Relationships are no walk in the park. Many people will tell you that it takes hard work to make a relationship last, but they don’t tell you what that hard work looks like.
Despite what you may see in the movies, no quick or grand gesture will magically make everything better. Relationships are a daily choice that you make to show up and be present for your partner, even when you don’t feel like it. It’s about making an effort to connect on a deeper level, even when you’re both tired and want to watch TV.
Relationships take work, compromise, and effort to maintain. And when done successfully, these maintenance efforts are not in vain, as high-quality relationships have been linked with increased levels of happiness, physical health, and overall well-being. 1
It’s not always easy, but it is always worth it. In this article, we’ll cover some of the key things you need to do to make your relationship work, from relationship rules to tips on how to make yours last.
Relationships are not easy, especially in today’s world. Learn the answer to questions like “How can I make my relationship work?” and advice on how to stay happy in your relationship.
Relationship rules to make a relationship work
Anyone who’s in a relationship will tell you that there are certain things you just don’t do. We’re not talking about the big no-nos like cheating or lying, but rather the smaller things that can slowly erode away in a relationship if left unchecked.
These nuances or norms vary from relationship to relationship, and they may not be implicit or even spoken about. 2 But they’re there nonetheless, and if you want your relationship to work, it’s essential to be aware of them.
Here are some examples of relationship rules to make a relationship work.
1. Never go to bed angry
This is one of the most commonly cited pieces of advice for couples. And there’s a good reason for it. When you go to bed with unresolved issues, they’re likely the first things on your mind when you wake up the next morning. This can start your day off on the wrong foot and make it hard to move past whatever issue you’re having.
If you can, try to resolve any disagreements before going to bed. If talking about it directly to your partner is impossible, journaling or writing it in a diary can help you process your thoughts and get them off your chest. And doing so may even improve your sleep quality in the process! 3
2. Be communicative
This may seem like a no-brainer, but effective communication is critical in any relationship. Without it, misunderstandings and resentment can quickly build up.
Make sure you and your partner are on the same page by checking in regularly. Talk about your day, your thoughts and feelings, and anything on your mind. And when there is a disagreement, try to resolve it through calm and respectful discussion.
Even the mere act of just talking to your partner can make a world of difference. One study found that when couples spent time talking more daily, they experienced greater relationship satisfaction and saw more positive qualities in their partner. 4
3. Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable
It can be scary to open up and be vulnerable with your partner. But if you want your relationship to work, it’s important that you’re able to share your thoughts, feelings, and fears with them.
This doesn’t mean you need to tell them every detail about your life. But being open and honest about the things that are important to you can help create a deeper connection between you and your partner. 5 It can also make it easier to resolve conflicts when they arise.
4. Pamper each other
We all like to feel loved and appreciated. And one way to show your partner that you care is by pampering them now and then. This can be simple: making them breakfast in bed, giving them a massage, or taking them out for a special dinner.
It doesn’t have to be anything big or fancy. Just something to let them know that you’re thinking of them and that you appreciate them.
Knowing your partner’s love language can also be helpful here. This is the idea that we all have different ways of expressing and receiving love. 6 So, if your partner’s love language is “physical touch,” a simple hug or massage can mean more to them than anything else. 7
5. Dedicate time to each other
In the hustle and bustle of everyday life, it’s easy to let your relationship take a backseat. But if you want it to work, it’s essential to make time for each other. This means setting aside quality time to be together and reconnect.
It can be anything from going on regular date nights to taking a weekend trip together. Or even just the mere act of planning a date together can be beneficial to your relationship. 8 The important thing is that you spend time together without distractions like work, kids, or other obligations.
This dedicated time will help you feel closer to your partner and create lasting memories together.
6. Be yourself
One of the most important things to remember in any relationship is to be yourself. This means being genuine and authentic and not trying to put on a persona you think your partner will like.
Your partner fell in love with you for a reason. So, there’s no need to change who you are just to try and please them. Doing so will only create distance between you and your partner.
Instead, just be yourself and let your relationship evolve naturally. This is the best way to ensure that you’re both happy and fulfilled in the long run. 9
7. Don’t sweat the small stuff
In any relationship, there are going to be disagreements and arguments. This is a normal part of close relationships, especially when dealing with differences in personalities and opinions. 10
But it’s important to remember not to sweat the small stuff. When you’re able to let go of the little things, it can help prevent larger arguments and disagreements from happening.
And when conflict does arise, try to focus on the issue at hand and not on past problems. This will help you stay present in the moment and find a resolution more quickly.
8. Allow yourselves to spend time with people outside of the relationship
While it’s important to spend time together as a couple, it’s also necessary to have time apart. This allows you to maintain your identities and interests.
