Are you sick and tired of generic relationship-advice articles that recycle the same old tips and tricks over again? Chances are if you are googling “how to improve a relationship,” you have probably already tried instituting a regular date night, showing your partner gratitude for the little things that he or she does to keep the household humming, and suggesting that you “spice things up in the bedroom” by trying a new sex toy or position.
Ready for some keepin’-it-real relationship talk? A couple of truly helpful ideas? An honest look at the most common issues causing couples to drift apart? If so, keep reading.
Have the Hard Conversations
You’re tired, it was a long day, and both of you would rather zone out to a true-crime show or a situation comedy than talk about — well, anything, let alone the tough stuff. But it’s crucial that you shut off the television and have those hard conversations anyway.
That doesn’t mean that every night you have to rehash why your teenager is so sullen or how you’re going to make the mortgage payment this month, and the next, and the next. Nor is it necessary to micromanage every single little problem that comes along. Sometimes, it’s OK for each of you to just handle issues solo, especially after you’ve been together for a while.
Set aside time each week or so — roll it into a lunch or coffee date if that makes it more palatable — to discuss any serious issues that are on the radar. Do your best to take some action on each one, even if that action is sleeping on it or shelving it until the next chat. That will help you feel like you’re ticking items off your list.
Don’t Be Afraid to Shake Things Up
Nope, this isn’t a foreplay technique or suggestion to try sexting. We’re talking about the whole kit and kaboodle, the way your entire lives are structured.
“Far too many couples see marriage as black-and-white,” explains Hand Law domestic violence lawyer Matthew Hand. “If they’re not blissfully in love, then divorce must be right around the corner. Or conversely, if they don’t come to blows every weekend, then they must be doing OK.”
Truth is, there are a million different ways to make a marriage. If you aren’t happy as a couple, figure out how to get there without simply throwing in the towel and spitting up.
It might mean some radical shifts: sleeping in separate rooms, for instance, or even living apart during a few months each year. Changing careers, starting a new business together, taking early retirement to stay at home with the kids while the other goes back to school.
Just because you’ve led a conventional life with a traditional relationship so far doesn’t mean you have to stick to the same straight and narrow path forevermore.
Get to Know Each Other All Over Again
What? Get to know each other? After mumbledy-mumble years of marriage, you probably know way too much about one another — especially when it comes to bodily functions and bathroom habits! Not to mention the fact that you have heard his stories a thousand times or that he regularly finishes your jokes with a roll of his eyes.
Of course, that’s not what is meant here. Think about it for a minute. Are you the same person as you were at age 21, or 28, or 34? Neither is he. And between raising children, developing your careers, and the daily to-do list, you probably haven’t kept up the habit of getting to know each other in the intervening years.
Go deeper than just asking how each other’s day was, or what to do for your next date night. There are loads of interesting prompts on the internet, or initiate your own intimate conversation. The point is to be honest, vulnerable, and open to learning new things about one another.
You might learn a few things about yourself, as well!