Everything worth having requires effort, and relationships are no exception. In an ideal world, we would all be in happy, healthy relationships. Sadly, that is not the case for everyone, but you can build a stronger relationship with time, energy, and care. The more you nurture a relationship, the stronger it gets. Here are four strategies for strengthening your relationship.
Ask For What You Need
Do you clearly communicate your needs to your partner? I repeatedly hear people say, “My partner should know what I like and what I need. We have been together for so long.” Despite your history, your significant other is not a mind reader. They won’t know what you need unless you tell them.
If you want to spend more time with your spouse, ask.
If you would like them to mow the front yard, request it.
Clear communication is a building block for a healthy relationship. Your partner might not respond the way you hope, but if you are direct and kind, you have a much higher likelihood of getting what you need.
The Five Love Languages
In addition to expressing your needs in a relationship, it is also imperative to communicate care. The Five Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts by Gary Chapman is a valuable resource for couples. Dr. Chapman has identified five ways to communicate love: physical touch, words of affirmation, gifts, quality time, and acts of service.
You may feel the most cared for by your partner when they clean the house or cook dinner (Acts of Service), whereas your spouse may appreciate watching a movie together or going for a walk (Quality Time).
We need to remember that our preferred love language may not be our partner’s. To effectively communicate love, we need to know their language.
Ask your partner if they prefer physical touch, words, acts, gifts, or time.
Some people are not sure how they best receive love. If this is you, you can go here and take the 5 Love Languages Quiz. When you communicate love in the correct language, you nurture your relationship.
Suggestions for each love language:
- Hold hands
- Offer a back rub or foot massage
- Share a hug
- Sit next to each other with legs touching
Words of Affirmation:
- I trust you
- You are important to me
- Thank you for being a great spouse
- I love you
Acts of Service:
- Pick up groceries
- Mow the lawn
- Fill the car up with gas
- Unload the dishwasher
- Watch a favorite TV show
- Go for a walk
- Cook dinner together
- A card
- A special beverage
- Gift certificate for a massage
Engage in Daily Caring Behaviors
Caring behaviors are another way to strengthen your relationship. First, you and your partner write down 20 ways your significant other can communicate care to you. Each request needs to be specific and easy to complete daily. Your list might include:
- 10 minute back rub
- walk the dog
- make coffee in the morning
- bathe the kids
- give me a hug
- cook dinner
- make the bed
- bring me flowers
- hold my hand
- let me sleep in
After you create your list, exchange it with each other. Over the next week, each partner commits to doing at least one caring behavior a day from the list. This exercise is particularly beneficial for couples who are feeling disconnected in their relationship. Small, intentional caring behaviors are powerful in restoring a neglected relationship.
“A successful marriage requires falling in love many times, always with the same person.” Mignon McLaughlin
Make Your Relationship a Priority
Life is busy. We get caught up in work demands, children’s activities, or household chores, and our relationship falls to the back burner. Your relationship will flourish if you make your life partner a priority. Just as you schedule work meetings, appointments, and playdates, it is beneficial to schedule date nights.
If you have young children, it may be difficult to leave the house for a date, so schedule quality time around your children’s schedule (during naps, after they have gone to bed, during their TV time). You and your spouse can share a special dessert, play a board game or sit in the backyard. The activity is not as important as the connection!
You can nurture your union by asking for what you need, consistently communicating both love and care, and making your relationship a priority. A strong bond provides many benefits including improved stress tolerance. When you protect your relationship, you also protect your health and mood!