Strength is just about the most sought-after quality you could ask for in your relationship. After all, strength implies that your bond is durable and can withstand almost any obstacle that life throws in your direction. Sometimes, you build that kind of resilience simply by weathering certain problems together, like compromising on mismatched goals or desires or coping with tragedy. But that doesn’t mean you can’t be proactive in forging a stable, long-lasting connection. If strengthening your relationship in 2020 is your goal, there are certain attitudes, beliefs, and strategies you can adopt to aid in your efforts.
First off, let’s review what a strong relationship looks like. The definition can vary somewhat from couple to couple, but it can be helpful to clarify your end goal. The more clear you are on what kind of strength you’re aiming for, the more likely you are to achieve it. Generally speaking, a strong relationship will not break under pressure. That means that even if you have a disagreement, neither of you is quick to throw in the towel. Instead, you use those opportunities to get closer to each other and figure out ways to improve your communication skills so that you can better prevent and resolve such issues. Another marker of a strong relationship is if both partners feel physically and emotionally safe and therefore trust each other enough to be vulnerable.
Strengthening your relationship is a wonderful goal to focus on because it demonstrates that you’re committed to realizing your full romantic potential. As you look for new ways to build up your bond, just be sure to keep these things in mind.
You can always get better at listening.
Without a doubt, one of the most important communication skills you can hone is listening. And no, I don’t mean listening to come up with a response — I’m talking about listening purely for the sake of understanding your partner's point of view. This is especially important during an argument, when you may feel inclined to get your point across and "win." Resisting the temptation to interrupt, and practicing reflective listening (repeating back what you think they're saying), can help you to better understand your SO’s perspective as well as their feelings. And that sense of understanding can breed empathy, while also enabling you to potentially avoid a misunderstanding.
Whether they’re confiding something in you about an insecurity, expressing their frustration about work, or bringing a problem to your attention, online dating expert Julie Spira previously told Elite Daily that she recommends responding to your partner with this simple phrase: “I hear you, and appreciate that you’re sharing your thoughts and feelings with me.” This statement establishes the precedent that they have a safe, non-judgmental space to hash things out with you. In turn, this may inspire them to be even more open with you.
Taking responsibility for your mistakes is crucial for growth.
It can be really difficult to admit when you've been wrong, but in order to get stronger as a couple, both partners need to be able to take responsibility for their actions. So, when was the last time you acknowledged your misstep and apologized? Are you and your SO both able to own the role you play, or is one person always getting defensive and shifting the blame?
As L.A.-based couple's therapist Dr. Gary Brown emphasizes that the focus should always be on reaching a place of understanding, not being right all the time. A healthy relationship means feeling confident that you can say "my bad" without it somehow sabotaging your bond. In fact, admitting your mistakes gives you an opportunity to find possible areas in which you can improve as a partner, thus making your relationship stronger.
Maintaining independence makes you stronger together.
It may sound counterintuitive, but one of the best things you can do to strengthen your relationship is to nurture everything you've got going on outside of it. Ideally, both partners will feel secure enough in their bond to spend time apart, pursuing their own goals and dreams, and maintaining their individual friendships, hobbies, and interests.
It’s OK if one partner is a bit more independent than the other, according to EZ Dating Coach founder Mike Goldstein. He previously told Elite Daily that it’s totally normal to have different preferences when it comes to personal space and alone time. What matters is that you and your SO are honest with each other about your needs, and set healthy boundaries to honor them.
It’s the little things that count.
If there's one thing that separates those lovey-dovey #couplegoals relationships, it's a shared expression of gratitude. When both partners make it a point to show how thankful they are for each other, they can be more forgiving, appreciative, and resilient in general. So, as you work to make your relationship stronger, keep in mind that it's often small gestures that make a big difference, like leaving your SO a sweet note in their lunch bag, or sending them a mid-day text just to let them know you’re thinking about them.
Dr. Carolina Castaños, a clinical psychologist who specializes in marriage and family therapy, and the founder of MovingOn, previously told Elite Daily that it's super important to acknowledge all the little things your boo does for you, too.
"Notice what your partner does as a way of expressing their love for you," she said. "Allow yourself to feel the love and appreciation, and let them know how you feel by saying thank you."
Always ask questions instead of assuming your partner’s needs.
You know your partner better than anyone, so it’s all too easy to assume that you’re clued into everything that’s going on in their head. But guess what? You’re not actually a mind reader. Directness can go a long way in maintaining a strong line of communication. With that in mind, have you asked your partner how they’re feeling about the relationship lately? You won’t know if you can better meet their needs until you ask them about it outright.
Make an effort to regularly check in with your SO, as this will show how much you care that they’re feeling loved and fulfilled in the relationship. This is especially imperative if you’re dating someone introverted, who may not be apt to openly share their feelings and issues without being engaged or asked about it. So, go ahead and ask the tough questions, like whether there’s something they’d like more of during sex, or what you can do to be a better partner to them. Proactively launching these open and honest conversations may feel awkward at first, but will undoubtedly make you feel closer than ever before.
There's one more thing you should keep in mind as you work toward your goal this year: Relationships are a two-way street. TBH, as long as you and your SO are equally invested in making these efforts, you'll be able to build a bond that feels basically unbreakable.
Julie Spira, online dating expert
Dr. Gary Brown, couple's therapist
Mike Goldstein, dating coach
Dr. Carolina Castaños, psychologist and marriage therapist