A close, loving relationship with a partner is something most people look for in life — but relationships aren't like a new sweater; you can't just pick the perfect one off the shelf once you know what you're looking for. Relationships are more like knitting the sweater yourself. You find some great yarn, and a pattern that fits you perfectly, and then day-by-day, you create it with another person.
The upshot is that over time, the sweater becomes big enough for two, and long enough to tuck your feet into on tough days. In other words, great relationships don't happen, they take (mostly enjoyable) work, time, and effort. Every day. (OK, we all get a day off occasionally, but the list below goes for most days.)
Do you do these things at least most days for your partner? And just as important, do they do them for you?
1. Support each other: Even when it’s going pretty well, life is challenging. So we all rely on the people in our lives — and our partners especially — to help make the road a little easier, in the form of encouragement, kudos, and other forms of support that come down to cheerleading. It can be hard to remember your strengths and accomplishments when you're feeling down (and for plenty of us, even when we’re feeling OK). As part of a happy couple, you will be a champion of your partner’s goals, and they will do the same for you, too.
2. Let it go: The people you spend the most time with will inevitably annoy the stuffing out of you some days, and will more regularly inspire eye-rolls. But your job is to let those little things roll off your back. Pointing out your partner’s flaws, foibles and unimportant mistakes serves no purpose other than to push them away. Constructive criticism or talking over relationship issues is important; carping on unimportant things is not, and leaves everyone feeling less loved. Dr. Mark Goulston, a psychiatrist and best-selling author writes, "Happy couples default to trusting and forgiving rather than distrusting and begrudging. Give attention: There are many distractions for all of us these days, and it’s bad enough that most of the time, everyone is more interested in their smartphones than the people around them. So it’s an especially important daily gift to really listen to your beloved — look them in the eyes, too. Give them your full attention (and ask the same from them, if you feel like they are often distracted).
3. Touch: Whether it’s full-on sex after dinner, a smooching session before you leave the house in the morning, a snuggle on the couch, holding hands, or a shoulder massage, frequent loving touches are the glue that holds loving relationships together.
4. Express love: Texting “I Love You” is one way to do it; so is saying it. But love expression isn’t just about texts and words. It’s also about actions — a cup of coffee made, the larger half of the cupcake given, the errand done.
5. Check in: Just asking someone how they are doing, whether they are across the room or across the country, matters. It might seem pointless on many days, because the information won’t be new or interesting, but it’s all about that feeling when the message is received (which is a little spike of happy for most people), not about the actual details. “This is a great way to adjust expectations so that you’re more in sync when you connect after work,” writes Goulston.
6. Ask for what you need: None of us are mind readers — this is a reminder that if you want your partner to pick up the milk, or tell you when you look nice, or help you do something — just ask. Making your needs known on a (very) regular basis keeps everyone knowing what’s expected of them. And it's the foundation of communication.
7. Give what is asked: When your beloved asks you for something reasonable — even if it seems silly or unimportant to you — do it. You don’t need to analyze it or question it. The foundation of a good relationship is good communication (which is advice you hear often); the way to keep that going is for each party to feel like they are listened to. Doing what is asked of you is a good way to let your partner know that you have heard them and love them.
8. Enjoy something together: Whether it’s a glass of wine, an episode of your favorite TV program, a funny/weird/interesting news article, music, or a sandwich standing at the kitchen counter, shared experiences matter. Note that you don’t necessarily have to even be in the same room to share something, but you should create memories and make time to be with the person you love.