or False.  If you are tempted to think long and hard about a question, or if you feel that there are too many nuances and exceptions, resist.  The most accurate results come from making a snap judgment about whether a question is true or false about you.

  1.  If I have a minor disagreement with a close friend or spouse—closer to “No, it’s your turn to do the dishes” than “You cheated on me!”—it typically leaves me out of sorts for hours or longer.
  2. If another driver uses the shoulder to zoom up to the front of a long line of traffic waiting to merge, I am likely to shake it off easily rather than fume about it for a long time.
  3. When I have experienced profound grief, such as the death of someone close to me, it has interfered with my ability to function for many months.
  4. If I make a mistake at work and get reprimanded for it, I can shrug it off and take it as a learning experience.
  5. If I try a new restaurant and find that the food is awful and the service snooty, it ruins my whole evening.
  6. If I’m stuck in traffic because of an accident up ahead, when I pass the bottleneck I typically floor it to vent my frustration but still see the inside.
  7. If my home water heater breaks, it does not affect my mood very much because I know I can just call a plumber and get it fixed.
  8. If I meet a wonderful man/woman and ask if he/she would like to get together again, being told no typically puts me in a bad mood for hours or even days.
  9. If I am being considered for an important professional award or promotion and it goes to someone I consider less qualified, I can usually move on quickly.
  10. At a party, if I’m having a conversation with an interesting stranger and get completely tongue tied when he/she asks me about myself, I tend to replay the conversation—this time including what I should have said—for hours or even days afterward.

Give yourself one point for each True answer to questions 1,3,5,6,8, and 10.  Give yourself zero points for each False answer.  Give yourself one point for each False answer to questions 2,4,7, and 9; score zero points for each True answer.  Anything above seven suggests you are Slow to Recover.  If you scored below three, you are Fast to Recover and thus quite Resilient.

If you want to be more resilient, change what you are saying to yourself.  Instead of replaying self-recrimination or angry thoughts, notice what you are saying to yourself and change the message.  For example, you might be thinking, “If I just had not been so critical, my ex would still be with me.” Change this message to, “It was a hard lesson to learn, but I am grateful that I now know how to be less critical.” You are then less hard on yourself and it is compassion, not criticism, that facilitates greater resiliency.

Another thought that needs to be dispelled in order to become more resilient is “Everyday is the same and it will never end.” Realize that there will be an end to this crisis, even though it is difficult to do so during the crisis.  Knowing that some of your present stressors will not be present in the future helps you to have a more positive mindset.  Then you can meet each day with renewed vigor rather than a feeling of depletion.

Davidson, Richard J. and Begley, Sharon (2012) The Emotional Life of Your Brain. New York: Hudson Street Press.