It’s perfectly normal and healthy to want to spend time with friends or family members outside of the relationship. In fact, spending time with your close or best friends and maintaining a good relationship with them can significantly improve your mental health. 11
So, don’t feel guilty about taking time for yourself now and then. Just make sure to communicate with your partner about it beforehand. This way, they’ll know you’re not trying to distance yourself from them.
9. Don’t shy away from difficult conversations
In any relationship, there are going to be difficult conversations that need to be had. These can be about anything from financial problems to differences in opinion.
But it’s important not to shy away from these conversations because they may be uncomfortable. The sooner you’re able to address the problem, the better off your relationship will be.
Trying to sweep problems under the rug will only make them worse in the long run. So, be honest with your partner and communicate openly about any difficulties you may be having. Take this time to learn effective and respectful communication strategies so that you can navigate these conversations more smoothly. 12
10. Apologize if you’re in the wrong
Admitting when you’re wrong can be difficult, but it’s an important part of any relationship. If you’ve made a mistake, take responsibility for it and apologize to your partner.
This shows that you’re willing to take accountability for your actions and value your relationship enough to make things right again. It can also help to prevent future arguments by diffusing any resentment that may have been building up. 13
So, don’t be afraid to apologize if you’re in the wrong. This simple act can go a long way in maintaining a healthy and happy relationship.
11. Make an effort to show your appreciation
It’s important always to show your appreciation for your partner, even if it’s just in small ways. This can be anything from cooking them dinner to complimenting them.
Showing your appreciation is a way of telling your partner that you’re happy in the relationship and that you value their presence in your life. It’s also a great way to make them feel loved and appreciated.
So, make an effort to show your partner how much you care about them. This will help keep the spark alive in your relationship and strengthen it.
12. Always try to see the good in each other
No one is perfect, and that’s okay. It’s important to remember that everyone has flaws and that no relationship will ever be perfect.
Most importantly, you always try to see the good in your partner, even when they’re having a bad day. This can help you to feel more connected to them and to understand them better. It can also help you to be more forgiving when they make a mistake.
This practice is often cited as the secret to longevity by married couples who have been together for many years, and has been closely linked to higher relationship satisfaction, a slower decline in relationship satisfaction over time, and a greater likelihood of relationship persistence. 14 15 If you want your relationship to stand the test of time, always remember to see the good in your partner.
13. Try non-sexual touch
Physical touch is a powerful way to connect with someone and can help to strengthen your relationship. 16 However, not all physical touch needs to be sexual in nature.
In fact, research has shown that non-sexual touch is just as important for maintaining relationship satisfaction, partner satisfaction, and psychological intimacy in a happy and healthy relationship. 17 This can be anything from holding hands, cuddling on the couch, backrubs, massages, or just sitting close to each other.
Make an effort to incorporate non-sexual touch into your relationship. This will help to increase the intimacy and connection between you and your partner.
14. Make each other laugh
Laughter is often said to be the best medicine, and this is especially true in relationships. Laughter can help to elicit positive emotions in both you and your partner and has been linked to increased relationship satisfaction, communication, and intimacy. 18 19
In today’s fast-paced and stressful world, making time for laughter in your relationship is more important than ever. So, watch a funny movie together, tell each other jokes, or just spend time being silly with one another. This will help keep the spark alive in your relationship and strengthen it.
These 14 relationship tips can help you maintain a happy and healthy relationship. Just remember that every relationship is different, so make sure to tailor these tips to fit your unique relationship.
Want to read more relationship rules to live by? Here are 14 more tips for a happy and healthy relationship.
Tips on how to make a relationship work
If you’ve been in a relationship before, you know that it takes continuous effort to make it successful. Although there’s no surefire recipe for everlasting love, happy couples have shared some tips about what they do to keep their bond strong.
Like anything else worth fighting for, maintaining a healthy and thriving relationship requires time, energy, patience, and, most importantly, genuine commitment. Investment and the desire and motivation to continue a relationship from the parties involved are key to weathering the storms that every relationship will inevitably face. 20
The following tips will help you build and maintain a robust and healthy relationship with your significant other.
1. Set healthy boundaries
Boundaries serve as “property lines” that help define and protect what is yours. 21 In a relationship, healthy boundaries help to ensure that both partners feel safe, respected, and comfortable with each other.
These examples of healthy boundaries in a relationship can give you an idea of what boundary setting looks like in action:
- Valuing and respecting each other’s independence
- Knowing and respecting each other’s limits
- Giving each other space when needed
When both partners feel comfortable and respected, it can help to create a stronger, more lasting bond.
