Maintaining a healthy, long-term relationship takes quite a bit of work. Contrary to popular belief, the process of getting to know one another and dating doesn’t end as the years progress. It takes work to maintain a connected relationship. In fact, the longer a relationship lasts, the more important it becomes to put work into staying connected. As the exhilaration of a new relationship wears off and routine sets in, extra effort is required. Here are a few ideas to help you foster that connection in relationships:

Listen actively

Make sure you are really paying attention to what your partner is trying to tell you. Even if you have no interest in fantasy football stats or spring hairdo woes, actively listening will make your partner feel like you care. If you listen and engage, your partner knows he or she is important to you.

Break down barriers

You will learn new things about your partner for the duration of your relationship. Childhood memories will arise, traumas will unfold, and a shoulder to lean on will be needed. The key to being available for these situations is to stay vulnerable. To stay connected, make sure your partner knows it’s okay to show vulnerability. Continue to break down the barriers between you and your partner, and you will have a steadfast connection.

Set aside your to-do list

The list can wait. We are often so busy that we forget about the person that’s been supporting us all along. Drop your agenda or, better yet, put your relationship at the top of your agenda and leave it there. Set aside time for your partner, and keep your relationship a priority.

Show affection

At home, in public, or wherever. Physical affection is one of the easiest ways to stay connected, and it doesn’t have to be over the top. Hold hands on your stroll from the grocery store to the car. Give his shoulders a gentle squeeze while he makes dinner. Simple gestures like these go a long way.

Check in with each other

Sometimes we are so busy that we inadvertently neglect our relationships. It’s important to check in with each other every so often. Ask your partner what he or she needs from you. Does she need your support? Does he need you to spend some more time with him? Sometimes, you don’t know until you ask.

Date each other

Set up weekly dates, just like you did in the beginning. Go to the restaurant where you had your first date and sit at the same table. Recreate some of your favorite dates, or explore new places together. When you set up dates with each other, you have the chance to back away from the day-to-day grind and really spend time connecting with each other.

Consider his or her feelings

Sometimes we make decisions without considering how it will affect our partners. You might say yes to a night out with friends before asking if she wants to make plans together. Sometimes you might decide to make a large purchase without first consulting with your partner. No, you don’t need to ask your partner for permission for your every move, but do consider him when making decisions that could affect him.

Be supportive of each other

Has your partner decided to eat healthy, or has he or she started a new job? Make sure he knows that he has your support. Maybe you don’t want to go on a clean-eating diet, but if your partner does, encourage him. Try not to tempt him with foods he shouldn’t eat, or diminish what he is doing for himself.

Practice acceptance

Acceptance is one of the keys to maintaining a connected relationship. We cannot change other people, and we cannot control them. If you have the ability to accept your significant other the way he or she is, you are bound for more happiness and less argument.

Stop having to have the last word

Speaking of arguments, it isn’t always necessary to have the last word. A fight can end as quickly as it begins if you choose to let go of being right. You can cultivate understanding and happiness in a relationship if you give up the need to have the last word, even if you think you’re right.

Featured photo credit: Holding Hands/Tim Parkinson via flickr.com

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