All romantic relationships go through ups and downs. They all take work, commitment, and a willingness to adapt and change with your partner. No matter your status: single, dating, engaged, or married, relationships take work. They depend on countless factors, but your actions, words, and thoughts undoubtedly play a role. Whether your relationship is just starting out or you’ve been together for years, there are certain steps how to build a healthy relationship.
There is no single tried and true recipe for love and successful relationships that anyone can teach us. Different approaches work for different partnerships, and there is no point in trying to come up with strict guidelines for love.
But, many researchers have studied what makes people leave a relationship, and what motivates them to stay together. We give you our top tips on what to look out for in building a meaningful, healthy, happy relationship.
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Start your relationship with a purpose
Every relationship is unique, and people come together for many different reasons. Part of what defines a healthy relationship is sharing a common goal. That’s something you’ll only know by talking deeply and honestly with your partner. Partners should be especially sure that their values match before getting into serious relationships. For long-lasting love, the more similarity (e.g., age, education, values, personality, hobbies), the better. Although many differences can be accommodated and tolerated, a difference in values is particularly problematic if the goal is long-lasting love.
Recent studies suggest that, in many cases, people who are dating end up “falling” into a committed relationship out of a sense of inertia. Couples may end up living together even when they are unsure if they belong together. If people took more time to do soul searching before committing to a relationship, they might be able to avoid entering a situation that will prove unsatisfactory for both partners in the long run. We should start new relationships with a sense of purpose, really thinking about what we want and need. Therefore, partners should truly likely align with each other wants and needs.
Knowing these basic principles can help keep your relationship be meaningful, fulfilling and exciting. Whatever goals you’re working towards or challenges you’re facing together.
Spend quality time together
As time goes by, the demands of work, family, other obligations can make it harder to find time together. Many couples find that the face-to-face contact of their early dating days is gradually replaced by hurried texts, emails, and instant messages. While digital communication is great for some purposes, it doesn’t positively impact your brain and nervous system in the same way as face-to-face communication.
No matter how busy you are, take a few minutes each day to put aside your electronic devices. Stop thinking about other things, and really focus on and connect with your partner. Partners who take fun activities together have an increase in oxytocin. This is a hormone, also called the “love hormone”, that plays a big role in bonding behaviors.
Simply attending an event together but not interacting, may not have the same bonding effect as if you involve true interaction. Also, couples who organize their fun activity in a new place outside their home experience a greater “love hormone” boost than those who spend time at home. That’s why you should try something new. Doing new things together can be a fun way to connect and keep things interesting. It can be as simple as trying a new restaurant or going on a day trip to a place you’ve never been before.
One of the most powerful ways of staying close and connected is to jointly focus on something you and your partner value outside of the relationship. It can also expose you both to new people and ideas, offer the chance to tackle new challenges together, and provide fresh ways of interacting with each other.
Make time for self-care
While it is very important to spend time together, it is equally important to take time for yourself. No matter how in love you are or how long you’ve been together, it’s important to take an exhale from your partnership.
Hang out with friends until late in the evening, take a weekend trip to visit family, or just spend time alone for a while. Then when you go home to your partner, you’ll both be recharged and ready to come together even stronger.
There is a cycle of closeness and distance. Both are important. If the relationship is too distant you need little closeness. Yet too much closeness can make a relationship feel like a trap and, taken to an extreme.
Also, there is one major cause of relationship problems: self-abandonment.
We can abandon ourselves in many areas: emotional (judging or ignoring our feelings), financial (spending irresponsibly), organizational (being late or messy), physical (eating badly, not exercising), relational (creating conflict in a relationship), or spiritual (depending too much on your partner for love).
When you decide to learn to love yourself rather than continue to abandon yourself, you will discover how to create a loving relationship with your partner.
Communicate to solve conflicts and stay connected
Good communication is a fundamental part of a healthy relationship. When you experience a positive emotional connection with your partner, you feel safe and happy. When people stop communicating well, they stop relating well. It may sound simplistic, but as long as you are communicating, you can usually work through whatever problems you’re facing.
The key in a strong relationship, though, is not to be fearful of conflict. You need to feel safe to express things that bother you without fear of retaliation. Be able to resolve conflict without humiliation, degradation, or insisting on being right. Unresolved conflicts and the stress associated with conflict put even the most satisfying relationship at risk.
It is crucial for couples first to evaluate the context in which the conflict has arisen in order to decide how best to address it. When a serious issue is at stake it is important for both partners to express their opposing views and negotiate the direction of change. However, if the couple is having disagreements about minor issues, or issues outside their control, it may be more helpful for them to acknowledge the problem but express mutual validation, affection, and forgiveness.
Most importantly, it is not what you fight about, it’s how you fight. The way a problem is brought up determines both how the rest of that conversation will go. Sometimes even how the rest of the relationship will go. Many times an issue is brought up by attacking or blaming one’s partner, also known as criticism, and one of the killers of a relationship. So, try a more gentle approach, focusing on your own emotional reaction.
Tell your partner what you need, don’t make them guess
It’s not always easy to talk about what you need. For one, many of us don’t spend enough time thinking about what’s really important to us in a relationship. And even if you do know what you need, talking about it can make you feel vulnerable, embarrassed, or even ashamed. But look at it from your partner’s point of view. Providing comfort and understanding to someone you love is a pleasure, not a burden.
If you’ve known each other for a while, your partner may have a pretty good idea of what you are thinking. However, your partner is not a mind-reader. While your partner may have some idea, it is much healthier to express your needs directly to avoid any confusion. Your partner may sense something, but it might not be what you need. What’s more, people change, and what you needed and wanted five years ago, for example, may be very different now. So instead of letting resentment, misunderstanding, or anger grow when your partner continually gets it wrong, get in the habit of telling them exactly what you need.
Don’t forget to keep things hot
Many times people become increasingly shy with the person they love the more as time goes by. Partners begin to take their love for granted and forget to keep themselves turned on and to continue to seduce their partner.
Even if you have pressing workloads or young children to worry about, you can help to keep physical intimacy alive by carving out some regular couple time. Keep your physical intimacy alive by keeping up certain practices on a regular basis. This allows you to remain vibrant, sexy, and engaged in your love life.
Touch is a fundamental part of human existence. While sex is often a cornerstone of a committed relationship, it shouldn’t be the only method of physical intimacy. Frequent, affectionate touch as holding hands, hugging, kissing, is equally important.
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