7 Ways To Improve Your Relationship Today

Have you hit a rough patch in how happy you are with your partner lately? These expert-approved everyday tips can help both partners amp up the satisfaction level in your relationship.

By Laura Schaefer

o you've hit a little bit of a bump in the road on the route to happily ever after. Perhaps you've found Mr. or Ms. Right, but the spark has faded a smidge. Don't lose heart! Even the most romantic and perfect pairings in the history of the universe had their rough patches. All your relationship needs is a little help — and you're just the person to give
Try to respond positively when your partner reaches out to you.
it. "Many people mistakenly think that both people have to work on the relationship for it to improve," says Dr. Michelle Gannon, San Francisco psychologist and founder of "However, even if only one person changes... the dynamic in the relationship can change." With that in mind, here are seven small things you can do to improve your relationship today. What are you waiting for?

1. Be present.
It's hard to stay "in the moment" sometimes (especially with buzzing cell phones and the responsibilities of work always pulling us away from our partners), but we have to attempt to focus on the here and now as much as possible if we want healthy relationships. "Try to respond positively when your partner reaches out to you," says Dr. Gannon. "Ask questions, communicate understanding and say 'Yes' to each other as much as possible. Research has found that happy couples respond to each other's bids for attention 86 percent of the time, but unhappy couples only respond 30 percent of the time."

2. Set aside some time for just you two.
"Every couple should have some time during the week that is sacrosanct for them," says Irene S. Levine, Ph.D., psychologist and author of Best Friends Forever: Surviving a Breakup with your Best Friend, "whether it's a date night or a quiet dinner at home after the kids have gone to sleep."

3. Touch each other.
Melanie Greenberg, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist in California, says that when it comes to relationships, "more physical touching to show affection, such as a hug or a squeeze of the arm" makes everyone happier. Even though it's a simple thing, it's easy to forget that small gestures of affection really do add up. And what about those times when you can't be in physical touch with your partner? "Call the person during the work day just to say hello," suggests Dr. Greenberg. "Be patient and understanding. Everyone is overworked and grumpy these days."

4. Clean something.
"The main things couples fight about are money, sex, parenting, housework and in-laws," says Dr. Greenberg, so "do your share of the housework." It may seem like a small thing if you and your partner are arguing about bigger issues, but good feelings can spiral up out of small gestures. Clean dishes and folded laundry go a long way to making a happier home.

5. Talk about the minutiae of your daily routine; also, talk about sex.
"Make time for reconnection [at night] by spending 30 minutes chatting about your days," says Dr. Gannon. We've all heard it a million times: communicate, communicate, communicate! After all, it's nice to have someone sympathize when you
Go see a comedy movie or watch something funny together on TV.
get cut off in traffic on the drive home, and it's even nicer to have someone with whom to celebrate life's small victories. If you and your honey already have this routine down, well done — but don't flip on the TV and tune out just yet. When you're done talking about your day, it's not such a bad idea to take your conversation into R-rated territory. "Couples who can have intimate conversations about their sexual relationship are also happier in their relationships," Dr. Gannon explains.

6. Bring on the funny.
There's nothing like a good laugh to brighten your partner's day. If you're not naturally hilarious, don't sweat it — the jokes don't have to come out of your own mouth to improve your relationship. Go see a comedy movie or watch something funny together on TV, and if you read something amusing on the Internet earlier in the day, make a point to share it with your partner as soon as you get the chance.

7. Focus on the good things in life.
Sometimes it seems like humans are hardwired to be slightly discontent with life. It's the quality that gets people crossing oceans and starting new businesses and just generally not settling, but it also means that we tend to overlook the things that really are working and making us happy in our lives and focusing on the areas that could use improvement. Blame self-help books, blame talk show hosts — but don't blame your partner for every little imperfection in the life you share together. Cultivate more happiness and a better relationship atmosphere overall by taking the time to actively appreciate and remember what it is that you love about the other person, then let your partner know what you're thinking. "Honey," you could say, "thank you for always letting me know what time you'll be home." Or try something like, "Babe, I appreciate how you always pick great restaurants for us to try. I never have to think about it, and that's nice."

Laura Schaefer is the author of The Secret Ingredient and Planet Explorers New York City: A Travel Guide for Kids.
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