5 Communication Tips for Romantic Relationships

How do you keep romance alive? If there’s a special person in your life, you know how important good communication is to staying close and keeping the fires of passion burning. Good communication skills are essential, whether you’ve been together for two months or 32 years.

Psychologists stay that the intoxicating feeling of being in love lasts only about 18 months to three years at most; however, a study conducted by psychologist Bianca Acevedo and biological anthropologist Helen Fisher found that it’s possible to keep love alive in a long-term relationship. When the brains of a group of people in their fifties, who had been married an average of 21 years, were scanned after looking at a photo of their partner, they showed the same level of activity as young lovers who had been together for an average of seven months. There was one important difference, however: Among the older lovers, the brain regions associated with anxiety were no longer active; there was more activity in the areas associated with calmness.

Other studies have proven that a good relationship offers medical benefits of lower stress levels, reduced risk of Alzheimer’s, and even improves cancer survival rates.

While there’s no arguing the benefits of being in a happy relationship, how can you get — and stay — connected? Try these communication tips for romantic relationships and get closer to your loved one.

1. Be honest and share your feelings.

Good relationships are built on mutual trust and respect, and it’s essential for romantic partners to be honest with one another. As your relationship grows, open up and talk to your partner about your past, as well as your hopes and dreams for the future. Speak up, even if you have differing opinions about a topic — whether it’s who to vote for in the next election or where to vacation, you need to be able to talk controversial subjects through and respect each other’s perspectives.

Make time to talk every day, sharing the details of your daily life or talking about more meaningful issues. Some couples make it a point to enjoy a glass of wine in the evening to relax and talk about the day’s events, while others take a walk together or simply touch base on the phone if one partner is on the road.

Your sweetie wants to get to know all about what makes you tick. After all, if you don’t share your thoughts and interests, you may not be giving your partner a chance to love you enough!

2. Admire your partner’s strengths – and overlook the little things.

Every day, tell your partner how much you admire one of his strengths. Say, “I’m impressed by your patience with others,” or “You are such a good cook.” Everyone likes to feel appreciated, and sharing good thoughts will have a positive impact on your relationship and your partner’s self-esteem. Make sure the quality you highlight really is a strong point, however, or he might doubt your sincerity.

On the other hand, accepting the quirks about your partner that drive you nuts will also go a long way towards enhancing a romantic relationship, as long as it’s not a destructive behavior like driving too fast. Some traits that can be endearing when you first meet someone — like the way he or she wears a certain T-shirt every Saturday or constantly misplaces his or her keys — can be annoying when you’ve been together for a while. Be willing to overlook those pesky behaviors; after all, that’s what makes your sweetie unique.

3. Make thoughtful gestures.

Let your partner know you think of her even when she’s not around, and that you really care about the details of her life. Does your significant other have an important presentation to make to a new client? Send an encouraging “good luck” text message before the meeting, and remember to ask how things went at the end of the day. Is he or she worried about an ailing family member? Show your concern and empathy for what your other half’s going through.

You can also strengthen your relationship by taking time to get to know what makes your partner happy and show that you care with thoughtful little gifts and gestures. Pick up her favorite flowers occasionally; bring home his favorite snacks from the grocery store; or make a reservation at a favorite restaurant or a tee time for a round of golf. Thinking warm thoughts when you’re apart can easily turn into warmer thoughts when you’re together.

4. Learn to listen.

According to Elizabeth Bernstein, a relationships columnist for the Wall Street Journal, there are two categories of people: talkers and non-talkers. The world would be a wonderful place if talkers and non-talkers matched up, but even if they do, it’s not always an equation for romantic bliss. It seems that many non-talkers are also non-listeners: they simply tune out the chatter.

