Falling in love is easy. Staying in love—now that’s where sh*t gets real. Factor in the extra bit of crazy from the COVID-19 pandemic and it’s a true testament to even stay in the same room as your partner. Now, more than ever, you have to WORK to keep that spark alive.
With all the free time lately, I’ve found myself coming back to relationship techniques from some of the most-trusted experts. Here’s what I’ve learned (and tested in my own relationship) from some of the best.
1. Take and Accept “Bids” Often
If you’ve been following my blog, you know I’m a big fan of bids (Check out this post if you aren’t familiar). Whether it’s big, small, verbal or non-verbal, bids help you create depth in your relationship. As a quick refresher, a bid is an action that seeks to get your attention and indicates a desire for connection.
In other words, when your partner wants to connect with you, they rarely explicitly say, “Hey, let’s share a moment together so we can connect.” Instead, they’ll use bids for connection, like reaching out to squeeze your shoulder or asking a prompting question like, “WOW, my day has been crazy today.”
The key thing to remember is to respond positively to your partner’s bids. When you turn towards your partner in response to their bid, you build trust and an emotional connection. As someone who uses this technique often, take my word for it—it works.
2. Speak Your Partner’s Love Language
When we first started dating, my fiancé would go to Starbucks every morning to get us coffee. I really loved and appreciated this sweet gesture, but over time, I started feeling like that was the only thing he did for our relationship. In his mind, he thought he was being a doting partner (bringing me a daily coffee). I, on the other hand, was seeking more connection in terms of communication as our relationship developed.
I was frustrated. He was frustrated. And it wasn’t until we both took The Five Love Languages quiz that we discovered we weren’t speaking the same language romantically.
In a nutshell, this concept was created by Gary Chapman and outlines five ways to express and experience love between romantic partners—words of affirmation, quality time, receiving gifts, acts of service and physical touch.
We learned that I thrive on words of affirmation (meaning, compliments and kind words allow me to feel connected). My fiancé prefers small gifts. He thought that getting me coffee and little gifts filled me up, but that’s actually his love language.
Taking the time to learn and understand your partner’s main love language is a complete game-changer when it comes to strengthening your connection and improving communication.
3. See Both Sides & Compromise
I know this one sounds like a no-brainer but it’s definitely easier said than done. As John and Julie Gottman suggest, compromise never feels perfect. Everyone gains something and everyone loses something. The important thing is feeling understood, respected, and honored, even if you don’t agree 100% with your partner.
So how do the pros master the art of compromise? They look for something they do agree with when their partner is speaking. Oftentimes we argue and listen for what’s wrong in order to correct, clarify, or debate what is being said. This kind of mindset rarely ends well so instead, listen with the express purpose of finding something that you do agree with. Are you arguing over who takes on the majority of the household chores? Try acknowledging how great it is that you both value a clean home.
It’s also important to approach the conversation with zero expectation. The truth is, one of the beautiful things about a relationship is that you each see things differently. Life would be boring if we all shared the same perspective. Make it your goal to tackle the discussion as two separate and equal people who are speaking, sharing and working to understand two different perspectives.
4. Talk Less, Listen More
Learn what’s happening in your partner’s world. Ask questions that show you’re interested in their day-to-day life. We sometimes forget to check in or fail to respond to their attempts to connect. Over time, this can cause serious damage to the relationship. It can be as simple as asking, “How was your day?” and then really listening rather than listing out suggestions or attempting to fix the situation.
The next time you’re communicating with your significant other, try using loving gestures and body language to let them know you care about what they’re saying. Maybe you hold eye contact, nod, or reach out to touch them. Sometimes your partner just wants to be heard with no judgement or criticism attached. Want additional tips for being a good listener in your relationship? Saving Your Marriage Before it Starts by Drs. Les and Leslie Parrot is full of great advice that helped me get better about lending a listening ear.
Well, there you have it friends. I’ve read A LOT of books about relationships and have been my own guinea pig to see what works and what doesn’t. If you’ve found yourself with more free time lately, be sure to check out the books mentioned in this post along with these other MUST-READS TO CHANGE YOUR LIFE. Trust me, I’ve tried them and they work!