2. Stop ruminating on past hurts
It’s natural to want to hold onto anger and resentment after being hurt by your partner. However, ruminating on past hurts can do more harm than good.
Not only does it keep you from moving on and enjoying the present moment, but it can also damage your relationship in the long run. 22 If you find yourself dwelling on past hurts, try to let go of the anger and resentment you’re holding onto. This will help you focus on your relationship’s positive aspects and move forward.
It is easy for couples to get stuck in the trap of obsessing over their relationships. This guide will help you keep your sanity and enjoy every moment.
3. Be upfront about your needs
To have a healthy relationship, it’s essential that you feel comfortable communicating your needs to your partner. If you’re unsure what you need, that’s okay – but don’t be afraid to ask for help figuring it out.
Once you know what you need, communicate it to your partner clearly and honestly. 23 This will help to ensure that your needs are being met and that your partner is aware of what makes you happy and fulfilled.
4. Learn to be flexible
No relationship is perfect, and there will inevitably be times when you don’t see eye to eye with your partner. When this happens, having the ability to see and adapt different points of view can help find a resolution. 24
There’s no need to hold onto your opinion at all costs – sometimes, it’s okay to let go and see things from your partner’s perspective. This can help to foster a greater sense of understanding and cooperation in your relationship.
If you don’t see things eye to eye, try to find a middle ground that you can both agree on. Step out of your comfort zone and be willing to compromise – it can make a world of difference for your relationship.
5. Know that it takes time
All relationships take time to build, and it’s important to remember that every relationship is different. There’s no need to compare your relationship to others – just focus on the connection you share with your partner.
Your timeline will naturally differ from that of other couples, and that’s okay. 25 Just focus on the progress that you’re making and trust that things will fall into place in their own time.
Give yourself and your partner time to get to know each other and grow together. If you’re patient and allow your relationship to develop at its own pace, it will all be stronger.
6. Build trust
One of the essential foundations for a healthy relationship is trust. Trusting your partner means being able to count on them when you need them – and knowing they’re there for you, no matter what.
Trust is crucial for love and intimacy. 26 Without it, it’s challenging to feel safe and secure in your relationship. If you struggle to trust your partner, try to open up and share your thoughts and feelings with them.
It can also be helpful to spend time together doing activities that build trusts, such as teamwork-based games or activities. As you work together and learn to rely on each other, it will be easier to develop trust in your relationship.
After the trust is broken, it can be difficult to repair a relationship. These tips can help you and your partner get back on track.
7. Don’t keep score
In any relationship, it’s essential to feel like you’re being heard and valued. However, this doesn’t mean that you should keep score of who’s doing what and who’s getting the most out of the relationship.
Trying to keep track of who’s ahead and behind is a surefire way to create tension and conflict in your relationship. Instead of keeping score, focus on being supportive and understanding of your partner’s needs.
If you’re feeling like you’re not being appreciated, talk to your partner about it – don’t try to keep track of who’s doing more or who’s getting more out of the relationship.
8. Support each other
One of the best things you can do for your relationship is to support your partner in their goals and aspirations. When you show your partner that you’re behind them, it can make a world of difference in their motivation, self-esteem, and growth. 27
There is no one-size-fits-all definition of support – it can mean anything from offering words of encouragement to taking on practical tasks to help your partner achieve their goals.
It is important to be there for your partner when they need you and show them that you’re invested in their success.
9. Celebrate small victories
When you’re in a relationship, it’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day grind and forget to celebrate your successes. However, taking the time to celebrate your accomplishments – no matter how small – can help to maintain a sense of closeness and connection in your relationship.
And you don’t have to throw big parties or go on exotic vacations to celebrate – sometimes, the simplest things can mean the most. Breakfast in bed, a back rub, or even a phone call to say “I love you” can be enough to show your partner that you’re thinking of them and appreciate them.
So, the next time you achieve something big or small, take a moment to share it with your partner and celebrate your success together. Celebrating positive events in your life won’t just make your relationship stronger and more secure – it will also help you to feel more connected to your partner and add excitement and joy to your life. 28
10. Keep your life balanced
When you’re in a relationship, it’s easy to let your partner become the center of your world. However, it’s important to remember that you’re an individual with your own needs and wants – and your relationship should be just one part of your life, not the whole thing.
Maintaining a sense of balance in your life, even – or especially – is crucial when you’re in a relationship. Make sure to spend time with your friends and family, pursue your hobbies, and nurture your own interests. 29 30 These are just as important as your relationship and will help you stay grounded and centered.
