1. Check yourself before you project yourself. When you start feeling upset or resentful, stop to ask yourself what’s going on inside of yourself before taking it out on the other person. Seriously, 99% of the time your issue isn’t even with your partner; you’re just projecting something onto them. A little self-reflection goes a long way.
2. Schedule some alone time. Make sure both of you are getting a little time alone to relax and recharge: even 15 minutes can make a huge difference. Also, if you tend be really social as a couple, make sure to schedule alone time together (sounds like an oxymoron, but it’s not!) as well, where you can just focus on each other without extra people around.
3. Wait til after dinner to turn the TV on. For awhile Nick and I got in the habit of eating dinner while watching TV, and then we’d keep watching TV after dinner, and it was possible to go a whole evening without really talking to each other. Sad, right? Now we eat dinner at the table and talk BEFORE heading to the living room to zone out with “Parks and Rec.”
4. Shower together. If you’re both busy (and who isn’t?!), showering as a couple can give you extra time to connect without any distractions except some sexy soap lather.
5. Have all your important conversations face to face. Or on the phone if face-to-face is absolutely impossible. But never on IM or text or email. Communicating will be clearer, more respectful, and more positive if you do it in person. It also gives you the chance to touch or hold hands during intense moments, which can change the course of an entire interaction.
6. Never pass up the chance to cuddle. Physical affection is so, so important in any intimate relationship, and in this age of constant distractions, it sometimes takes a concerted effort to make sure it happens frequently and meaningfully. If your partner gives you a hug, take a second to lean into their chest and enjoy that moment. Go to bed 15 minutes earlier (or set your alarm 15 minutes earlier) to give yourselves time to cuddle before you fall asleep or when you first wake up. It’s the best way to start and end the day.
7. Don’t wait for special occasions like birthdays and Christmas to buy or make each other little gifts. If you see a little something that reminds you of your partner, get it for them. If you feel like making them a special dinner, do it. One of my favorite sayings is “Never resist a generous impulse,” and that is doubly true in romantic relationships. It creates a feeling of spontaneity and generosity that lasts all year long.
8. Switch up your routine. If you always lay in bed on Sunday morning, go jogging instead. If you always go to happy hour on Thursdays, stay in and make cocktails instead. Take turns planning surprise dates. Switching up your routine keeps you on your toes as a couple and helps prevent the worst enemy of romance: stagnancy.
9. Don’t ever put your partner down. This is so random, but I remember reading a Reba McEntire interview in a dentist office magazine many years ago and it kind of changed my life. She was explaining the demise of her first marriage and said something like, “We didn’t respect each other. If you don’t have respect, you have nothing.” Preach, Reba! This advice is so simple, and so true. Relationships often take on a negative tinge as people get comfortable with each other. Playful teasing can turn cruel. Cute habits become pet peeves. But it’s never too late to change the script: make a vow to never put your partner down–about the way they look, the way they live their lives, their little quirks, anything.
10. Spend a minute looking at each other before bed. At the end of yet another long, crazy day, it’s tempting to start snoring as soon as you hit the pillow, but try to take a moment to face each other and look into your partner’s eyes, really look. It’s amazing how much closer this little exercise can make you feel.