8 Simple Choices For The Best Love Life Possible
Want to experience the best love of your life in 2016? (Who doesn't?) And what better time to reflect and set intentions to improve your relationship than ... right now? (If you're not in relationship right now but hoping to start one next year, here are some tips for dating in the digital age.) Here are 8 resolutions to set right now to help you improve your love life:
1. Look at your relationship with clear eyes.
Not all romantic relationships are worth keeping. So, start by taking an objective look at yours. Is your partner abusive? Disrespectful? Overly jealous? Are you two codependent? Can you be your authentic self with your partner? Do you two bring out the best in one another?
Research shows that mindful people experience less emotional stress during romantic conflicts.
Sometimes the best things you can do for your love life is to move on to greener pastures, whether that means taking some time to work on yourself, or to look for someone who will love you in the way you deserve.
2. Make yourself happy.
Many people are misguided in their belief that they will instantly become happier once they meet Mr. or Ms. Right. In reality, research shows that people who are happier in the first place tend to be more satisfied with their long-term relationships.
So, resolve to do things that bring you joy, whether it's a favorite hobby, maintaining a gratitude journal, or having a regularly scheduled night out with friends. Doing so will allow you to bring your best self to your relationship.
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3. Do thrilling things with your partner.
A research study showed that couples who engaged in activities they described as "exciting" reported more marital satisfaction than those who shared experiences they described as "pleasant." In addition, novel activities flood the brain's reward circuits, creating an experience that brings you both more pleasure. So, to give your relationship a boost, resolve to ramp it up and try something new!
4. Learn your partner's love language.
Instead of the golden rule, I like the platinum rule — "Do unto others as they would have you do unto them." And, according to Dr. Gary Chapman (author of The Five Love Languages) you and your partner may differ in terms of the ways that you prefer to receive love.
So, resolve to determine whether your partner prefers physical touch, acts of service, quality time, receiving gifts, or words of affirmation, and be intentional about showing love in the way he or she prefers. And, don't forget to let your partner know your love language so you can have the favor returned!
5. Avoid the four behaviors that have been proven to damage relationships.
What the heck are those? Well, relationship expert Dr. John Gottman has identified four behaviors that are the most detrimental to relationships: criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling. If you want to improve your relationship, resolve to dump these behaviors and find constructive ways to communicate.
6. Practice mindfulness.
Mindfulness, or being intentional about staying in the present moment, is associated with greater relationship satisfaction, as it allows you to savor the positive and be attentive to your partner. Research also shows that mindful people experience less emotional stress during romantic conflicts and engage in better communication overall. (Not sure how to start a mindfulness practice? Start here.)
7. Be your partner's #1 cheerleader.
Research shows that how we respond to our partner's good news can help or hurt intimacy. Resolve to show an active interest, support, and encouragement when your partner is proudly sharing something with you. It will deepen your connection and bring both of you greater happiness.
8. Touch your partner every day.
From the time we are born, we are meant to be touched. Touch is linked with feelings of safety, trust, and support, and individuals who receive more physical affection report feeling more positively about their relationship and their partner. So, resolve to kiss, cuddle, and hug every single day!
This story was originally published in December 2014 and has been updated.
Patricia Thompson, Ph.D., is a corporate psychologist, management consultant, executive coach, and author. She received a B.A. in sociology from the University of Toronto and later earned her Ph.D. in clinical psychology from Georgia State University. Thompson works with organizations and individuals to help them meet their career and/or personal goals. Her advice has been featured in The Harvard Business Review, Forbes, Fast Company, and more. You can take her emotional intelligence quiz here.