10 Behaviours that Strengthen a Relationship
We’ve seen 10 behaviours that destroy a relationship, but what about behaviours that strengthen a relationship?
Couples can learn to improve their communication skills and recognise each other’s love languages to build greater trust and intimacy in their relationship. But what does this look like practically?
1 Improving Your Communication Skills
Couples can practise talking with each other at deeper levels of communication beyond the everyday, “We need to buy eggs” and “What do you want for dinner?” It would be ideal if your conversation could reach at least the fourth level of the 5 Levels of Communication, “How do you feel about…” and “This is really important to me…”
Listening proactively when your partner is speaking also helps to build your bond— that means nodding along and repeating key words to show that you hear and understand them. We sometimes take for granted our closeness and comfort in a relationship, so let’s rediscover the intentionality in having meaningful conversations.
Communicating clearly is also important. If you’re unsure of something, ask to clarify instead of making assumptions, and if you need something, state it in a clear way your partner will understand to reduce conflict and the tendency for Emotional Labour.
2 Knowing and Practising Each Other’s Love Language
According to Gary Chapman’s The 5 Love Languages, there are five specific ways we can show and receive love with our partner. By recognising your partner’s love language, you can learn to understand and appreciate their acts of love, even if it isn’t your own love language. This can help you to bond more intentionally and even point to the root issue of some conflicts.
Of course, conveying a love language that isn’t either of yours shows love too; we probably have a mix of all the love languages in varying degrees and they do change over time, so it’s valuable to get familiar with each aspect of it.
We’ll be highlighting each love language in the following points, so look out for them!
3 Doing Things for the Other Person that the Other Person Appreciates
Doing things for your partner out of love is called Acts of Service. This goes beyond just doing what your partner asks for but thinking of what they might need in advance.
There’s something called “mental load” that not everyone is aware of. Sometimes, couples may fall into a rhythm of one partner doing a lot of “mental work”, like thinking of when to do the laundry, what to cook or order for dinner or keeping a mental checklist of groceries to buy— these mundane everyday tasks may not seem like much, but it adds up.
Partners can help to relieve this “mental load”, by anticipating what the family needs and doing it without waiting to be asked. Instead of saying, “Why are you so stressed? I would’ve helped if you’d only just asked,” you can say, “I’ll help to…” and make it a point to.
Go out of your way to help with tasks and do the chores together. Notice and thank each other for the little things that you do, from cooking and cleaning up to returning a book to its shelf and remembering to buy the bread.
4 Affirming One Another
Words are important to people whose love language is Words of Affirmation. Words can offer encouragement, empathy and emotional intimacy. As the name suggests, words that affirm your partner like, “Well done. I’m really proud of you,” “I’m so glad we can go through this together,” and “I really appreciate you,” help them to feel supported and loved.
Try out giving each other one compliment or word of appreciation a day and see how that changes your relationship. Use positive words and be specific: “I like when you…” and “Thank you for doing…”
Words of affirmation don’t always have to be verbal. You can write a short message like, “I love you” or “You mean so much to me” on a sticky note and leave it on the table for them. You can also change your partner’s contact name in your smartphone to your affectionate name for them and show it to them, or tag them in a thank you post on social media.
5 Showing Your Gratitude and Appreciation
For people with the love language of Gifts, it isn’t so much the gift as the giver— that the giver thought of them, took the time to choose a gift and gave it. You don’t always have to buy something expensive or grand to give; small tokens like their favourite snack or an item that just reminded you of them show that you care.
Remembering special occasions is especially important. Notice what your partner has been interested in recently, like a restaurant they’ve been wanting to go to or their new favourite coffee blend, and gift them a little invite card to have dinner there together or order coffee to be delivered to their workplace on the special day.
One point that some miss out on is that even when receiving gifts from your partner, one should do it with sincere enthusiasm, as this reciprocates the partner’s way of showing love. Smile with your eyes and thank your partner sincerely.