Are women always the talkers? Not necessarily, although there is evidence that men and women process language differently: Understanding, producing and listening to speech is easier for women because they have more nerve cells in the left half of the brain, where

Whether you’re the talker or the non-talker, learn to practice active listening. Look at the person who is speaking, respond occasionally with some verbal cue like “hmmm,” “uh-huh” or nod your head. Together, you should set aside some time to talk (and listen) every day, and ask each other questions to clarify thoughts and get more information. Most important, respect one another’s need to be able to talk or to spend more time in silence. If necessary, let the talker phone a friend while the non-talker reads a book or enjoys a hobby quietly.

5. Say “I love you” often.

Maybe Stevie Wonder knew the fastest way to a person’s heart when he wrote the lyrics “I just called to say ‘I love you.'” The most successful couples say “I love you” several times a day — and mean it.

It’s not easy to get those three little words out: Some people grew up in families where love wasn’t expressed verbally, and our technology-driven world of e-mail, mobile phones and texting makes it difficult to look into your partner’s eyes and tell them how you really feel. Plus, it’s very emotionally risky to tell someone you love them when you’re hoping they say it back. Yet, when you look into someone’s eyes and say “I love you” the brain releases oxytocin, the bonding hormone, and helps strengthen your romantic relationship.

Still having trouble saying it? Show you care in some small way, everyday — like making coffee in the morning, taking the dog out when it’s freezing cold, or massaging your partner’s shoulders after a tough day. Or find other words to express your feelings, like “I’m so happy you are part of my life.”

Whatever you do, make sure your partner knows just how important he or she is to you.

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8 Ways to Improve Your Relationship

You’ve heard the sayings: relationships aren’t easy and marriage is a work in progress. Many are quick to warn about the trials a romance can face once the honeymoon phase comes to an end. But with a little mindfulness, couples can use these tiny (scientifically proven) tricks to maintain—and even enhance—their bond.

1. Be Understanding and Compassionate.

Long day at the office? It’s not quite good enough to simply be your partner’s sounding board, according to research from the University of California Santa Barbara. Because feeling understood, validated, and cared for by someone else is thought to improve relationships and well-being, those who actually care that their partner is stressed provide more support.

2. Set Aside Time for Intimacy—at Least Once a Week.

Couples who do the deed at least once a week report the greatest relationship satisfaction, according to a recent study. The catch? Don’t force it. Even though couples who have sex less than once a week report being less satisfied with their relationship, the findings don’t clarify whether having more sex makes partners happier or if happier couples simply tend to have more sex.

3. Set Up Time to Reflect.

Marriage counselors increasingly suggest that formal check-ins could strengthen the bond between partners. Weekly meetings—one to talk about household responsibilities and another dedicated to more intimate issues—may help both partners feel more validated, respected, and comfortable.

4. Step Away From the Smartphone.

Why? Pphubbing (partner phone snubbing), a term used to describe distraction (keeping his/her cell phone within eyesight or in hand, glancing at his/her cell phone when carrying on a conversation, and checking notifications during a lull in the conversation) caused by a phone while in the company of a romantic partner, can have negative implications on a relationship. In fact, only 32 percent of respondents who were on the receiving end of pphubbing behaviors said they were very satisfied with their relationship.

5. Send a Spicy Text.

A racy text message every once in a while may be good for couples. Those in casual or committed relationships reported that sexting increased levels of sexual satisfaction, according to research from Drexel University.

6. Plan a Date Night.

This is classic advice—but for good reason. Husbands and wives were 3.5 and 3.6 times more likely, respectively, to report being “very happy” in their marriage when they spent “couple time,” like date night, according to a 2012 survey from the National Marriage Project.

7. Say Thank You—Often.

When your partner makes a grand gesture, gratitude is obviously in order. But what about the more mundane, like washing the dishes or paying the bills? According to a study from the University of Georgia, giving thanks is a key ingredient to improving marriage.

8. Buy Into Romantic Notions.

Go ahead and take a page out of your favorite romantic comedy. Couples who believe in love at first sight, soul mates, and the idea that love never fades were more likely to report greater relationship satisfaction and commitment, according a recent study.
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The 4 Most Common Relationship Problems—And How to Fix Them

Relationship problems. Everybody has them. And sometimes you have them over and over and over.

