Five Ways to Improve Your Relationship

When you’ve been dating someone for a while, you know that relationships are not effortless. See, the honeymoon phase is actually real. When you start a new relationship, you’re intrigued by each other. Life is easy. You both try hard to look and smell good all the time, and you’re out doing fun things. Multiple this by two if you’re still in college and are always surrounded by parties, friends, and inexpensive drinks. But when you’ve been dating someone for a long time, you realize that relationships take a lot of work.

Chris and I have been dating for almost four years, and I will admit that the past few months have not always been smooth sailing. His job is stressful, and I was going through the process of looking for a new job in a different field. Once I got that new job, I had to adjust to a different routine as I worked from home. We’re currently living in a city that’s not exactly overflowing with opportunities for young people, which means that we don’t have the most exciting social calendar. Also, we’re both looking to get to a bigger city. So combine boredom, stress, and uncertainty, and I think it’s safe to say that struggle was basically to be expected. But one of the things that I feel most proud of is how hard we’ve worked to improve the relationship and work through difficult periods.

Read any magazine and you’ll come across articles about rising divorce rates. A celebrity marriage that lasts more than five years is basically unheard of. These things are not exactly encouraging. But after spending a long time with someone, I’ve realized that there are a few basic things that can help improve any relationship. The following list combines my own thoughts with some points from a great article called “16 Ways I Blew My Marriage”.

1.) Effort still counts: Okay, maybe you no longer need to wake up before your new boyfriend so you can brush your hair and teeth so you’re fresh as a daisy when he sees you for the first time in the morning, but make no mistake about it: effort is still appreciated. Lounging in sweatpants at night is okay sometimes, but you need at least one night per week where you get dressed up, try out that new hairstyle, and really impress him. This effort makes you feel good and it shows him you want to keep the spark alive. He should do the same for you, too. You want to remind each other what initially made you fall in love.

2.) Date nights are priceless: No matter how busy/tired/stressed out you are, you MUST make time for date nights. You don’t have to spend a lot of money, just do something that lets you spend time together and relax.

3.) Don’t do the same date night over and over: Chris and I have always placed a high value on date nights, but I soon realized they were getting rather unexciting. When this happens, it’s time to switch it up. If you went to a movie last week, go to dinner or a wine bar this week. Chris and I have a whiteboard on our fridge where we keep a list of date night ideas. That way, if we’re at a loss, we can just go take a look at the list and do something we’ve been meaning to try.

4.) Sitting at home doesn’t count: Part of the effectiveness of date night is the fact that you’re getting out amongst other humans. It’s great that you’re spending time together, but if you’re doing this at home in front of a movie every time, then the date night isn’t quite as effective. Date nights are much more fun when you’re out experiencing things. Comment on the food in a restaurant, look at that guy’s mullet, laugh at that obnoxious bumper sticker, just enjoy your surroundings together.

5.) Make everything a date: I’m not saying you always have to be dressed up and ready to party, but I think you should always enjoy spending time together. My boyfriend HATES the grocery store. Loathes it. I don’t know why, but he does. But last night I forced him to make a pit stop at our local store to pick up a few things. He wasn’t pleased, but it was a little more bearable because we were there later at night when it was less crowded. We were roaming the aisles alone, taking note of the random products that we couldn’t imagine anyone buying. He remarked that he actually had fun. Spontaneous date. Another example: We were at a wedding where we didn’t know many people, but we had fun socializing with the handful of people I knew from high school. We also enjoyed playing in the photobooth (how can you resist a photobooth?) and walking around the area where the reception was held. A date night doesn’t just have to be you two alone at a fancy restaurant. Any experience can be made into a date, as long as you’re having fun together.

Are there any tips I’m missing when it comes to keeping a relationship healthy? When do you think relationships move from the “honeymoon phase” to serious, stable relationship mode?

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