by Liberty Stembridge, Lifestyle Columnist
Published in Lifestyle on 31st July, 2019
Variety is the spice of life, as they say, and so if you're finding yourself getting stuck in a rut in your relationship - it's time to spice it up. It could be as simple as going on a fun new date night, or perhaps you want to change up your routines, rearrange your living space or make an effort to learn more about each other.
It's crazy how much we can learn about and grow in our relationship just by switching things up a bit.
One of the most fundamental skills you need in a relationship, or just in life, is the ability to argue well. You're never going to agree totally with your partner on everything, but when you do start butting heads, you need to know how to handle it appropriately.
No screaming, bad-mouthing or threatening to break-up here. There are lots of resources online where you can learn to improve your arguing skills to take it from an all-out catfight to a respectful disagreement. If you're finding that your fights with your partner are exactly that - fights, rather than disputes, then you should definitely start working on that together.
Creating a gratitude routine with your partner is a fantastic way to inject more positivity into your relationship, get closer as a couple and improve your outlook on life in general.
An easy way to do this is to make a rule - when you come home from work or school for the day and are catching up with your partner, mention three things that you are most grateful for that happened that day first, rather than immediately jumping to complain about your annoying coworker, etc.
Once you get into the habit of doing this, you'll often find that your afternoons become a lot more positive and your relationship a bit more fun.
There's no need to stop dating just because you've been together for oh-so-many years. There's always new stuff to do and learn about each other, and date nights are perfect places to do this.
Rather than letting yourself get caught up in the hum-drum of everyday life, carve time out for your relationship and do something special with each other every week. It could be a night out to a fancy restaurant, or a hike together or even just cooking a nice meal and eating it outside - whatever suits you.
Travel with a partner can be stressful, but it doesn't have to be and in fact, it can be lot's of fun. A holiday gives you a chance to wind down, have fun and see how you operate as a couple in an unfamiliar environment.
Discovering new foods, new cultures, and new places and new people together is an awesome way to strengthen your relationship, understand each other better and create some awesome memories.
It's not always easy, but learning when to admit that you've messed up and apologising for it is key to preventing resentment and promoting honesty in a relationship. Fess up to your wrongdoing, even if it's difficult - your relationship will be a lot better for it.
It may sound counterintuitive, but an excellent way to start improving a relationship is to stop saying sorry so much. Often without realizing, we subconsciously use the word "sorry" to get out of sticky situations and guilt-trip our partner.
Reserve the word sorry for real apologies, rather than bastardizing it in everyday situations. A classic example of using "sorry" as a manipulation tactic is using it to make our partners feel bad for bringing up a problem, such as say - not emptying the bins. Rather than just owning up and emptying the bins, we say I'm sorry I'm such a lazy person, you must really hate me.
This does nothing for either person and can make your partner hesitant to bring up problems in the future.
Relationships thrive on honest, open communication, so start opening up! Even though speaking your truth can be hard at times, it will only improve your relationship in the end.
Likewise, reward your partner when they are honest with you, even if you don't like what you hear. Thank them for being honest and show that you appreciate it. The more positive experiences you both have from being honest with each other, the easier it will get.
Oftentimes in long-term relationships, the urge to nit-pick and correct your partner can be irresistible, but all this contributes to is resentment and annoyance.
Rather than picking your partner up on mispronouncing that actor's name or re-telling you the same story, keep quiet and try to be supportive. There's nothing more tiring than a partner who's constantly correcting you over tiny details.
How often do you find that your partner mentioning something and making a mental note to surprise them with a gift or experience, but never getting round to it or forgetting five minutes later?
Making an effort to listen to your partner and show them that you care is a great way to strengthen your relationship, especially if you're feeling distant or finding it hard to connect.
Decision-making as a couple can be a toughie, whether it's as simple as where to eat, or as complex as where to live. Rather than getting embroiled in fights, misunderstandings and endless conversations - try employing the "5-3-1" rule.
It works like this: one of you offers five choices, whether it's places to eat, movies to see or vacation destinations. The other then eliminates two of those choices, leaving three left.
The original partner then eliminates a further two of the remaining three, leaving 1 - your final choice. This method streamlines and de-stresses the decision-making process, which can make life a lot easier if that's something you struggle with.
A relationship should provide the space for both of you to grow and develop into the best version of yourself, with the support and love of another person.
After a while though, it can be easy to stagnate. If you notice your partner isn't happy, or is stagnating in their career, relationships or hobbies, remind them of how awesome they are and how you'll support them no matter what.
Therapy gets a bad rep, and it can be scary. Some say it's a waste of money, some say it's pseudo-science, but in reality, therapy has been shown time and time again to improve mental health and improve relationships.
There may be some bad therapists out there, but there are also a lot of good ones. Another common misconception is that your relationship needs to be going drastically downhill before you go to therapy. In reality, it is quite the opposite. You could be perfectly happy in your relationship and still benefit a lot from couples therapy.
A therapist can help you to learn how to communicate better, argue well, open up about problems you have in a safe environment and generally create a strong foundation for your relationship to thrive on for many years to come.