Most of the people giving advice don’t know the research. So where are the real answers?

I decided to call an expert: Dr. John Gottman.

You might remember him as the researcher in Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink who, after just a few minutes, could predict whether a couple would end up divorced.

John is a professor emeritus at the University of Washington and co-founder of the Gottman Institute. He’s published over 190 papers and authored more than 40 books, including Principia Amoris: The New Science of LoveThe Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, and The Relationship Cure: A 5 Step Guide to Strengthening Your Marriage, Family, and Friendships. He’s also a really cool guy. John’s gained powerful insights from studying couples that thrive (who he calls “Masters”) and couples that don’t (who he calls “Disasters”).

So what are you going to learn here?

  • The four things that doom relationships.
  • The three things that prevent those four things.
  • The most important part of any relationship conversation.
  • The single best predictor of whether a relationship is working. (It’s so easy you can do it yourself in two minutes.)

Want to be a Master and not a Disaster? Let’s get to it.

The Four Horsemen of the Relationship Apocalypse

#1: Criticism

This is when someone points to their partner and says their personality or character is the problem. Here’s John:

Criticism is staging the problem in a relationship as a character flaw in a partner. The Masters did the opposite: they point a finger at themselves and they really have a very gentle way of starting up the discussion, minimizing the problem and talking about what they feel and what they need.

Ladies, are you listening? Because criticism is something women do a lot more than men. (Don’t worry, we’ll get to how the guys screw up soon enough.)

#2: Defensiveness

This is responding to relationship issues by counterattacking or whining. Here’s John:

The second horseman was defensiveness which is a natural reaction to being criticized. It takes two forms: counterattacking or acting like an innocent victim and whining. Again, the Masters were very different even when their partner was critical. They accepted the criticism, or even took responsibility for part of the problem. They said, “Talk to me, I want to hear how you feel about this.”

#3: Contempt

It’s the No. 1 predictor of breakups. Contempt is acting like you’re a better person than they are. Here’s John:

Contempt is talking down to their partner. Being insulting or acting superior. Not only did it predict relationship breakup, but it predicted the number of infectious illnesses that the recipient of contempt would have in the next four years when we measured health.

#4: Stonewalling

It’s shutting down or tuning out. It passively tells your partner, “I don’t care.” And 85 percent of the time it’s guys who do this.

Okay, that’s what kills a relationship. Naturally, you want to know what stops those things from occurring, right?

3 Things That Make Horsemen Go Bye-Bye

From looking at the Masters, John saw what prevented the downward spiral of the 4 Horsemen:

#1: Know Thy Partner

John calls this building “love maps.” It’s really knowing your partner inside and out. It was one of the Masters’ most powerful secrets. Here’s John:

A love map is like a road map you make of your partner’s internal psychological world. The Masters were always asking questions about their partner and disclosing personal details about themselves.

Why is this so rare? It takes time. And the disasters didn’t spend that time. In fact, most couples don’t spend that much time.

John cited a study showing couples with kids talk to each other about 35 minutes per week.Yeah, 35 minutes.

And even most of that was just logistics—“When will you be there?”; “Don’t forget to pick up milk.”—not deep personal stuff like the Masters.

#2: Responding positively to “bids”

No, this has nothing to do with eBay. We all frequently make little bids for our partner’s attention.

You say something and you want them to respond. To engage. It can be as simple as saying, “Nice day, isn’t it?”

It’s almost like a video game: when the person responds positively (“turning towards a bid”) your relationship gets a point.

When they don’t respond, or respond negatively, the relationship loses a point… or five. Here’s John:

The couples who divorced six years later had turned toward bids only 33 percent of the time. The couples stayed married had turned toward bids 86 percent of the time. Huge difference.

