How to improve your relationship with your partner

An image of a couple holding hands. The people could be in their 30s, both female, or one could be male. The image shows only the hands and arms in the foreground, against a blurred background of greenery and a crimson flower. One person is wearing a long-sleeved, white embroidered cotton shirt, painted, purple fingernails and an engagement ring on her left hand. The other person has unpainted, short fingernails. The image shows connection as a way to improve your relationship.

Many couples want more connection

Improve your relationship with your partner

Typically, couples struggle in four areas that when addressed, will improve your relationship with your partner. These are communication, how to manage conflict, improving intimacy, and balancing roles and responsibilities. Many couples struggle with one or more of these areas.

To improve your relationship with your partner, it may be helpful to consider love as a verb, some purposeful actions towards creating a satisfying relationship that meets your needs and those of your partner.

 “Want to improve your relationships? See love as a verb rather than as a feeling?”
Stephen Covey.

Here are some questions to stimulate thought and dialogue about each of these areas.

1. Improve communication in your relationship

How happy are you with the way you communicate as a couple right now? Do past hurts and resentments get in the way of your current interactions? Is your partner attentive to your needs and willing to listen? Are you? If not, what can you do about it?

Many couples want more connection, to be listened to and understood by their partner. Communicate interest in your partner and their world to give a message that you care and want to connect in a meaningful way.

Suspending past hurts or making time to deal with them once and for all (with help from a trained couples therapist) could be beneficial. Think of how you want your current interactions to be like with your partner.

Accept differences for what they are: just differences. Are they perhaps some of the same things that first attracted you to your partner? Are they other parts of their personality that you haven’t seen before? Being curious and self-aware can help you to see your partner in a balanced, humanly flawed way.

2. Increase intimacy

How closely connected do you feel to your partner? Are you happy with the quality and quantity of intimacy in your relationship? How can you improve it?

A willingness to know and be known to your partner creates a positive foundation for intimacy. So does having a good friendship. Find out about each other’s dreams and hopes, and update your view of who your partner is as a person. Remember that intimacy operates in different realms: emotional, physical, sexual and spiritual. It is influenced by your own connection with yourself and who you are as a person, and your willingness to be open to your partner.

Does frequency of sexual intimacy create a greater sense of wellbeing in couples? Research by American social psychologist, Amy Muise (2015), found that couples’ relationship happiness was influenced by having sex once a week, and that there was no increase in happiness when sex was more frequent.

3. Manage conflict

Conflicts may arise when differences emerge about certain issues, values or perceptions. The way you deal with a conflict depends on how you view conflict, where that view came from, and how you approach it in everyday life. If you are conflict avoidant you may internalise the conflict, not discuss it, or try to fix it on your own.

According to renowned couples researcher, John Gottman, only 31 percent of problems are resolvable. These are typically those that don’t involve core values for either person. With these problems, Gottman recommends raising the issue with a‘soft start-up’, a gentle, calm, tentative approach, owning your part of the issue and sharing your feelings about it. He emphasizes that couples should not engage in dialogue about a conflict issue unless emotionally calm, which means waiting until your initial reaction has settled down.

4. Balance roles and responsibilities

How happy are you with the roles you perform in your relationship? These might be familial roles such as parent, sister, or other social roles you’ve learnt growing up, such as peacekeeper, decision-maker, or responsible one.

If you feel resentful that you seem to play certain roles all the time, it might be time to develop some flexibility of choice in which roles you take on so that you can inhabit different roles for different situations. 

Four tips to improve your relationship with your partner

  1. Communicate interest in your partner and their world to give a message that you care and want to connect in a meaningful way.
  2. Share the research about how ‘Sexual frequency Predicts Greater Well-Being, But More is Not Always Better’ (Muise, 2015). Have a non-blaming, open discussion about what an intimate relationship means to you and how your sexual needs could be met, and listen to what your partner wants in this area.
  3. Spend your time on what John Gottman considers ‘resolvable problems’, typically those that don’t involve core values for either person. Raise the issue with a‘soft start-up’, a gentle, calm, tentative approach, owning your part of the issue and sharing your feelings about it.
  4. Develop some flexibility of choice in which roles you take on so that you can inhabit different roles for different situations.

Contact Linda Magson, Sydney Life coach and counsellor, for help to improve your relationship with your partner. Email Linda. Call or text: 0402 073 086

Links to other articles by Linda Magson that may help

https://lindamagsoncounselling.com.au/tired-of-couple’s-arguments/

https://lindamagsoncounselling.com.au/three-tips-to-becoming-more-self-aware/

References

Easy to read version of Muise article:

http://www.spsp.org/news-center/press-releases/sex-frequency-study

Muise, A., Schimmack, U. & Impett, E. A. (Nov 2015). Sexual Frequency Predicts Greater Well-Being, But More is Not Always Better. Social Psychological and Personality Science, 7(4), 295 – 302. https://doi.org/10.1177/1948550615616462