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10 Keys to a Successful Romantic Relationship

10 Keys to a Successful Romantic Relationship

In romantic relationships, as with so much else, it’s the little things that count. Just as a mis-spoken word or odd look can throw a couple into a weeks-long feud, small and seemingly insignificant gestures can help keep a relationship on track. A little gift, an off-hand compliment, a moment of physical contact can vastly strengthen a relationship.

According to psychologists Nathaniel Branden and Robert Sternberg, who have both researched and written about the challenges of romantic relationships, these little displays of interest and affection can be more important than all the “active listening” and trust games in the world. Their research has suggested 10 keys to keeping both partners content, satisfied, and happy with each other.

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1. Tell your partner you love them.

Although it’s true that actions speak louder than words, words often speak more clearly than actions. Take a moment every now and then to verbalize your feelings for your partner. A simple “I love you” or “You mean the world to me” can go a long way towards making your significant other feel wanted, cared for, and secure in your relationship.

2. Show some affection.

Small acts of physical intimacy – the hand on the small of the back as you brush by in the hallway, your arm around their shoulder on the sofa, your hand on their thigh when seated side-by-side, holding hands while walking down the street – give your partner a warm feeling and convey the love and affection you feel for them. The littlest touch can be as important, or even more important, than the longest night of sexual intimacy.

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3. Show appreciation for your partner.

Let your partner know on a regular basis what it is that you like most about them – what you admire, what makes you proud, what their strengths are in your eyes. Building a romantic relationship isn’t jsut about the initial bonding – it’s about encouraging and supporting each other’s growth over the course of your lives. Help your partner achieve his or her potential by constantly building them up.

4. Share yourself.

Don’t keep your likes and dislikes, dreams and fears, achievements and mistakes, or anything else to yourself. If it’s important to you, share it with your partner. More than that, be sure to share more with your partner than you do with anyone else. While there is certainly a need for some personal space in even the closest relationship, give as much of yourself and your time as you can bear to your partner.

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5. Be there for your partner.

It’s obvious what you need to do when your partner faces a major life challenge like the loss of a job or the death of a loved one. But it’s just as important to be supportive when your partner faces life’s little challenges, too – an argument at work, a rough commute, a misplaced check. Don’t let yourself be a doormat, and definitely don’t stand for physical or verbal abuse, but thicken your skin a little and be the voice of calm and reason when chaos strikes. Listen to what’s bothering them and offer whatever help – even if it’s just sympathy – you can.

6. Give gifts.

Take advantages of opportunities to give material tokens of your love. Just the right book picked up at the bookstore, a special dessert, a piece of jewelry or clothing you noticed at the store – anything small or large that tells them you were thinking of them. Leave a love note for them, or send them an SMS at work to “I love you” – again, the little reminder that they’re always on your mind will help your partner feel better about themselves and secure in your relationship.

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7. Respond gracefully to your partner’s demands and shortcomings.

A big killer of relationships is unreasonable expectations. Unless you married a robot, your partner comes pre-loaded with a whole range of human failures and foibles. These are features, not bugs! Learn to recognize and appreciate your partner’s quirks for what they are: an essential part of who they are as people. Since our weaknesses are often at the core of our deepest insecurities, make sure you don’t pick on or otherwise go out of your way to highlight your partner’s flaws.

8. Make “alone time” a priority.

No matter how busy both of your lives are, make sure you commit at least an evening every week or two to be alone together. Have new experiences, share your stories, and just generally enjoy each other’s company.

9. Take nothing for granted.

Cultivate a daily sense of gratitude for your partner and the thousands of little blessings he or she has brought into your life. Remember that, if you’re happy in your relationship, your partner is doing a thousand little things for you every day to make your relationship work (as, hopefully, you are for them). Never take that for granted – a relationship is work of the highest order, and the second you stop it starts to slide away.

