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Relationship Tips for Couples

Relationship Tips: In addition to effectively resolving relationship problems with the Relationship Repair Game, here are some of the top tips and advice to build and improve relationship quality and health.

Top 7 Relationship Tips
For Couples and Spouses

In addition to the relationship repair techniques in the game, below are some of the most effective tips on how to build trust and connection, and improve the overall quality of your relationship. For each of these techniques, if you both agree to try it, it is important for both people to take the initiative or take turns initiating, as the effort expresses love as much as the strategy.

1. Hugging Until Relaxed

Particularly effective within the first 15 minutes of seeing each other at the end of a busy day, this practice builds connection and safety while helping to inoculate each of you against the stresses of life. Gently and silently hug each other with eyes closed, while inhaling breath into the anxious and tight places and releasing emotional and bodily tension during the exhale. Continue doing this until both of you are relaxed and present, which may take anywhere from 30 seconds to 10 minutes, depending on the degree of stress in your life and body. 

2. Commit . . . to Date Night

Many people feel awkward about having a regularly scheduled time to have fun and enjoy each other's company, believing that should happen naturally. However, the fullness of work, parenting or life often takes over, and it doesn't naturally happen. Scheduling a regular weekly or bi-weekly "date night" (kid-free) expresses and demonstrates this relationship is a priority. It is all the more important when there is a lot of processing of relationship problems: If you do not share play, fun and enjoyment of each other, it is difficult to maintain the enthusiasm for "working on the relationship." While date night can be brief (at least 90 minutes), it is essential that you protect the time with a focus on enjoying each other, holding any complaints and criticisms separate for a different time, as described in Relationship Tip #3 below.

3. Perform a Routine Clearing

When there are occasional arguments, verbal jabs, whining / complaining or demanding in a relationship, then each person is likely to be existing on eggshells, living on the edge of nervous system reactivity and rarely relaxing fully into trusting they are safe and accepted. To relieve this anxiety, schedule a regular weekly time for clearing any relationship problems and gripes. For example, each person would have up to 20 minutes on a Wednesday evening to express their frustrations and upsets, while the other person uses empathic listening or other non-defensive active listening techniques aimed purely at understanding and expressing care. Throughout the week, each person agrees to not make provocative comments, jabs or gripes at other times, but rather saves it for the scheduled clearing time.

4. Exchange Caring Requests

On a scheduled day each week, (Sunday evening is ideal), take turns asking each other the following question: "What can I do this next week to help you feel more loved, supported, or cared for?" The person asked will offer at least three different specific and doable requests, and the person asking will choose one of them to clarify (if needed), agree to, and commit to making happen. This practice has many potent relationship skills embedded in it.

5. Learn their Love Language, and Speak it

Author Gary Chapman identified 5 primary ways people most easily express and receive love: words of affirmation/appreciation (including leaving little notes), spending quality time connecting with each other, relevant gifts (sometimes the small ones are the sweetest for conveying you're thinking of the other), acts of service (doing and errand, the laundry, etc.), and physical touch and affection. Ask and notice what languages speak most to your partner, and focus your efforts of demonstrating love there, where it will have the biggest impact.

6. Go Deeper Daily

Even in substantially satisfying relationships where we respect and love our partner, we fall prey to thinking of our partner in particular, stagnant ways and forget to bring our curiosity to the table. To counteract, develop a practice of curiously inquiring one level deeper amidst speaking to each other about daily life concerns. Some helpful prompts are: "What does that mean to you?" "How does that affect you?" "Where do you guess that habit or belief came from?" "Does that remind you of something?" "How does that express a core value of yours?" "How do you wish that could be, if you could have it anyway you wanted?"

7. Less words, more touch

By increasing the number of brief, loving touches, you can share love in a way that can circumvent the busy mind and be received more directly by the body and heart. A silent, one-to-five second shoulder squeeze, cheek kiss, gentle butt pat, etc. is complete and non-questionable act in itself, which can quickly convey love, affection, and even understanding/compassion during stress. Aim for five quick touches per day.

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