Most relationship tips offer Band-Aid solutions that assume your relationship is as healthy an environment for you both as it possibly could be, and all you need is a little relief from boredom. Buy some lingerie, shop for a sex toy, fly to Paris, buy flowers, go out to dinner, or try acting out a fantasy are the advice we often hear again and again.
These are great ideas for how cashed-up couples with healthy, equal relationships can spend their time, but they won’t fix a rocky relationship or create a framework for maintaining the spice and vigor for your romance in the long term.
This article proposes 21 radical ways in which to improve yourself as a partner, and radically rethink the assumptions and subconscious behaviors you’re bringing to the table. Read on to find some surprising ways to fall in love – all over again.
If you want to try to rekindle your relationship, then you have to honest, both with yourself and others. It is important to be as honest and respectful as you can with your partner, and with yourself.
Especially when it seems difficult, or if you are afraid that honesty will hurt them. If you hide feelings and concerns from them, you’ll end up in a situation where you can hurt you both much more than it might have if you’d faced it honestly when it first arose.
If you are honest with yourself and your partner, s/he will respect your integrity and be more motivated to try to work on the situation.
It’s up to you what you want. However, it’s important that you maintain honesty and decency to have a healthy relationship. Don’t disregard feelings that seem inconvenient: listen to your inner voice. On a practical level, remaining honest in a relationship means undertaking the most agonizingly difficult act of all: communicating.
2. Don’t Make Assumptions
Don Miguel Ruiz said,“If others tell us something, we make assumptions. If they don’t tell us something, we make assumptions to fulfill our need to know and to replace our need to communicate. Even if we hear something and we don’t understand it, we make assumptions about what it means and then believe the assumptions. We make all sorts of assumptions because we don’t have the courage to ask questions.”
Find the courage to ask questions. Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness and drama. Ask questions with kindness and concern, not with anger or frustration.
3. Practice Active Listening
How often do you listen closely to your partner when they’re talking to you? You might be thinking about how you’re going to respond, or be off on a tangent inside your head. Perhaps you have difficulty paying attention because you’re distracted, or you just want to get to the point.
Your partner will know when you are listening to them, and it sends a clear message that you value what they have to say. It shows respect, appreciation, and caring, and these can go a long way toward healing, and bringing more harmony into your relationships.
Make eye contact while your partner is talking to you. Resist the temptation to daydream, and try to follow them without judgement or without planning a response of your own. If your mind wanders off, it is perfectly all right to tell the other person that you missed something they said, and to ask them to please repeat it.
This shows sincere interest, and that you are trying to pay attention and understand them. You’ll be amazed at how well active listening works to reconnect you.
4. Practice Non-Violent Communication and Mindful Speech
Non-violent communication hinges on a choice to use “I” and “me” sentences in place of “you” sentences. Instead of saying “you are just doing this to hurt me,” You could try saying, “I feel hurt when you do this, and honestly I can’t understand your motivations.”
This sort of language prevents discussions from escalating by putting each other on the defensive unnecessarily.
The second part of mindful speech is to resist the temptation to react to your partner’s words or actions without considering what you are about to say and what is compelling you to say it that way. Pause and choose your words for the ultimate effect you want to create.
Use words that are more loving, compassionate and respectful. Try to keep your tone calm and non-threatening. Keep in mind that you don’t always need to voice your opinion. Silence can sometimes be better than a response, even a considered one.
5. Stop Regarding Sex and Intimacy as the Same Thing
The act of lovemaking and intimacy are not the same thing, although they work well together. You can have one without the other, and while most relationships include both, it’s a shame to use the former as a substitute for the latter.
It can seem easier to initiate sex than, say, massage as a way of feeling close to your partner, especially if communication is stilted or emotions are a little confused. Different people need different amounts and types of intimacy, and for each individual this changes over time, as well.
If you want to try spicing up your sex life, excellent. Sex is awesome, but intense intimacy will get you way further than buying some new lingerie, trying a new position, or buying a sex toy.
Begin by exploring some creative ways to create intimacy. Dancing together, washing each other’s feet, playing a communication game, exchanging a massage, trying out a Tantric workshop or learning contact yoga together.
It’s a useful skill to know the difference between how intimacy recharges you as an individual and how sex recharges you as an individual. It’s great to be with a partner who knows how that difference works for them, and is aware of which they need more of at any given time.
If you’re both aware of the differences, you can be way more responsive to each other’s needs, and way more comfortable in expressing your desire for either or both.
6. Be Intentional
Most people in long term relationships, especially monogamous relationships, live together. This is the norm for a range of economic and cultural reasons, and has a lot of benefits outside of those angles of reasoning, as well.
You get to wake up to someone gorgeous all the time. You get to take turns when looking after the dog or the kids. You get to eat dinner together without the fuss of planning a date in advance. You get to watch TV or take walks together.
