Greg Custer, MS, LCPC
5 Science-Backed Ways to Strengthen Your Relationship
As a therapist who has worked with countless couples, I understand that relationships can be difficult and emotionally challenging. Whether you're just starting out or have been together for years, every relationship has its ups and downs. But I want to reassure you that there is hope, and it's never too late to start working on your relationship.
As renowned couples therapist, Esther Perel, once said, "The quality of our relationships determines the quality of our lives." Relationships can be difficult and emotionally challenging, but there is always hope for those who are willing to put in the effort. In fact, research shows that certain strategies can help save relationships and improve the quality of the bond.
I know that life can be hectic and stressful, and it can be easy to neglect your relationship in the midst of all the chaos. But it's important to remember that relationships take effort, work, and a willingness to grow and evolve together. That's why I'm excited to share with you some scientifically proven ways to save your relationship and improve the quality of your bond.
1. Open and honest communication. It can be scary to share your feelings and concerns with your partner, but it's crucial for building a strong relationship. When you communicate openly, you create a safe space for both partners to share their thoughts and feelings without fear of judgment or rejection. This is an opportunity to understand each other better and gain insight into each other's perspectives. When both partners feel heard and understood, they are more likely to feel valued and respected in the relationship.
As John Gottman, a leading relationship expert, notes, "The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn't said." When both partners communicate openly and honestly, they create a safe space to share their thoughts and feelings without fear of judgment or rejection. This can lead to greater understanding and respect between partners, ultimately strengthening the bond.
2. Active listening. It's not enough to simply communicate with your partner; you need to listen actively to what they are saying. Active listening means fully focusing on your partner without interrupting or judging them. This helps both partners feel heard and understood, which can lead to more effective problem-solving and conflict resolution. When you actively listen to your partner, you create a deeper connection that can help build intimacy and trust in your relationship.
As Carl Rogers, an influential psychologist, once said, "The greatest gift you can give another is the purity of your attention." Active listening means fully focusing on your partner without interrupting or judging them. When both partners feel heard and understood, they are more likely to feel valued and respected in the relationship, which can lead to greater intimacy and trust.
3. Show appreciation and gratitude for your partner. When you show gratitude towards your partner, you acknowledge and recognize the positive aspects of your relationship. This helps to build a sense of positivity and goodwill towards each other. Whether it's thanking them for doing the dishes or acknowledging something bigger, expressing gratitude can make a significant impact on your relationship. As one study in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships notes, "Expressing gratitude is associated with higher relationship satisfaction and greater feelings of connectedness."
As social psychologist, Sara Algoe, notes, "Gratitude is a social glue that bonds people together." When you show appreciation and gratitude towards your partner, you acknowledge and recognize the positive aspects of your relationship. This creates a sense of positivity and goodwill towards each other, ultimately leading to greater satisfaction and connection.
4. Spend quality time together. In our busy lives, it can be easy to forget to spend time with our partners. But spending time together allows you to connect on a deeper level and strengthen your bond. Quality time can mean different things to different people, but it's important to find activities that both partners enjoy and that allow for meaningful conversation and shared experiences. As one study in the Journal of Marriage and Family states, "Spending quality time together is positively associated with relationship satisfaction and overall well-being."
As relationship researcher, David Olson, notes, "Happiness is not the absence of problems, it's the ability to deal with them." Spending quality time together allows couples to connect on a deeper level and strengthen their bond. This can mean different things to different people, but finding activities that both partners enjoy and that allow for meaningful conversation and shared experiences can lead to greater satisfaction and overall well-being.
5. Forgiveness is an essential part of a healthy relationship. We're all human, and mistakes are bound to happen. But forgiveness allows us to let go of past hurts and move forward together. When we forgive, we release negative emotions and allow space for healing and growth. Research has shown that forgiveness is associated with increased relationship satisfaction and overall well-being. When both partners practice forgiveness, they create a safe space where they can be vulnerable and honest with each other, leading to a deeper connection and greater intimacy.
As author and speaker, Brené Brown, notes, "Forgiveness is not about forgetting, it's about letting go of the power the past has over you." Forgiveness allows both partners to let go of past hurts and move forward together. This creates a safe space where they can be vulnerable and honest with each other, ultimately leading to a deeper connection and greater intimacy.
Relationships can often seem like an insurmountable challenge, yet with the right strategies you can not only save it but create something truly magical between you and your partner. The key lies in communication – speak openly to each other about how both of your feelings, actively listen to one another's needs and desires, show appreciation for what they do; spend quality time together that builds a strong foundation of trust; learn from mistakes so as grow rather than spending precious hours dwelling on individual errors – these are all powerful tools for rekindling or sustaining healthy connections within relationships. So never give up hope - even if things haven't always been easy: there is still plenty more beauty which could be created by simply taking those little steps towards strengthening love!
Algoe, S. B. (2012). Find, remind, and bind: The functions of gratitude in everyday relationships. Social and Personality Psychology Compass, 6(6), 455-469. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1751-9004.2012.00439.x
Gottman, J. M., & Silver, N. (2015). The seven principles for making marriage work. Harmony.
Journal of Marriage and Family. (2002). Special Section on Relationship Processes and Well-Being: Introduction. Journal of Marriage and Family, 64(4), 830-835. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1741-3737.2002.00830.x
Olson, D. H. (2000). Circumplex model of marital and family systems. Journal of Family Therapy, 22(2), 144-167. https://doi.org/10.1111/1467-6427.00134
Worthington Jr, E. L., Wade, N. G., & Hoyt, W. T. (2013). The psychology of forgiveness and its importance in South Africa. Journal of Social Issues, 69(3), 525-542. https://doi.org/10.1111/josi.12025