Couples with high scores build relationship equity. They’re able to repair problems. They’re able to laugh and smile even when arguing. And that makes a big difference. Here’s John:

If you turn toward bids at a high rate, you get a sense of humor during conflict. Humor is very powerful because it reduces physiological arousal during arguments and that’s been replicated in several studies.

#3: Show admiration

Ever listen to someone madly in love talk about their partner? They sound downright delusional. They act like the other person is a superhero. A saint.

And research shows that is perfect. Masters see their partner as better than they really are. Disasters see their partners as worse than they really are.

Admiration is about the story you tell yourself about your partner. And that leads us to how to predict whether your relationship is working…

The Best Predictor of How Good a Relationship Is

You can do this yourself: have someone ask you about the history of your relationship. What kind of story do you tell?

When your partner describes your relationship to others, what kind of story do they tell?

Does the story minimize the negatives and celebrate the positives? Did it make the other person sound great?

Or did it dwell on what’s wrong? Did it talk about what that idiot did this week that’s utterly wrong?

This simple “story of us” predicts which relationships succeed and which fail. Here’s John:

Our best prediction of the future of a relationship came from a couple’s “story of us.” It’s an ever-changing final appraisal of the relationship and your partner’s character. Some people were really developing a “story of us” that was very negative in which they really described all the problems in the relationship. They really emphasize what was missing. Masters did just the opposite: they minimized the negative qualities that all of us have and they cherish their partner’s positive qualities. They nurture gratitude instead of resentment.

Is there a part of a relationship conversation that’s critical? Actually, there is.

The Most Important Part of a Relationship Conversation

It’s the beginning. Ninety-six percent of the time John can predict the outcome of a conversation within the first three minutes. Here’s John:

Negativity feeds on itself and makes the conversation stay negative. We also did seven years of research on how Masters repair that negativity. One of the most powerful things is to say “Hey, this isn’t all your fault, I know that part of this is me. Let’s talk about what’s me and what’s you.” Accepting responsibility is huge for repair.

How you start those serious relationship discussions doesn’t just predict how the conversation goes—it also predicts divorce after six years of marriage.

Via Principia Amoris: The New Science of Love:

“…it went on to predict with high accuracy their fate over a 6-year period of time. The predictions we made about couples’ futures held across seven separate studies, they held for heterosexual as well as same-sex couples, and they held throughout the life course.”

So you’re talking and you’re starting off positive and calm. Great. Now you should stop talking. Why?

When I asked John what the best thing to do to improve a relationship he said, “Learn how to be a good listener.”

The Masters know how to listen. When their partners have a problem, they drop everything and listen non-defensively with empathy. Here’s John:

In really bad relationships people are communicating, “Baby when you’re in pain, when you’re unhappy, when you hurt, I’m not going to be there for you. You deal with it on your own, find somebody else to talk to because I don’t like your negativity. I’m busy, I’m really involved with the kids, I’m really involved with my job.” Whereas the Masters have the model of, “When you’re unhappy, even if it’s with me, the world stops and I listen.”

And sometimes the best thing to do at the beginning of a relationship argument is to end it immediately. Why?

Sixty-nine percent of a couple’s problems are perpetual. They won’t be resolved.

Beating a dead horse, asking someone to fundamentally change who they are isn’t going to work—but it will make them angry. Here’s John:

In the studies that Bob Levenson and I did, we brought couples back into the lab every couple of years to find out what they are arguing about. And people resolved only about 31 percent of their disagreements. You can edit these videotapes together and it looked like the same conversation over and over for 22 years. Masters learn to accept what will not change and focus on the positive. They seem to say, “There’s a lot of good stuff here and I can ignore the annoying things.”

Okay, that’s a lot of great stuff. Let’s round it up and finish with the thing John said that impressed me the most.

Sum Up

So here’s what John had to say:

  1. The four things that kill relationships: Criticism, Defensiveness, Contempt and Stonewalling.
  2. The three things that prevent them: Know your partner, respond positively to “bids” and admire your partner.
  3. The best predictor of relationship success is how you and your partner tell your “story of us.”
  4. The beginning of the conversation is crucial. Negativity compounds. Keep a cool head and resist emotional inertia.