A drawback of all this unintentional time spent together is that it’s unintentional. You blur the lines between hanging out with your partner because they’re your absolute favorite way to spend a Tuesday night and because, well, it’s a Tuesday night, and this is your home, where else would you be?
An unfortunate spin-off of the monogamy fairy-tale is the idea that once you’re in love, that’s it: you obviously want to spend all your spare time with them from now until infinity. But you don’t feel that way about your best friend or all your favorite family members combined, so why should this be true of your romantic partners?
Once you can take time to be by yourself or with other people without it seeming like a desire to be away from your primary partner, you’ll be amazed at how much more you enjoy the time that you do actively choose to spend with them.
If your relationship is feeling stale on any given day, ask yourself if you would actively choose to ride your bike or take a bus ride to be here with them right now, and if the answer is no, then take off, until you’ve both got something more interesting to offer each other than lukewarm ambivalence.
7. Go Out and Be Your Own Person
This will help to get you a handle on who you are other than in relation to your partner. Bring back new tastes and passions and stories, which will improve how attractive you are to each other. This will give you time to miss each other, too, which isn’t a bad thing.
8. Don’t Try to Force Your Relationship Into a Mold
Most people in an established monogamous relationship have decided what sort of relationship they want. You and your partner use labels like boyfriend, girlfriend, husband or wife without being fully aware that you’re using one word to carry a whole world of expectations you each have on the other.
Some of these expectations might have been voiced, but they’re often not. For instance, sexual exclusivity is usually assumed, but is that the extent of being someone’s girlfriend, boyfriend, husband or wife? No? Then what does it mean to you, exactly?
Are you sure that your partner has the same boundaries and priorities? People are complex, and each has their own ideals and desires within a relationship.
Allow your relationship to be what it is, and steer itself in the direction it wants to go in. It’s perfectly ok if people’s needs and boundaries change as long as there is constant communication.
Having a looser expectation from societal shortcuts like ‘girl-friend’ to adequately sum up your relationship will make it easier to respect the joy and strength of that relationship for what it is.
Don’t expect your partner to fulfill every single need you have, and take that same burden off of yourself. It might seem romantic that they need you for everything, but it’s just co-dependent.
9. Don’t Value Fairness or Sacrifice
Compromise and sacrifice are often touted as virtues in conventional monogamous relationships, especially if your parents or grandparents are talking. In reality, sacrifice and compromise bring everyone down toward the lowest common denominator.
Perhaps your partner didn’t go for a job they wanted because they assumed you wouldn’t want to move cities, and you sacrificed a student exchange offer for a similar reason. You get sucked into the idea that going without something you want is an oblique way of doing your partner a favor, but this is rarely true in the long run.
A twisted version of fairness often works the same way: “I volunteered to go to your stupid family gathering, so now you have to come and suffer through mine.” Fairness needs to be the best possible outcome for everyone involved.
It is important to allow for the fact that the best possible outcome will be better or worse some days. Each person in the relationship can only do the best they can at the time.
A relationship should serve the needs of all the people in that relationship. If your partner truly cares about you, they won’t be happy if they know that you are sacrificing your own happiness.
10. Don’t Confuse Care and Concern with Jealousy
The spontaneous love and affection that sparks off monogamous relationships can sometimes end up smothered by possessiveness and misguided jealousy. A common mistake is to perceive possessiveness as affection or concern, or jealousy as lustful passion.
The jury is out on whether jealousy is ever valid in a relationship, but with a little painful investigation you’ll probably find that most jealousy is insecurity in disguise.
If you’re focusing on the fact that your partner is spending Friday night with someone else, for example, is the other friend the issue, or is the real issue that you miss having your partner around for that night, or that you wish they’d take you out sometimes, and if they did that more often you wouldn’t feel sad if they also went out with other friends.
11. Ask For What You Need
This will seem obvious once you read it, but if you don’t ask for what you want, you can’t expect to get it. If you have a need that you don’t feel your partner is meeting, tell them. Don’t assume they know or that it would be better or more romantic if they just knew without having to be asked. Don’t hope that your partner will infer your needs.
Of course, your partner may not be willing or able to meet that need, whether it’s something like not being the one to cook dinner every single night, or something like honesty in a relationship. But if you don’t communicate to them that you have that need and you hope they can fulfill it, then they certainly have even less of a chance at succeeding.
12. Don’t Let Problems Coagulate
Even if you think it will probably just go away, talk about it out loud. You can say, “I just wanted to tell you I’ve been thinking about last night, and I feel a bit sad and confused about it, but I honestly think that this being a problem will probably resolve.” Make it clear that you don’t need a response or a decision from them, or even reassurance about that particular issue.
But allowing yourself to say it out loud and having a level of assurance from your partner that they are willing to hear you out without getting defensive or acting like you’re asking them to solve your feelings for you.
