7 Ways You Can Improve Your Relationship

Keep your relationship ticking with these easy, expert-approved tips.

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Whether you’re a newlywed or celebrating your 50th anniversary, a healthy relationship takes time and work (in a good way, of course!).

The most important thing you can do is learn to understand your partner, but little things like disconnecting from technology and reliving a past date can spice up your love life, too.

And while it’s easy to get wrapped up in your busy schedules, a few simple gestures can strengthen your bond and keep your romance alive. Here are eight ways to show your spouse you care.

Find out how relationships can affect your health (and longevity) from Dan Buettner's Blue Zones, or the areas in the world with the most people over age 100.

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Understand your partner’s love language

To better connect with your spouse, you must learn what love means to them. “Being able to understand how our partner feels love is a great first step in being able to maximize what you do in terms of connecting with your partner,” says Roger Hollingsworth, LCSW, of St. Mark’s Hospital in Salt Lake City, Utah. 

The 5 Love Languages, which helps couples figure out how they speak and understand love (words of affirmation, quality time, receiving gifts, acts of service or physical touch) is a concept he stands by. “If gifts are their love language, leaving a little gift might be most appropriate," says Hollingsworth. "If it’s acts of service, doing the dishes or making the bed would be.”

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Don’t swear off old-school love letters

When it comes to little things you can do to show love, old-fashioned romantic notes written with pen and paper can have special meaning, says therapist Mark Hutchinson, LCHMC, also of St. Mark’s Hospital. “Love notes show that you took the time and effort, and they can be a keepsake forever.”

Try writing “I love you” or “Have a good day” on a sticky note, and leaving it on the coffee pot every once and while. Or, if your spouse is traveling out of town, hide a heartfelt note in their suitcase.

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Plan something relaxing

No matter your spouse’s love language, it’s likely they’ll appreciate you spontaneously drawing a bath for them or giving them a massage while you’re watching TV, says Hutchinson.

If your spouse has had a stressful day—or even if they haven’t—set up candles and a warm bath, surprise them by preparing their favorite dinner, or book a Saturday spa day for them.

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Power down your smartphone

After a long day at work, you want to catch up on all the social media you missed. But studies show having a cell phone around when you’re talking to your spouse—whether you’re using it or not—can put a damper on a couple’s closeness, connection and conversation quality. There’s even a term called “Pphubbing,” or snubbing your partner by being on your cell phone. Research shows those who feel “Pphubbed” are less satisfied with their relationship.

While a work email may have to be answered every now and then, disconnect as much as you can when you’re with your partner. Watch TV together, discuss weekend plans or talk about three things that happened that day. Always avoid your phone during meals.

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Try reliving a past date

Spending time together is an excellent way to strengthen your relationship, and one of the best ways to do it is remembering the things that helped you get to know each other in the first place.

“Try those mutually desirable activities you enjoyed doing when you first met,” says Hollingsworth. "If you used to see plays or art shows, try planning a night out to do those things."

Setting hobby-centered goals together, like cooking or exercising more often, can also bring you closer.

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Make time for yourself—and encourage your spouse to do the same

How can taking time for yourself help your relationship? Hear us out.

“If our own needs aren't met, then you're always fighting to get your needs met,” says Hollingsworth. "Self-care and being healthy ourselves has to be the first priority so that we can give back."

Hutchinson adds that alone time helps you feel re-energized, as well as more grateful for your partner. He suggests taking a few minutes each day to exercise, enjoy your favorite hobby or just indulge in some peace and quiet.

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Never underestimate the power of couples counseling

Many couples don’t want to think about relationship counseling, but it’s a positive way to work through problems and develop a deeper connection with your partner. “Any time we have conflict that we can’t get through, having a third party who's objective can always be helpful in sorting it out,” says Hollingsworth.

He adds that even the smallest conflict can create the biggest trauma: “It’s amazing to me how couples will come in and when they see a third party being able to identify what’s happening, how quickly they can step back and re-evaluate.”

Be open to marriage or relationship counseling—if anything, it can be an hour out of your day to focus on each other.

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