Here are some suggestions that could improve your relationship.

• Listen – It sounds so simple, yet it is so powerful. Think about it. How do you feel when you know you are really being listened to? How do you feel when you know you are not being listened to? See the difference?

Listening while you read the paper is not listening. Listening with your eyes, attention and heart is listening.

• Apologize – A genuine apology communicates that you care enough about the other person to admit when you are wrong and try not to do it again.

• Appreciate – Appreciation can be as simple as “I liked it today when …” or “thank you for …” Again, simple, yet powerful.

• Anticipate – It’s a human need to have something to look forward to. When you look forward together, you draw closer as a couple.

• Thank the in-laws – They are responsible, at least in part, for creating the person with whom you fell in love.

• Compliment – Saying something nice about you partner’s dress, shirt and haircut are all nice things. You can go farther with: “I really like the way you handled that situation”; “You are such a good dad/mom”; “I’m glad I am with you.”

• Show genuine interest in your partner – For her last birthday, I bought my wife a charm for a bracelet that had a small (very small) pearl on it. It was a week later when she asked, “Did you get this because you knew pearl was my birthstone?” When I answered yes (which was the truth) the value of the gift rose in her heart. You show genuine interest when you demonstrate that you’ve been paying attention.

• Touch-hold-caress – Every one needs to be touched. When I work with couples who are having sexual problems, one of the very first things I suggest is to simply hold each other and nothing else. That one small move contributes to a great deal of healing in a relationship.

• Know the dreams of your partner – Get to know your partner’s dreams. It’s even better when you know someone’s dreams and support them. It’s even better still when you know someone’s dreams and contribute to having those dreams come true.

• Ask questions – Asking questions in one way to show genuine interest and to discover someone’s dreams. It compliments and honors them.

If you picked just one of these tips, committed to doing it, and then did it, I bet your relationship just might improve. I wonder what would happen if you did them all?

Jeff Herring, MS, LMFT, is a marriage and family therapist.


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