Valentine’s Day is a few weeks away and the stores are filled with cupids, roses and heart shaped boxes of chocolates as gifts to express love.  Research has shown that one of the greatest indicators of a life of happiness is the quality of our relationships.  Most influential is the relationship with a spouse or partner. However, many relationships struggle over time without tools to work through the issues that arise.   Although improving the quality of the relationship takes commitment and desire, it is not as hard as you might think.  Make every day a celebration of romance with these five tips:

Celebrate the positive events for your partner.  This is a critical factor and a predictor of whether a relationship will flourish or fail.  Researchers have discovered that if one partner shares positive news and the other partner reacts with enthusiasm, interest, pride and support the relationship will strengthen and grow.  However, if the partner’s reaction is either less than enthusiastic suggesting lack of interest or negative suggesting selfishness, the relationship will most likely not last.  An example of a positive response would be “that is wonderful news. You worked hard and earned it.  I am so excited and proud of you.”  Not only are you showing and feeling genuine excitement, but it shows you are focused and interested in your partner.

Be grateful and show appreciation.  Expressing genuine gratitude is one of the most important ways to bolster any relationship.  Become aware of those little things that your partner does that you might take for granted or think are part of your partner’s “role” and express gratitude on a regular basis. For example, “I appreciate that you washed the dishes. It was a big help.” Truly appreciating what others do for us or for others strengthens the relationships and allows us to see the positives instead of focusing on the negative events.  If this seems difficult, keep a list over a few days or week and write down even the smallest reasons you appreciate or are grateful for your partner.  Finding the benefits instead of faults deepens the intimacy in any relationship.

Express true interest.   Author Elie Wiesel said, “the opposite of love is not hate, it is indifference.” Indifference is a reason many relationships do not last.   As the role of technology increases in our lives, so does the distraction caused by it.  If your partner is trying to hold a conversation and you are paying more attention to your phone or computer, you send the message that they are not very important. If you need to respond to your phone or work be sure you let your partner know what you are doing but you want to hear what they have to say without distraction and follow through as soon as possible. It is important to have quality time together free from distraction of television, computers and phones and even kids for meaningful connection.

Recognize that you can only change yourself.  While it may be easy to think “if only they would change or do this, I would be happy,” chances are it is unlikely to happen. Entering a relationship with thoughts of fixing or changing the other person is unrealistic and will most likely fail.   Since you are in charge of your own happiness, focus on what you can do to obtain it. Consider the idea that if you don’t like what you are getting, look at what you are giving.   Most times when you gain this perspective the relationship will change for the better.

Show you understand.   This can be one of the most important tools to working through conflict and resolving problems in any relationship.  Understanding your partner’s viewpoint helps dissolve defensiveness, criticism and the feeling of being ignored. This does not mean you have to agree but shows that you hear and understand the others viewpoint.  In doing so you will be able to come to a solution in a more positive manner.  Consider what your partner is feeling and empathize.





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