1. Communicate more.

A successful relationship is never going to happen between two people who don’t talk. And, as the saying goes, “communication is key.” So, spend time every day talking. It doesn’t have to be long, but make sure you’re really connecting. This means, no TV, no radio, and no internet–just talking. Knowing what is going on in your partner’s mind will help you know how to support him or her, and a more supportive relationship is a better one.

2. Focus on the positive.

At the beginning of a relationship, you only see the best side of your partner. Then, as your relationship goes on, you start seeing all the little annoying things he or she does. It’s like cracks start appearing in your once perfect significant other. The bad news is once the cracks appear, you can never forget them. You have to make an conscious effort to look past your partner’s imperfections. Stay focused on the positive parts of his or her personality and you will have a better relationship. How do you do this? Be grateful for him or her. Be grateful for what he or she does and who they are. Then, the little cracks will become what they started out as– little.

3. Show don’t tell.

About a year after I got married I learned the biggest secret of relationships. I was annoyed about how my spouse reacted. It kept getting to me, wearing on my nerves. Well, the next day I did the exact same thing. Then I realized the big secret: the things you’re most annoyed about are usually things you are doing yourself. Fix your own behavior and your partner will typically follow suit.

4. Ask what you could do better.

It’s always good to check up with your partner. Don’t guess about what you could do better – ask. It’s easy, and you might find out that doing something little for him or her will pay off tremendously. Also, you may get a hidden benefit: your partner might ask what he or she can do for you!

5. Listen.

It’s easy to talk about yourself, but that could make your partner feel insignificant. Make sure you shut your mouth enough to listen to what he or she has to say. Also, try and remember what they’ve said. Following up with him or her about something said, like an important project or something he or she was worried about can make them feel like you really care.

6. Embrace imperfection.

No one is perfect. You’re flawed and so is your significant other. Sometimes you’ll need to get over the little things your partner does that bother you. Does he forget to take out the trash? Does she always leave dirty dishes in the sink? Well, the easiest thing to do is to get over it. But, if you can’t get over it here’s a fun trick: consider doing a “nasty habit trade.” This is where you both get to pick something the other one does that you hate. Then you both decide to work on your bad habits at the same time. Neither of you will be defensive because you’re each tackling a bad habit. And, you will be more motivated to change because your partner will be working on his or her bad habit at the same time.

7. Have fun.

Sometimes relationships are hard. It can be a struggle to deal with family members, finances, kids, work and everything else. Carving out time to play, laugh and have a good time is crucial. It doesn’t have to be anything big. Last year for Christmas I made my husband the “12 Dates of Christmas.” I put 12 dates in envelopes for him to open each month this year. It’s been fun to open them up and plan something new.

Featured photo credit: Lover’s Quarrel/Alex De Carvelho via flickr.com

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