It pays off if you can gently get into the habit of saying, “I’m not sure I’m comfortable or happy about that right now and I just need you to recognize that. Maybe check in with me after a week or a month on how I’m feeling about it.”
You will see that it doesn’t always escalate and, in fact, talking about it early often sheds unexpected light on the situation, allowing it to resolve faster.
13. Strive to Be Flexible
Don’t assume you have all the right answers, or that changing your options a little is the same thing as letting someone dictate to you. If you approach your teetering relationship with an angry list of demands, you’re likely to see a 90 percent improvement as a 10 percent failure. Be open to all the options in every situation.
14. Take Responsibility in Your Relationship
Your actions have consequences, even if they were different to what you intended. Your life will be shaped by the decisions you make from now on. If your relationship feels listless, perhaps you or your partner feels disempowered.
This lack of power or control may not necessarily be about the relationship, but about something in their lives. A feeling of victimization saves you from having to take responsibility for your actions, but it seriously reduces your capability taking control of your own life.
Taking greater responsibility for the consequences of your actions can be hard work, but the pay-off is that it inspires you and lets you shape your life to be what you want while still being responsible and compassionate to the people near you.
15. Don’t Take Anything Personally
Ok, this is Don Miguel Ruiz’s Second Agreement. Whatever happens around you, avoid taking everything personally. The things other people do is never because of you, but only because of their own personal decision.
Everyone is in their own separate version of reality; you receive new stimuli and interpret it according to a web of ideas and emotions and assumptions based on your childhood, your education, your first relationship, what you were thinking about while you were eating breakfast today, and whether you had a good or terrible day at work.
This set of mediation is what Robert Anton Wilson called your reality tunnel. When other people are frustrated with you or mean to you, it is almost always because of stuff they’re dealing with that has to do with them, not with you. Once you begin to accept this, you’ll find it much easier not to feel upset or threatened by the words and actions of people around you.
16. Explore Mindful Consent
Consent is sexy: don’t you doubt it. Consent should be explicit, not implicit, and you’re infinitely better off checking in too much, or talking about what you want too much, than too little. Experts don’t recommend this style of consent because it’s politically correct, but because it’s way better at producing sexual intimacy where everyone feels as comfortable and sexy and fulfilled as possible.
The first lesson of improved consent in a relationship is this: instead of asking your partner a yes or no question, ask them an open-ended question. If you ask ‘is this ok?’ or much worse ‘should I stop?’ they have to say yes or no.
The worst case scenario is they don’t want to keep going, but they’re afraid to negate you. What commonly happens is that what you’re offering is about a five out of a 10 on the scale of what would excite them, and neither of you have any idea what that is, because you’ve inadvertently trapped them into saying yes or no to this one option.
Try to use questions like, “How would you feel about me doing this to you right now,” or “How excited would this make you?” A no is still a no, but suddenly all the responses that were previously funneled into a yes have blossomed into a scale that goes all the way from “not now,” right up to “Oh my goodness, how did you know?”
17. Start Working Out, If You Don’t Already
Studies have shown that women who exercise regularly have more orgasms. Try a distance exercise like cycling more than 20km a day a few days a week, and push yourself until you get your heart rate up and release endorphins. You’ll feel stronger and more capable, have more stamina during sex, and be more aware of your body, what it wants, and what it can do.
18. Don’t Protect, Support
Most monogamous couples try to shield one another from emotional challenges in life. Without knowing it, you might be making decisions for them and encouraging them to take a more comfortable path in life, or assuming their present and future choices will be based on the version of them that you met a long time ago.
No one is static, and mildly co-dependency can be as subtle as a confirmation bias that keeps you each going through the motions when your inner natures and desires may have altered or outgrown your earlier selves.
There’s a golden rule in improvisational, or improve comedy that you never say “no.” You should always say “Yes,” and if you’re partner expresses interest in something, don’t confirm their insecurities about it. Be excited for them and offer support. At the least just kick back and see where it goes.
19. Go on Dates
For a night or a week or a month, go somewhere fun or exciting or romantic or challenging with you partner and pretend, even if just to yourself, that you can’t take it for granted that they will choose to go home with you tonight.
20. Corporations Are Not People, and Neither Are Relationships
Your relationship doesn’t have rights, including the right to exist. You don’t owe this relationship anything. If your relationship has ceased to be a natural thing between you that facilitates love and affection and brings out the best in you, then it doesn’t get to exist for its own sake.
Consider these suggestions here because they’ll make you a better communicator, and they’ll make you better at knowing what you want and what makes you happy, and that in turn will almost certainly make you better at relationships and facilitating happiness in others.
If after taking these steps you find you and your partner are more excited by each other, then that is wonderful. If you find that your happiness lies increasingly outside of the relationship in question, or if your partner isn’t willing to grow with you, let it go.