1. ASSUME THE BEST
Optimist or not, most of us tend to find something personal in our partner’s actions when they disappoint us. It’s natural because, well, relationships are personal. But nine out of 10 times (if not all 10), your person has no intention of upsetting you. “Especially when we’re already in an irritated state, we have a hair trigger for taking things the wrong way and assuming the worst,” says Gillihan. (And yet, when our partner feels personally offended by something we do, we’re often annoyed that they don’t let us off the hook.) Keep in mind that “so many of our reactions are based on how we feel about ourselves, versus how someone else feels about us”, Gillihan explains. So try this: in the morning, tell yourself, ‘Today, I am going to choose the most benign interpretation for whatever comes my way.’ “This mentality gives you the freedom to get over yourself” – and can set an example for your significant other to do the same, he says. The result? Both of you can focus on all the good, and bounce back fast from any moments of accidental “bad”.
2. STOP SHOULD-ING ON EACH OTHER
Should is perhaps the worst word in the English language, at least where relationships are concerned. “It creates a sense of injustice – that something ought to be different from how it is,” says Gillihan. But most of the time, what follows the verb is a personal wish or preference, not an actual truth. If you believe at all in fate, it helps to trust that whatever your partner did or didn’t do happened because that’s how the universe was aligned (for some reason beyond our knowledge). If you don’t, you can still reframe your mindset to help you escape any sense of bitterness or indignation by expressing what you want as a desire: “I wish you could come home earlier so we could spend more time together,” or “I’d love it if you helped more with the dog”. Anyone can debate a “should”, says Gillihan, “but who can argue with a wish”? Even if they can’t make it happen, they won’t feel like they’re doing something wrong right away.
3. PARTNER UP WITH YOUR PARTNER
And by that we mean: always prioritise quality together time, especially when life makes doing this difficult. “When we are overwhelmed, we often bring so little to our relationship,” says relationship psychotherapist Rachel Sussman. “The right equation is to be your best and most loving self at home, so the strength of your bond gives you strength to handle everything else.” When you know work is about to heat up, tell your SO, “I’m about to go through a really busy time, and I’m worried I won’t be able to put the energy into our relationship that we both expect. What else can I do to help us this month?” The solution may be to cut back on social engagements or to schedule breakfasts together instead of dinners you know you’ll miss. “Always ask yourself if you’re putting as much into your relationship as you are into your career, exercise goals and friendships,” Sussman adds. “Then make shifts as necessary.”
4. KEEP A SHARED GOALS CALENDAR
You have goals, your partner has goals, but what about ones you can pursue as a couple? It’s important to envision achieving or doing something as a unit to keep your bond super strong, says clinical psychologist Chloe Carmichael. “Create a calendar for financial, travel or hobby goals,” she says. (Maybe you want to visit Japan or learn salsa, for example.) “This helps you see yourselves together in the future, encourages discussion around lifestyle choices and reminds you to support one another with accountability and by working off each other’s momentum.” Plus, planning a future beyond the big stuff (babies, new houses) can be just plain fun − and lift you out of the boring day-to-day grind.
5. TAKE A MINUTE TO SEE THEM
The security of a long-term relationship is wonderful. But a common price for that is how “used to” our partner we become. “There comes a point when we’re looking at a projection or memory of the person, not who they are in 3D at that moment,” says Gillihan. “That leads you to make assumptions about what they need based on their past, not their present.” People evolve as time goes on, and it’s on you to recognise how. So, whenever you can – on your next date night, while they’re making the coffee, after they get back from a run – take a second to stop and really see your partner with fresh eyes. Think of three kind or impressive things they did recently, and feel the feels for them. Then, instead of “I love you”, try saying, “I see you”. Their reaction could be pretty stunning.