Secrets to a healthy relationship: Books every couple should read
It's no secret that a healthy relationship is key in a long-lasting and fulfilling relationship. This list of books about healthy relationships will help you learn how to communicate better, resolve conflict, and deepen your connection. From classic self-help books to more modern reads, these titles will give you the tools you need to build a strong and healthy relationship.
- Boundaries in Dating: How Healthy Choices Grow Healthy Relationships
- Love in Every Season: Understanding the Four Stages of Every Healthy Relationship
- Love More, Fight Less: Communication Skills Every Couple Needs: A Relationship Workbook for Couples
- Infidelity Recovery Workbook for Couples: Tools and Exercises to Rebuild Your Relationship
- Healthy Me, Healthy Us: Your Relationships Are Only as Strong as You Are
- ↑ Holt-Lunstad, J. (2018). Why social relationships are important for physical health: A systems approach to understanding and modifying risk and protection. Annual review of psychology, 69, 437-458.
- ↑ Hogg, M. A., and Reid, S. A. (2006). Social identity, self-categorization, and the communication of group norms. Commun. Theory 16, 7–30.
- ↑ Kane, H. S., Slatcher, R. B., Reynolds, B. M., Repetti, R. L., & Robles, T. F. (2014). Daily self-disclosure and sleep in couples. Health psychology : official journal of the Division of Health Psychology, American Psychological Association, 33(8), 813–822. doi.org
- ↑ Hogan, J. N., Crenshaw, A. O., Baucom, K., & Baucom, B. (2021). Time Spent Together in Intimate Relationships: Implications for Relationship Functioning. Contemporary family therapy, 43(3), 226–233. doi.org
- ↑ Margolin, G., Daspe, M. È., Timmons, A. C., Corner, G. W., Pettit, C., Rasmussen, H. F., Chaspari, T., Han, S. C., Arbel, R., Shapiro, L. S., Kazmierski, K., Del Piero, L. B., & Schacter, H. L. (2022). What happens when romantic couples discuss personal loss? Relational, emotional, and physiological impacts. Journal of family psychology : JFP : journal of the Division of Family Psychology of the American Psychological Association (Division 43), 36(6), 863–873. doi.org
- ↑ Chapman, G. (2015, January 1). The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts (Reprint). Northfield Publishing.
- ↑ Mostova, O., Stolarski, M., & Matthews, G. (2022). I love the way you love me: Responding to partner's love language preferences boosts satisfaction in romantic heterosexual couples. PloS one, 17(6), e0269429. doi.org
- ↑ Harasymchuk, C., Walker, D. L., Muise, A., & Impett, E. A. (2021). Planning date nights that promote closeness: The roles of relationship goals and self-expansion. Journal of social and personal relationships, 38(5), 1692–1709. doi.org
- ↑ Wang Y. N. (2015). Authenticity and Relationship Satisfaction: Two Distinct Ways of Directing Power to Self-Esteem. PloS one, 10(12), e0146050. doi.org
- ↑ Gurman, A. S. (2008). A framework for the comparative study of couple therapy. In Alan S Gurman (Ed.), Clinical handbook of couple therapy (4th ed., pp. 1-30). New York, NY: Guilford Press.
- ↑ Camirand, E., & Poulin, F. (2022). Links between Best Friendship, Romantic Relationship, and Psychological Well-Being in Emerging Adulthood. The Journal of genetic psychology, 183(4), 328–344. doi.org
- ↑ Byrne, M., Carr, A., & Clark, M. (2004). The efficacy of behavioral couples therapy and emotionally focused therapy for couple distress. Contemporary Family Therapy, 26(4), 361-387.
- ↑ Tabak, B. A., McCullough, M. E., Luna, L. R., Bono, G., & Berry, J. W. (2012). Conciliatory gestures facilitate forgiveness and feelings of friendship by making transgressors appear more agreeable. Journal of personality, 80(2), 503-536.
- ↑ Miller, P. J., Niehuis, S., & Huston, T. L. (2006). Positive illusions in marital relationships: A 13-year longitudinal study. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 32(12), 1579-1594.
- ↑ Barelds, D. P., & Dijkstra, P. (2011). Positive illusions about a partner’s personality and relationship quality. Journal of research in personality, 45(1), 37-43.
- ↑ Gulledge, A. K., Gulledge, M. H., & Stahmannn, R. F. (2003, July). Romantic Physical Affection Types and Relationship Satisfaction. The American Journal of Family Therapy, 31(4), 233–242. doi.org
- ↑ Gulledge, A. K., Stahmann, R. F., & Wilson, C. M. (2004). Seven Types of Nonsexual Romantic Physical Affection among Brigham Young University Students. Psychological Reports, 95(2), 609–614.