6 Prioritising One-on-One Quality Time with the People You Care About
Quality Time is one of the most appreciated love languages. It’s all about showing that you love and care for each other by spending time together— and being fully present without smartphone distractions or other thoughts preoccupying your mind. Notice that it’s called quality time, not quantity time. It’s about how you spend it together.
You don’t have to find new things to do together every time— that can get tiring. You can just do things that both of you enjoy, like revisiting an old scenic spot, rewatching your favourite movies and planning a date night together. A key point in this is setting aside time in your schedules for your “protected” special time together.
These special times together don’t have to be big events or filled with lots of conversation either. It could simply be sitting together for breakfast, reading your own books in a shared space or just going for a walk around the neighbourhood.
7 Hugging/ Kissing Each Other Hello and Goodbye
Whether it’s a good morning hug or goodnight kiss, affectionate actions help to communicate the love language of Touch. It could also be the occasional light touch to signal that you’re paying attention to your partner when they’re talking or that you see them.
When you’re walking together, you can hold hands, and when you’re sitting together, you can sit with your hips or feet touching. If you’re living apart for a time, you can give your partner a personal memento such as a jacket or hoodie that you use often or a special keychain to physically remind them of you.
Did you know that it can be therapeutic to hug your partner for 20 seconds or longer? Hugging helps reduce stress and anxiety and increases oxytocin, which is the “feel good” hormone. When your partner is hurting, comfort them by patting or rubbing their back to show that you’re physically there for them.
8 Respecting Each Other
Respect is one of the foundations of a successful healthy relationship. Respect builds trust and safety. Partners who respect each other allow each other to be who they are and give space and autonomy when needed (keep in mind that this is different from the “Individualism” that can be harmful to a relationship), meaning they are free to make their own decisions while being mindful of each other.
Signs of respect in a relationship include:
- Feeling secure being around each other
- Knowing you can disagree and express different views without being judged
- Making your own choices without feeling “controlled”
- Being able to admit mistakes and reconcile with each other
- Listening to each other patiently without interrupting
- Honouring each other’s hopes and aspirations
Working towards a shared vision and learning to depend on each other can help build respect. Make it a point to protect each other’s perspectives and show kindness and understanding when you’re being vulnerable with each other.
9 Constantly Learning New Things about Each Other and Yourself
Being in a relationship or marriage is a learning journey. We are always changing and growing. That means there’s always something new to learn about your partner and yourself— and to teach them about yourself!
Intentionally finding out new things about each other can look like:
- Setting aside 30 minutes a day to talk with each other
- Playing a get-to-know-your-partner-better game
- Sharing old photos of your childhood
- Telling your partner about the little things they do that make you smile
- Having a healthy debate about your views
10 Settling Differences Positively
Arguing is an art. It can be done with empathy, understanding and positivity when couples are equipped with the right mindset. This takes being flexible and seeing the situation from your partner’s perspective, while letting go of any resentment, anger and fear.
Couples can begin by learning to express their negative feelings in a positive, productive way. Frame it from the viewpoint of what’s working in the relationship— “I love that we can go to/ experience _______ together… in spite of _______.”
Then, give each other space to talk about it and keep your mind focused on working through it together as a team. Remember you are on the same side.
Couples can also get help with positive solutioning by seeing a Couples Counselling Therapist who will help you to navigate difficulties in a calm rational manner.
We hope these tips have given you some new direction in your relationship or inspired you to rediscover the joy and connection with your partner.
If you’re still wondering what your partner’s love language is, just ask! (And well done for putting point 1 into action already!) Ultimately, the best way you can strengthen your relationship is by approaching each other with genuine love, trust and understanding.
If you’re seeking help in your relationship, book a session with our Family or Couples Counselling Therapists
Preparing to take that next step of marriage? Look out for our upcoming Marriage Preparation PREP 8.0 workshops