'Tis the season for evaluating relationships! If yours could use a boost, follow these seven tips from WT founder and chief clinician, Nicole Iacovoni to help you deepen your connection and strengthen your bond!
Tip#1: Focus on positive traits!
No matter how much you love someone, we each possess and notice qualities that are unlikeable. It’s easier to notice the irritating and annoying attributes in our partner than the strengths and attributes.
Here is an exercise to help you become more aware of your partner’s wonderful ways, while letting go of all the little idiosyncrasies:
Fold a piece of paper in half. On one side of the paper, write down 3 things that your partner does that you dislike, drives you crazy, or you just cannot stand.
Now flip the paper over and for each of the negative things/complaints, write five positive qualities that you cherish, love, and/or appreciate about your partner.
Finally, rip the paper in half and throw away the negative side. Review the remaining positive side.
Tip #2: Create your dream relationship vision!
What would it look like to have the ideal relationship? Figuring out the answer to that question can help it become a reality! Working by yourself, write down all the things you would like in your relationship that would make it perfect. Start each sentence with the pronoun “we” and write each dream in the present tense as if you already have it. Ask your partner to do the same.
Then, working together, use the information you each created independently and design your mutually agreed upon dream relationship. Again, start each line with “we” and write each dream in the present tense as if it is already so. If you have an item you don’t agree upon, skip it. Don’t argue or debate a suggestions. This exercise should be filled with fun and hope.
When completed, talk about it and review it together once a month to see how you’re doing and what needs to shift to make your dream relationship vision come true!
Tip #3: Discover your Love Language!
Gary Chapman, a well known couple’s therapist, wrote a book called, “The 5 Love Languages” which explains the five ways to express love emotionally. Each person has a primary love language that we must learn to speak if we want that person to feel loved. Take the Love Languages quiz online and discover what yours and your partner’s language truly is. Then speak to each other’s love languages like it’s your job (because it is)!!
Take a few minutes and reflect on how you speak to your partner. Do you usually speak with kindness, respect, and love? Or do you find yourself speaking harshly with criticism, rudeness, or agitation? Often times, we act on our worst behavior with our partner because we assume his/her unconditional love will allow us to get away with it. Why on earth would you treat a stranger better than the love of your life? You can completely transform your relationship simply by showing each other the respect, politeness, and kindness you would show a stranger.
Tip #5: Keep Date Nights separate from couple’s meetings-but have both!
It is important to take time to be alone in each other’s company, reconnect, and share emotional and physical intimacy. By taking regular date nights, not only are you carving out time for fun together, you are sending a very clear message that the relationship is a top priority to you. It is equally important to take time alone together to discuss and understand the issues that have become recurring problems in your relationship. Using couple’s meetings allows you to share your thoughts and feelings about the hot spots in your relationship and brainstorm possible solutions. Just keep these two meetings separate! The last thing you want are problems creeping into your fun time or silliness preventing problem solving.
Tip #6: Revisit a Love Landmark
Not sure what to do on Date Night? Visit a Love Landmark! It might be the place where you first met, where you had your first kiss together, or even where you had your first fight (celebrate that you got through it together). Revisit the place where you stood together before and see how similar or different it feels to be there now. Reminisce about that time in your lives and talk with each other about how far you’ve come. Feel free to dream of the future together while you’re at it!
Tip #7: Have Fun! (and sex!)
There are so many excuses for why couple’s don’t have fun. “We’re too busy”, “fun is for kids”, “we always just end up fighting when we try to have fun” are among the most common reasons why couple’s are completely lacking in the fun department. Keep the fun alive with these easy tips:
Make the time to play. Realize the importance of having fun and schedule times for it…and turn off your cellphones!
Remember, it can take a bit of time to wind down and relax. Don’t panic if you don’t immediately feel in the mood for fun or sex. Give yourself some time to warm up.
Be a kid! Much of the time, we act like responsible adults with grown up attitudes. Be a little less mature and engage in kid-like behavior. Go mini-golfing, bowling, or to an amusement park.
Laugh, tickle, smile, hold hands, chase each other, play catch, and be SILLY!
Protect fun from conflict. Refuse to allow conflict to come along on your date! Save that crap for couple’s meetings.
Try to mix up dates with a variety of activities so you don’t get in a rut. Work together to come up with new ideas for having fun. Brainstorm ideas, jot them down (no matter how crazy they sound), be creative, don’t criticize an idea, and keep going until you have as many suggestions as possible. Then try them out!
Always do something that you both enjoy (both inside and outside the bedroom).
Talk to each other like friends, discussing the things that matter, common interest, and what brings you joy. Listen carefully to each other and be supportive, especially when you’re partner is feeling vulnerable.