Barton Goldsmith Ph.D.

The right words and actions at the right time make all the difference.

Successful relationships don’t happen in a vacuum. They take work, and couples who make their relationships work are the ones who also have the most fun and feel the most love. It’s a simple program that really works. Here are ten tools to get you started.

1. Give what you want to get. All relationships benefit from a pay-it-forward attitude. If you’d like to feel understood, try being more understanding. If you want to feel more love, try giving more. And remember that your partner isn’t psychic, so let them know what you need.

2. Find your happy place. No one else can make you happy. Finding happiness is something you have to do on your own. If you feel that it’s your partner’s responsibility, think again, and look within to find out what piece may be missing for you. Become responsible for your own happiness, and you may never be unhappy again.

3. Find a way to become and stay best friends. For some, being best friends sounds unromantic, but for those who live it, most say it’s the best part of their time together. Besties have each other’s back and never put one another down—instead they lift each other up.

4. Get regular relationship tune-ups. If you ever did counseling, go back and have a session to catch up, or read a relationship book together. You should do this at least once a year. Even if you don’t think that you need help, the process alone will strengthen your connection.

5. Let go of your anger. Anger is a relationship killer. It makes you self-absorbed, and it keeps you from seeing the good around you. If you are annoyed with your mate, give yourself some time to calm down and then gently discuss what’s going on for you. Holding on to anger is a waste of time.

6. Honor each other in some way every day. Every morning, you have the opportunity to make your relationship sweeter and deeper by recommitting to your mate. Feeling respected and cherished by the one you love makes life much nicer. Most of us like to hear “I love you.” Don’t hold back saying how you feel.

7. Understand that every couple is different. We’re not from Mars, Venus, or the Moon. That would mean everyone was in the same solar system, and even Einstein wasn’t so sure about that. Understanding and celebrating our differences make living together more peaceful, interesting, and fun.

8. When upset occurs, first check out what’s going on inside you. Rather than getting angry with your partner because you’re feeling off, check in with yourself. Most arguments stem from our own fears or pain. The truth is that we usually aren’t upset for the reasons we think, so make sure that you are thinking clearly.

9. Put your wishes on the table, so your partner knows what you need. In truth, you can only change yourself, not other people, but you can influence others’ behavior. Loving someone means that you can change behaviors that you probably don’t like in yourself anyway.

10. Talk more than you ever have. You have to take the risk of sharing what’s really going on in your hearts and heads. If your partner does not know how you are feeling (or you don’t), then this is a must-have conversation. Please do it sooner than later.

There are no guarantees, and our needs do change over time. But couples who practice these techniques have longer and stronger relationships than those who are not proactive in their relationships.

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