How to Keep the Fire Burning in a Relationship

By: Rochelle Perper, Ph.D. | June 4, 2013

A long-term healthy relationship takes hard work. This fact is often overlooked because it is easy to become complacent or comfortable in long term relationships or marriages. However, a small increase in time and energy spent on the relationship can reap great rewards. When our relationships are working well, everything else in our lives runs more smoothly. In fact, those who are in strong, healthy marriages are significantly happier than their single counterparts*. But where to begin? For those of us who have neglected our partners for some time, what kind of work is necessary for our relationships to be healthy and fresh?

Research from Dr. John Gottman and others has helped us understand scientifically that relationships can be strengthened if the right kind of attention is paid to them. For some, the expertise of a Psychologist may be the most helpful and efficient way to regain satisfaction and joy in your marriage. Whether you work with a therapist or not, the following techniques can be used at home and are the first steps to staying connected to your partner.

Exercises to Practice at Home:

1. Develop “Love Maps”

  • Become intimately familiar with each other’s world. Communicate with your partner at the beginning of each day at least 1 thing that they have planned, and follow-up with them about this later on that evening
  • Ask questions about your partner and be curious about what they are thinking, feeling, and doing

2. Engage in a Stress-Reducing Conversation

  • Support one another emotionally concerning areas in each other’s lives outside of your marriage
  • Refrain from unsolicited advice and criticism and instead opt for empathy and a sense of “we-ness”. It is important for your partner to know that you are on his or her side

3. Enhance Fondness and Admiration

  • Let your partner know what you appreciate about him or her and the traits that you value in them
  • Keep a 5:1 ratio of positive to negative comments when interacting with your partner

Thousands of relationships are on the rocks today. If you feel that you and your partner could benefit from enhanced intimacy, don’t wait a moment longer to reach out.

*Acevedo, B. & Aron, A. (2009). Does a Long-Term Relationship Kill Romantic Love? Review of General Psychology, 13, 59-65.

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