Couples Skills: 5 Ways to Improve Your Relationship

Although most relationships are based on a foundation of genuine love and respect, at some point in all relationships, challenges and breakdowns naturally occur.

If you and your partner are longing for a deeper and more satisfying level of connection and intimacy and your best efforts aren’t producing positive and lasting results, it may help to incorporate new practices to improve your relationship dynamics.

Learning some fundamental skills and regularly contributing in positive ways to the well-being of the relationship takes effort and a willingness to learn through trial and error until new habits are established.

Applying Skills That Strengthen Your Relationship

Consider five effective ways that nurture and improve your relationship and bring about healing.

1. Make regular deposits in your relationship bank

Think of your relationship for a moment as a bank account with deposits and withdrawals. How would the bank statement read today?

In the beginning of a relationship, we tend to make lots of deposits. We make our partner a priority, spend quality time together, and we are generous, open, and supportive as we build a foundation for intimacy and connection.

In time, though,  the demands of life—family, career, financial worries, illness or loss, unforeseen crises, arguments or disagreements—can all become withdrawals from the relationship account. Soon, you may find the account overdrawn.

Rebuilding the balance can start with a small gesture or act of kindness. A hug, a compliment, a smile, planning a night out or weekend away are great ways to replenish that dwindling relationship account.

2. End shame, blame, and criticism

A harsh word, a snap judgment, finding fault when things don’t match our expectations. When the negativity or criticism creeps in or becomes a habit, relationships suffer, resentment and frustration develop, and intimacy is eroded.

Imagine making your relationship a pollution-free zone. It may take some practice, as it’s easy to speak thoughtlessly or harshly in a moment of frustration. Yet, as you cultivate the practice of removing critical talk and judgment from your relationship dynamics, you will soon notice a growing environment of respect and safety.

You’ll be amazed how true intimacy blooms as you take steps to create a positive and secure environment.

3. Know your deal breakers

People usually know exactly what are non-negotiables for them but often fail to listen to their gut. Rather than dismissing your instinct, learn to define your deal breakers and communicate openly and honestly about your bottom line needs, values, and preferences.

All relationships require compromise and negotiation to come to workable solutions yet not all compromises make sense. For example, if you want children and your partner has communicated a desire for a child-free lifestyle, love is likely not enough to overcome this fundamental difference.

Healthy relationships are built upon mutual dreams, goals, and shared values. Remind yourself that it is okay to stand firm and choose not to compromise on an issue that is non-negotiable for you.

4. Humor can bring relief

Have you ever walked into a room and felt the tension? Conflict tends to create an air of seriousness, and it can feel like our whole future depends on making a point or coming to some sort of resolution.

In those moments, relax, take a deep breath, and try to find a playful way of lightening the mood. Pause, crack a grin, extend a reassuring hug or touch, take a walk. Introducing humor or playfulness into a moment of tension can reestablish a connection and bring a welcome relief from taking things too seriously.

5. Assume nothing

Misunderstandings happen. When you feel frustrated in your interaction with your partner and start imagining how right you are and how wrong they are, you are losing perspective.

Stop and check in with your partner to find out what is really going on. Starting a conversation with the understanding that you may have misunderstood something or jumped to a conclusion goes a long way toward clearing up misunderstandings and fostering clear and productive communication.

Finding Support for Healing

No question about it, most couples yearn to build a future together based on shared dreams and values. Though you probably have the desire to do something proactive, you may lack some fundamental skills to improve your relationship. And applying these skills is often easier said than done.

If that is your case, what more can you do?

Seek out a trained professional for practical support.

An experienced couples counselor can teach you new skills and coach you as you practice and develop open and honest communication, nurturing a supportive and loving connection that will help you avoid the negative patterns that keep you from having the relationship you long to have. Together, you can take a close look at your relationship wants and needs, determine what’s working well and what needs to change, and find a new—better—path for you and your partner to improve your relationship together.