Be Appreciative, Daily
Sarah Calvert, a relationship therapist in London, says: “Starting from a place of appreciation is always of benefit, and can help solve more difficult conversations. It’s easy to focus on what is lacking, so I invite people to think about what they appreciate about the other person on a daily basis. Find one thing each day and tell them.” This could be anything from something they do, or a quality that they have to the way they are looking. “Actively seeking out things to appreciate helps them feel valued,” says Calvert, and when your partner better understands what you appreciate about them, they’ll probably start doing those things a bit more.
Don’t Try to Change Your Partner
“This is the person you have chosen, and they are who they are. You can’t change somebody else,” says Dee Holmes, a senior practice consultant for Relate. This can even come down to not sweating the small stuff. “We all do things that irritate our partners,” says Holmes. “Does this really need addressing or should you accept that’s just what they do?” Respect and celebrate each other’s individuality. While couple time is important, says Holmes, “you’ve got to allow someone that space to still see their friends and do their own things.” After all, if you stopped them from pursuing their interests and doing all those things that makes them them, she warns, “they’re not going to be the person you got together with.”
“It can be quite easy to not say the obvious things, because you assume the other person knows,” says Holmes. It can be just as easy to erroneously assume you understand them. If your partner says they don’t want to go out tonight after all, says Holmes, you might feel cheated by their backtracking, without considering what caused their change of heart. Perhaps something is troubling them. Try some active listening, suggests Calvert. “Make an effort to be fully present, and really learn what is going on for that person, rather than just hearing the words.”
Brush Up Your Communication Skills
This starts with being in touch with your own feelings, says Calvert. “Otherwise, you won’t be able to say what you need and what you want. Good communication fosters emotional intimacy, which can lead to greater feelings of fulfillment, understanding, trust and safety.” She suggests being more mindful of the language and the tone you use. “Often people say things [to their partner] that sound really harsh, not in a way in which they would address anyone else,” she says. When responding defensively, they often don’t even say what they really mean. She suggests asking yourself: “If you were listening to this conversation, how would it make you feel?”
Discover What Makes Your Partner Feel Loved
“Some people feel loved through their partner’s actions, anything from bringing a cup of tea for them in bed to upgrading their technology,” says Calvert. Some need affirming words, to be told that they’re loved. For others, physical contact is more significant: intimacy, sex, holding hands. Maybe it’s quality time, with your full attention, or perhaps gifts hold greater meaning for your partner. “If they think that what really matters is holding hands in public,” says Calvert, “and you’re just saying to them, ‘I love you,’ but not giving them any physical contact, then they’re not going to feel so loved.”
Amy Fleming is a freelance writer and former Guardian staff journalist. Follow her on Twitter @amy_fleming.