10. Strive for equality.

Make sure you follow the Golden Rule in your relationship: do unto your partner as you would have done unto you. Strive for a fair division of household duties and other tasks, and don’t expect or demand special considerations you’d be unwilling to offer in return.

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The Gentle Art of Saying No

The Gentle Art of Saying No

No!

It’s a simple fact that you can never be productive if you take on too many commitments — you simply spread yourself too thin and will not be able to get anything done, at least not well or on time.

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But requests for your time are coming in all the time — through phone, email, IM or in person. To stay productive, and minimize stress, you have to learn the Gentle Art of Saying No — an art that many people have problems with.

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What’s so hard about saying no? Well, to start with, it can hurt, anger or disappoint the person you’re saying “no” to, and that’s not usually a fun task. Second, if you hope to work with that person in the future, you’ll want to continue to have a good relationship with that person, and saying “no” in the wrong way can jeopardize that.

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But it doesn’t have to be difficult or hard on your relationship. Here are the Top 10 tips for learning the Gentle Art of Saying No:

  1. Value your time. Know your commitments, and how valuable your precious time is. Then, when someone asks you to dedicate some of your time to a new commitment, you’ll know that you simply cannot do it. And tell them that: “I just can’t right now … my plate is overloaded as it is.”
  2. Know your priorities. Even if you do have some extra time (which for many of us is rare), is this new commitment really the way you want to spend that time? For myself, I know that more commitments means less time with my wife and kids, who are more important to me than anything.
  3. Practice saying no. Practice makes perfect. Saying “no” as often as you can is a great way to get better at it and more comfortable with saying the word. And sometimes, repeating the word is the only way to get a message through to extremely persistent people. When they keep insisting, just keep saying no. Eventually, they’ll get the message.
  4. Don’t apologize. A common way to start out is “I’m sorry but …” as people think that it sounds more polite. While politeness is important, apologizing just makes it sound weaker. You need to be firm, and unapologetic about guarding your time.
  5. Stop being nice. Again, it’s important to be polite, but being nice by saying yes all the time only hurts you. When you make it easy for people to grab your time (or money), they will continue to do it. But if you erect a wall, they will look for easier targets. Show them that your time is well guarded by being firm and turning down as many requests (that are not on your top priority list) as possible.
  6. Say no to your boss. Sometimes we feel that we have to say yes to our boss — they’re our boss, right? And if we say “no” then we look like we can’t handle the work — at least, that’s the common reasoning. But in fact, it’s the opposite — explain to your boss that by taking on too many commitments, you are weakening your productivity and jeopardizing your existing commitments. If your boss insists that you take on the project, go over your project or task list and ask him/her to re-prioritize, explaining that there’s only so much you can take on at one time.
  7. Pre-empting. It’s often much easier to pre-empt requests than to say “no” to them after the request has been made. If you know that requests are likely to be made, perhaps in a meeting, just say to everyone as soon as you come into the meeting, “Look guys, just to let you know, my week is booked full with some urgent projects and I won’t be able to take on any new requests.”
  8. Get back to you. Instead of providing an answer then and there, it’s often better to tell the person you’ll give their request some thought and get back to them. This will allow you to give it some consideration, and check your commitments and priorities. Then, if you can’t take on the request, simply tell them: “After giving this some thought, and checking my commitments, I won’t be able to accommodate the request at this time.” At least you gave it some consideration.
  9. Maybe later. If this is an option that you’d like to keep open, instead of just shutting the door on the person, it’s often better to just say, “This sounds like an interesting opportunity, but I just don’t have the time at the moment. Perhaps you could check back with me in [give a time frame].” Next time, when they check back with you, you might have some free time on your hands.
  10. It’s not you, it’s me. This classic dating rejection can work in other situations. Don’t be insincere about it, though. Often the person or project is a good one, but it’s just not right for you, at least not at this time. Simply say so — you can compliment the idea, the project, the person, the organization … but say that it’s not the right fit, or it’s not what you’re looking for at this time. Only say this if it’s true — people can sense insincerity.

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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