Relationships that are happy, healthy, and rewarding are a crucial aspect of our physical and mental health (yes, love is good for our health!). For many people, this entails having a healthy, happy, and fulfilling romantic relationship. Love, on the other hand, is complicated—and relationships are even more so!
True, partnerships (and marriage, if your relationship takes that shape) necessitate ongoing effort. That isn’t to say that relationships should be tough to maintain (far from it), but there are certainly small, easy things we can do to deepen and nourish our bonds over time.
- 1 10 Ways to Nurture Happy and Healthy Relationships
10 Ways to Nurture Happy and Healthy Relationships
Here are ten simple but impactful ways to nurture and grow (or maintain) a happy, healthy relationship with your partner:
1. Enhance your love maps
Dr. John Gottman, a notable psychologist and researcher in the field of marriage and relationships, coined the phrase “love maps.”
Dr. Gottman and his colleagues have spent decades researching hundreds of couples to figure out what characteristics influence marital stability—and whether or not a relationship will continue. They discovered seven important elements that contribute to peaceful, long-lasting relationships after decades of research.
Building a detailed “love map”: the portion of your brain where you store knowledge about your partner’s life is one of these seven principles. Things like their favorite cuisine, greatest fear, greatest goals and dreams, what is currently stressing them out, and how they fold their laundry are just a few examples. All of the minor quirks that make someone unique.
Couples who have highly comprehensive love maps (in other words, who pay attention to each other’s minutiae and know a lot about each other) are more likely to have a stronger, longer-lasting bond, according to Dr. Gottman’s decades of research.
You may not always enjoy doing the same things as your spouse (and that’s fine—more on that below! ), but sharing hobbies and experiences is an important component of maintaining a successful relationship.
Whether you enjoy hiking together, cooking new dishes together for Sunday breakfast, seeing movies together on Friday nights, or enrolling in a ballroom dance class… It doesn’t matter what activity you do as long as it’s something you both enjoy and can do together. (And that you set out time to participate in the shared activity on a regular basis!)
3. Spend time alone
While it’s critical to invest in your relationship by spending quality time together, it’s also critical to invest in your relationship by spending quality time apart.
Spending time apart from each other helps to keep things in perspective (you’re not the same person; you’re two different people who chose to spend time/live together). It also allows you to grow your own unique hobbies and skills while also ensuring that you are taking care of yourself and staying healthy as an individual.
4. Know your partner’s love language—and speak in it
We’ve already discussed the importance of knowing your partner’s love languages in your relationship. According to counselor Dr. Gary Chapman, these five “love languages” describe the various ways in which people express and experience love.
It’s critical for couples to understand each other’s love languages so that they can “speak the same language” when it comes to expressing and receiving love.
It’s really beneficial to a) know what to look for in terms of how your spouse communicates their love, and b) know how to share your love with them in a way that they can see and understand so that your efforts are appreciated.
5. Discuss the underlying issue
Healthy relationships are bound to have conflict. However, we have the option of responding in a healthy or harmful manner.
Mastering dispute resolution is an important part of maintaining a healthy relationship. In your relationship, how do you deal with conflict? When it comes up, how do you address it? How well do you and your partner communicate when there’s a disagreement?
Many couples fall into the trap of discussing (or, in some circumstances, leaping straight from talking to “fighting about”) surface-level manifestations of underlying problems.
For example, a couple may dispute frequently because Lovebird A refuses to assist with household responsibilities unless Lovebird B requests it. Because they’re addressing something very particular (emptying the dishwasher, putting out the garbage), rather than the underlying concern: Lovebird B doesn’t feel a sense of cooperation in taking care of their home, the issue keeps coming up again and again.
Instead of going around in circles discussing a surface-level symptom of the main problem, it’s crucial to talk about the genuine issues that are arising in a relationship.
6. Listen first
Another easy advice for resolving conflicts (and building healthier relationships in general) is to listen first.
Often, our tendency is to “defend myself first.”
When we choose to listen first (that is, before asking our spouse to listen to us), we are focusing our energy on paying attention to our partner and what they are trying to express to us, which means we are more likely to hear what they are trying to say. As a result, we’re more likely to be able to exhibit empathy, sympathy, and assistance in resolving the issue they’re attempting to communicate.
7. Meet in the middle
Because there are some things that are absolute non-negotiables for people in a relationship, “meeting in the middle” must come with a quick disclaimer. (Exclusivity, for example, isn’t something that can be met in the middle—if one person wants a monogamous relationship and the other wants an open relationship, there isn’t a happy medium.)
However, for the majority of day-to-day issues, both spouses must be able and willing to meet in the middle.
(And if you can’t or won’t meet in the center, it’s more a question of value compatibility.)
There is rarely a “right” or “wrong” side to a relationship. Because each individual is an equal member of the relationship, their needs and desires are given equal weight (or so they should, in most cases).
However, there are times when “meeting in the middle” indicates that one person’s preferences take precedence. For example, if Spouse A is more concerned with interior design and decorating the home, even if their style choices aren’t necessarily what Spouse B would choose for themselves, Spouse B recognizes that this is a much more important area for Spouse A, so they “meet in the middle” by giving Spouse A’s preferences more weight in design decisions.
Compromise does not always mean meeting exactly halfway on every issue or conflict that arises—it means recognizing how much leeway you each have to give so that, overall, you are both accounted for and supported by each other across all situations and circumstances in the relationship.
8. Ask for what you want
Not obtaining what you want from your partner is one of the most common causes of unhappiness or strife in a relationship—not because your partner is unwilling or unable to supply it, but because they are unaware it is what you want from them.
Sure, it’s ideal if your partner knows precisely what you want, when you want it, and how you want it. That, however, takes time (and dialogue!) to establish. It’s beneficial (and, in many situations, crucial) to be precise about what you want or need, especially in newer relationships or if you haven’t been as open or direct with your communication in the past.
“I’d like you to be very quiet when you arrive home late and I’m already in bed,” for example. When you come in, I don’t want to wake up.” Or, “If you’re going to be home later than expected, please text me because otherwise, I’ll be worried about you.”
Having a clear idea of what you want or what’s essential to you can help your partner meet you there.
9. Date your spouse
Many couples regret the lack of chemistry as they get to know each other better and the “honeymoon phase” wears off. Some people even believe that they are no longer in love.
It’s popular marriage advise to keep “dating your wife” or “dating your husband” whether or not you’re actually married.
Continuing to date your husband simply means making an effort to be together, spend time together, and nurture your unique link and spark. For different relationships, this can signify different things. Schedule a regular date night, get dressed up for it… and maybe even wear your favorite perfume or fragrance!
10. “Same team” mentality
When you and your partner have a “same team” mentality, you know deep down that you’re on the same team, rather than on rival teams, no matter what situation happens. Your spouse isn’t an adversary or an opponent against whom you must “win”; they’re on the same side as you, and you win or lose together.
This is related to another of Dr. Gottman’s important findings in relationship psychology: the ability to manage conflict by turning toward each other rather than away from each other is one of the characteristics he discovered in marital success.
Conflict is a common subject in many of these relationship suggestions, and for good reason: it is a common issue in relationships! Relationships that are healthy and fulfilling are not without difficulty. They’re relationships in which conflict is effectively managed and resolved.
And staying focused on the shared sense of purpose that comes from knowing you’re constantly on the “same team” is a big part of it.