One last thing that really blew me away: what makes for happy relationships sounds a lot like what makes for happiness in general.

Research shows, happy people seek out the positive and are grateful for it. Unhappy people find the negative in everything.

There’s a very similar dynamic in relationships: Masters scan their relationship for good things, disasters are always noting the bad.

And not only that—the Masters’ way of looking at the world is actually more accurate. Here’s John:

People who have this negative habit of mind miss 50 percent of the positivity that outside objective observers see. So the positive habit of mind is actually more accurate. If you have a negative habit of mind, you actually distort toward the negative and you don’t see the positive. People with the positive habit of mind, it’s not that they don’t see the negative—they do, they see it—but they really emphasize the positive in terms of the impact on them. That’s the difference.

Choose to see the positive. It can cause a cascade:

  • It’s fuel for your good “story of us.”
  • You’ll probably start relationship conversations on a good note.
  • You’ll admire your partner.
  • And on and on…

Some of the same things that make you happy can improve your relationships—and vice versa. What’s better than that?

John and I talked for over an hour, so there’s a lot more to this.

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7 Tips to Strengthen Any Relationship

“Happy marriages are based on a deep friendship, mutual respect and enjoyment of each others company.” –John Gottman

I was taking my usual morning walk when I spotted an elderly couple sitting on a bench, holding hands and enjoying the beautiful bay view. That image of lifelong love and affection pulled at my heartstrings; it’s the kind of scene we strive to live out in our own relationships. But a happy marriage that lasts until the end doesn’t just happen by accident. It takes hard work and a strong commitment. How do you end up as the couple sitting on the bench together, instead of in divorce court?

Society Misrepresents Marriage

“The sound of your heart — it is the most significant sound in my world.” –Edward Cullen, Twilight

Society tells us we need love to be complete, but many people don’t quite know what real, healthy romantic relationships look like. When we compare our actual relationships to the ones we see projected in the media, it’s easy to feel like ours are falling short. Movies usually end just at the start of the characters’ romantic relationships. Well, of course: The beginning is the exciting part! What the movies don’t show is what happens during and after the couple’s fights, when all the making up is over. What happens when the children are waking you up at all hours of the night, dirty clothes are strewn all over the floor, and the pile of bills keeps getting bigger? Movies distort the image of a romantic relationship, setting an unattainable standard. They trick us into thinking you can change the “player,” turning him into a lifelong monogamous partner. These relationships are unrealistic, working the angle that true love conquers all, brings endless happiness, and involves zero conflict.

As people embrace this popular view of love, it’s becoming more common for couples to enter relationships based on a desire for happiness and personal fulfillment. When the initial romantic feelings fade, people think the love is gone. They become emotional subway stations, transferring from one relationship to the next. This can be problematic because it sets unrealistic expectations about sex, love, and relationship intimacy.

Gottman 101

Since 1973, Dr. John Gottman has studied what he calls the “masters and disasters” of marriage. Hundreds of individuals from the general public have taken part in his long-term studies, which he designs to determine what makes marriages fail, what makes them succeed, and what factors give them meaning. Based on his results, Gottman is able to predict with more than 90 percent accuracy which couples will make it and which won’t. Below are some of his top suggestions for how to keep your own relationship strong:

1. Seek help early.

The average couple waits six years before seeking help for marital problems — and keep in mind, half of all marriages that end do so within the first seven years. This means the average couple lives unhappily for far too long.

2. Edit yourself.

Couples that avoid saying every critical thought when discussing touchy topics are consistently the happiest.

3. Soften your “start-up.”

Arguments typically escalate when one partner makes a critical or contemptuous remark in a confrontational tone. Bring up problems gently and without blame.

