Great relationships don’t happen by accident.
Just like that sweet little vegetable patch in your backyard, the more you nurture and nourish your relationship the happier you’ll both be.
And what does that look like? Quality nourishment requires pausing, listening, and paying attention to your partner. It requires that you learn to love people in ways that are meaningful to them and listen when they tell you what their needs are.
Here are 10 ways you can nudge your relationship into a happier, healthier, more fulfilling version of itself:
:: Stop pretending to be someone you’re not and just be yourself instead.
When we are who we really truly are – weird hobbies and all – magic happens. Being true to ourselves allows us to navigate life and relationships free of hangups, emotional baggage, or expectations.
In the beginning stages of relationships, many of us focus on showcasing our best selves in an attempt to garner love and affection. We become ridiculously, painfully focused on making a good impression.
But being who you really are and being who you think someone wants you be – it’s hard to do those two things simultaneously. Take a deep breath, release those shoulders, and stop pretending and polishing yourself. Just be right here, who you are, today.
:: Smile at your loved one.
To the best of your ability, greet your partner with a smile when you see each other for the first time that day.
Imagine how good that would feel – after a tough day at work and sitting in traffic, you walk through the door and are greeted with a smile and a kiss from the person you love most. Wouldn’t that be an amazing way to start your evening?
This is not to say you’re never allowed to share the low points of your day, but maybe save them for dinner – rather than the first five minutes that you see your sweetie.
Other great times to smile at your partner: across a crowded party, before you part ways for the day, when you know they need encouragement.
:: Realize things change.
We’re living, breathing organisms – subject to the changing tides of emotion and circumstance. It can be emotionally crippling to get too attached to the “status quo” – not just in your romantic relationships but in life. Change is inevitable.
Next week your partner might wake up and want to change careers, move to the east coast, or have kids (like, soon). Can you allow space for that? Could you create a new life with him while he pursued something new?
And, of course, things will change for you – your passions, your career, your family, your health. When your partner tells you that they’ve got some big changes in mind – a new workout plan, a move to the country, no more dairy – do your best to listen with an open mind and heart.
:: Work out together.
Exercise gives you energy and it’s great for your sex life! Studies show people who work out regularly enjoy more sex and feel more aroused more frequently. Also, it’s a wonderful way to show your partner that you’re interested in your health and you want to stay cute for them.
Trying new workouts together also helps you bond! Take a couple’s yoga class, a hip hop dance class, or try rock climbing. Even if you’re terrible, later you’ll be able to laugh together about his terrible downward dog or your totally failure to pop ‘n lock.
:: If you want quality time with your significant other, plan it.
You’ve heard this advice before and that’s because it works! Make time for thrilling, exciting things – not just birthdays and anniversaries. As your weekend winds down, take a few minutes to schedule in at least one fun date each week – whether that’s trying a new restaurant, going for a hike, or catching a movie at the second-run theater. Fun things happen when you make time and space for them.
:: Express your needs.
Some people like to text every day. Some people need a lot of alone time. Some people want their partner to plan exciting dates. All of these needs are equally legitimate.
But your partner will never know what your needs are if you don’t tell them. You don’t need to open a first date with a checklist, but once things are clicking along, it’s okay to say, “I want you to feel loved and appreciated. How can I do that?” and when you’ve heard their suggestions, you can share yours. When they do what you asked? Lots and lots of acknowledgement and appreciation.
I know it’s incredibly tempting (so tempting!) to keep a mental list of all the nice things you’ve done for your sweetie.
Picked up a new yoga mat because I saw hers was deteriorating
Made reservation for Friday
Bought his mom’s birthday present
This mentality will only end in tears and resentment. We can nourish our relationships by removing the expectation that they to do the same things that we have done for them. Let your partner give to you because they want to, not because they feel as though they owe you.
:: Don’t stop caring about how you look!
Male or female, we’ve all done this, right? Constantly hanging out in our gym clothes and dirty hair, eating pizza for dinner three times a week. You want to find your partner attractive and – not surprisingly – they want to find you attractive. Help them do that by keeping up with your workouts and saving the sweatpants for alone time.
:: Cultivate intimacy and independence.
It might sound counter-intuitive but you can connect while also retaining autonomy. Don’t stop doing the things that filled you up now that you’ve found a partner. Keep attending those pottery classes, keep working on your novel – and keep telling your partner all about it and why you love it.
Just as important? Give them the space to pursue a few passions without you. You’ll both be that much more excited to come home and tell each other about your adventures.
:: Inspire your partner by loving yourself fiercely.
Do your best to identify your needs and meet those needs yourself. Need creative inspiration? Rather than trying to date an artist or force your accountant boyfriend to take drawing classes, buy a DSLR and get to shooting. Crave a more active social life? Don’t hassle your introverted girlfriend into house parties and nights out. Call up your most outgoing friends and schedule a night out, complete with cute shoes and cocktails.