- ↑ Bachorowski, J. A., & Owren, M. J. (2001). Not all laughs are alike: Voiced but not unvoiced laughter readily elicits positive affect. Psychological science, 12(3), 252-257.
- ↑ Kurtz, L. E., & Algoe, S. B. (2015). Putting Laughter in Context: Shared Laughter as Behavioral Indicator of Relationship Well-Being. Personal Relationships, 22(4), 573–590. doi.org
- ↑ Rusbult, C. E., Martz, J. M., & Agnew, C. R. (1998). The investment model scale: Measuring commitment level, satisfaction level, quality of alternatives, and investment size. Personal relationships, 5(4), 357-387.
- ↑ Cloud, H., & Townsend, J. (2000, March 1). Boundaries in Dating: How Healthy Choices Grow Healthy Relationships (1st ed.). Zondervan. amazon.com
- ↑ Jostmann, N. B., Karremans, J., & Finkenauer, C. (2011). When love is not blind: Rumination impairs implicit affect regulation in response to romantic relationship threat. Cognition & Emotion, 25(3), 506–518.
- ↑ Debnam, K. J., Howard, D. E., & Garza, M. A. (2014). If you don't have honesty in a relationship, then there is no relationship: African American girls' characterization of healthy dating relationships, a qualitative study. The journal of primary prevention, 35(6), 397–407. doi.org
- ↑ Silverman, A. L., Fua, K. C., & Teachman, B. A. (2022). More than one way to say I love you: An Internet-based intervention for training flexible thinking in romantic relationships. Journal of clinical psychology, 10.1002/jclp.23443. Advance online publication. doi.org
- ↑ Lantagne, A., & Furman, W. (2017). Romantic relationship development: The interplay between age and relationship length. Developmental psychology, 53(9), 1738–1749. doi.org
- ↑ Esch, T., and Stefano, G. B. (2005). The neurobiology of love. Neuroendocrinol. Lett. 26, 175–192.
- ↑ Overall, N. C., Fletcher, G. J., & Simpson, J. A. (2010). Helping each other grow: romantic partner support, self-improvement, and relationship quality. Personality & social psychology bulletin, 36(11), 1496–1513. doi.org
- ↑ Bayraktaroglu, D., Gunaydin, G., Selcuk, E., Besken, M., & Karakitapoglu-Aygun, Z. (2022). The role of positive relationship events in romantic attachment avoidance. Journal of personality and social psychology, 10.1037/pspi0000406. Advance online publication. doi.org
- ↑ Thomas, P. A., Liu, H., & Umberson, D. (2017). Family Relationships and Well-Being. Innovation in aging, 1(3), igx025. doi.org
- ↑ Pressman, S. D., Matthews, K. A., Cohen, S., Martire, L. M., Scheier, M., Baum, A., & Schulz, R. (2009). Association of enjoyable leisure activities with psychological and physical well-being. Psychosomatic medicine, 71(7), 725–732. doi.org
- ↑ Park, Y., Johnson, M. D., MacDonald, G., & Impett, E. A. (2019). Perceiving gratitude from a romantic partner predicts decreases in attachment anxiety. Developmental psychology, 55(12), 2692–2700. doi.org
- ↑ Noller, P., & Feeney, J. A. (2013). Close relationships: Functions, forms and processes. Psychology Press.
- ↑ Canevello, A., & Crocker, J. (2010). Creating good relationships: responsiveness, relationship quality, and interpersonal goals. Journal of personality and social psychology, 99(1), 78–106. doi.org
- ↑ Stanton, S. C., Campbell, L., & Loving, T. J. (2014). Energized by love: thinking about romantic relationships increases positive affect and blood glucose levels. Psychophysiology, 51(10), 990–995. doi.org
- ↑ Brown, K. W., & Ryan, R. M. (2003). The benefits of being present: mindfulness and its role in psychological well-being. Journal of personality and social psychology, 84(4), 822.
- ↑ Barnes, S., Brown, K. W., Krusemark, E., Campbell, W. K., & Rogge, R. D. (2007). The role of mindfulness in romantic relationship satisfaction and responses to relationship stress. Journal of marital and family therapy, 33(4), 482-500.
- ↑ Karremans, J. C., Schellekens, M. P., & Kappen, G. (2017). Bridging the sciences of mindfulness and romantic relationships: A theoretical model and research agenda. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 21(1), 29-49.
- ↑ Carson, J. W., Carson, K. M., Gil, K. M., & Baucom, D. H. (2004). Mindfulness-based relationship enhancement. Behavior therapy, 35(3), 471-494.