4. Accept influence.

A marriage succeeds to the extent that the husband can accept influence from his wife. If a woman says, “Do you have to go out with your friends Friday night? My parents are coming that weekend, and I need your help getting ready,” and her husband replies, “My plans are set, and I’m not changing them,” this can create some shakiness in a marriage. Gottman emphasizes the husband’s ability to be influenced by his wife, because research shows that women are generally well practiced at accepting influence from men. A true partnership occurs when both husband and wife accept influence from one another.

5. Have high standards.

Happy couples have high standards for each other from the beginning. The most successful couples are those that, even as newlyweds, refuse to accept hurtful behavior from each other. The lower the level of tolerance for bad behavior at the beginning of a relationship, the happier the couple will be down the road.

6. Learn to repair and exit the argument.

Successful couples know how to exit an argument. After a fight, they repair by using attempts that include changing the topic to something completely different; using humor; saying a caring remark (“I get this is a hard topic to discuss”); establishing common ground (“This is our problem”); backing off (as Gottman puts it, “In marriage, as in the martial art Aikido, you have to yield to win”); and offering signs of appreciation for each other along the way (“I really want to thank you for…”). If an argument gets too heated, take a 20-minute break, and agree to approach the topic again when you’re both calm.

7. Focus on the bright side.

When discussing problems, successful couples make at least five times as many positive statements to and about each other and their relationship as negative ones. For example, “We have fun together,” instead of, “You never want to do anything.” A good marriage must have a rich climate of positivity. Make frequent deposits to your emotional bank accounts.

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Proof of Love: Couple’s Matching Bracelets

If you are looking for a way to show your love to your significant other without going too far, getting matching bracelets might be the choice for you. In fact, boyfriend and girlfriend bracelets are becoming increasingly popular with every passing day.

Couples can wear these bracelets every day just like rings, and use them as a reminder of their partner.

But, before you buy a pair of these bracelets, you should do a couple of things. Firstly, figure out your wrist size, and secondly, find the bracelets that both of you like. And the second bit is a bit more difficult. It includes figuring out the best materials, the best type, and lastly, the best design for you. So, let’s take a closer look at that part.

Materials

Since figuring out the wrist size is rather easy, let’s focus on the materials you want to use. You want to choose the ideal type of metal for you and your significant other.

Silver

Silver is an excellent choice for couples that want to have bracelets they would wear every day. You can use it for casual and formal events alike. You should get silver bracelets if you want lustrous bracelets for a reasonable price. And, when it comes to the best type of silver, you can do no wrong with sterling silver. Sterling silver is 92.5% pure, but, you should still focus on the 7.5 remaining percent. Namely, you should avoid sterling silver that has copper in it.

That is due to the fact that copper can tarnish silver after continuous use. And, since you probably plan to wear these every day for years, you don’t want any signs of tarnish.

Gold

If you have enough money to do so, always go with gold. After all, getting golden bracelets is a promise and a significant investment into a loving relationship. However, buying gold doesn’t automatically mean you will have to break the bank. You don’t actually have to buy the most expensive bracelet off the bat.

Instead of instantly springing for a 24 karat gold, you can go with the cheaper version. You can buy 9 or 12 karats of gold instead. And, if those are still out of your price range, you can go with gold plating.

Gold also allows you to combine different tones of gold into a beautiful bracelet. After all, featuring multiple colors of gold is already very popular for wedding bands.

Stainless Steel

If you want to go with an affordable, but a durable solution, you can’t go wrong with stainless steel. It is perfect for couples that like going for adventures. Stainless steel is also an excellent choice for people who have allergic reactions to gold or silver.

Bracelet Types

In the end, the final thing you have to figure out is which type of bracelets you wish to buy. Bear in mind that there are many different types:

Charm Bracelets – A charm bracelet is essentially a strong primary chain link you can attach charms on.

Bangles Bracelets – Full circular bracelets

Cuff Bracelets – Similar to bangle, but featuring a small disconnector opening making them easier to take off

Chain Bracelets – Classic bracelets that usually feature a plate you can engrave messages on. Most couples use those plates to engrave each other’s name.

 

 

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