Nine Actionable Tips for Creating a Strong, Connected Love Relationship

Nine Actionable Tips for Creating a Strong, Connected Love Relationship

By: Carla Manly

Editor’s note: As our Think Tank has pointed out several times, enriching relationships are the cornerstone of well-being. But just saying so is not enough. That’s why we asked clinical psychologist, author, and expert on love, Carla Manly, to give us her advice. Whether you use these wonderful tips as teaching materials for your learners, for your own benefit, or both, the world will be better for it.

What’s the secret to a healthy love relationship?

The recipe is different for every couple, but my research has found that healthy communication, friendship, trust, mutual respect, and ongoing appreciation are a few of the most important keys. Whether your romantic relationship is decades old or just getting started, there’s never a better time than now to foster a strong, loving connection with your partner. You don’t need to make huge changes to your relationship; just a few intentional shifts will pay off in the long run. In fact, as noted in my new book, Date Smart: Transform Your Relationships and Love Fearlessly, your own inner world will shift for the better as you discover how to tune into both your intrapersonal and interpersonal worlds in mindful ways. With a positive, can-do attitude, you can change the relationships in your life for the better. From honing your listening skills to embracing the joy of play, you’ll glean relationship-building tips from the actionable list below.

Tip #1: Lean in to really listen! Deep listening is one of the best gifts we can give to a romantic partner. The goal of true listening is to make our loved one feel heard and seen. Take care not to interrupt or allow distractions to interfere with your time together. The more you make heartfelt listening a part of your daily routine, the more you’ll learn about your romantic partner—and the stronger your connection will be! Set aside time and space every day for mindful listening. Let go of other tasks, make eye contact, and listen respectfully, deeply, and quietly. Listen with your heart wide open!

Tip #2: Cultivate a deep, respect-filled friendship with your partner. One of the most common complaints I hear from couples—both those in relationships that are fairly new and those that have lasted for decades—is the “disappearance” of the close connection and friendship once the honeymoon phase wore off. In truth, many partners take each other for granted after the relationship solidifies, but we surely don’t ever want to take our loved ones for granted. In fact, building and maintaining a solid friendship with each other is one of the best investments partners can make. Research[i] reflects that partners who have a strong foundation of friendship benefit from increased connection and longer-lasting relationships.

Tip #3: Foster daily appreciation! Studies[ii] show that partners who are appreciative have stronger, healthier relationships. When life gets busy and stressful, we often tend to notice when things are going “wrong” rather than all the things that are going quite well. A dose of appreciation is a healthy antidote to this common pitfall. Appreciation tends to foster joy and connection, so don’t underestimate the power of being grateful for all that you have—including your loved ones and friends. In fact, one of the greatest gifts you can offer to yourself and others is your heartfelt appreciation. Daily gratitude practices are a win-win because they boost inner joy and connection. Make it a point to take a few minutes every morning and evening (and even throughout the day) to offer loving words of appreciation to yourself, your partner, and all that life offers!

Tip #4: Touch daily to connect and heal! We are wired to desire connection. No matter how young or old we are, we benefit from being touched by our partners. When life gets busy, it can be easy to forget the importance of pausing to hold your partner’s hand, offer a gentle hug, or pause for a lingering kiss. Touch can be incredibly affirming and healing. Caring touch increases our sense of connection and safety due to an increase in feel-good neurochemicals! Make it a point to hug your partner every morning and evening; connecting with a hug after a long day at work is one of the best ways to create a “welcome home” transition.

Tip #4: Transparency and honesty are key! Technology has made it easier than ever for partners to hide important elements of their lives from each other. Unfortunately, dishonesty (including errors of omission) and a lack of transparency are “slippery slope” behaviors that destroy the relationships over time. Unsurprisingly, research[iii] shows that partners who are honest with each other have a better chance of building a healthy, lasting relationship. Without transparency and honesty, it’s impossible to build the foundation of trust and safety that is essential for strong, connected love relationship.





Tip #5: Stay curious! Being curious about your partner’s hopes, dreams, and daily struggles allows you to stay connected. It’s easy to slip into patterns that take you and your partner on divergent paths. This often leads to partners feeling disconnected or bored with each other. When we stay curious and strive to foster pathways that allow for frequent healthy intersections, relationships stay fresh, interesting, and connected.

Tip #6: Create or update your bucket list! Romantic relationships tend to thrive when partners have shared hopes and dreams that foster collaboration and connection. Bucket-list items don’t have to be grand or expensive; they can involve the simplest of dreams such as creating a garden or taking up a new hobby together. Make time each year—or even every six months—to update your bucket list with feel-good goals that will bring joy to you, your partner, and your relationship.

Tip #7: Increase connection through loving play! Research[iv] indicates that play can have a powerful effect on relationship satisfaction. When couples play together, they experience the relationship-boosting power of shared joy and companionship! When a playful mindset is at work, you’ll find that fun is awaiting you around every corner. Even mundane tasks become a delight when you and your partner embrace the connective power of play. No matter how busy your schedule, carve out a bit of time every day to play—and laugh—with your partner. Whether you play cards for a half hour, giggle as you make a game of folding laundry, or take a fun-filled stroll through town, remember that fun can be found in some of the most ordinary places.



Tip #9: Volunteer together! No matter how busy your schedule might be, carving out time to volunteer weekly or monthly is a boon for romantic relationships. Your relationship quality may improve when you create time to volunteer as a united team. Volunteering can also help partners show compassion for others while increasing feelings of personal abundance. Volunteering is a wonderful way to connect with others while enjoying the mood-boosting effects of giving to others. You and your partner might even find that your volunteer experiences increase your positive regard for each other. Many communities have volunteer centers to help community members find a good fit, such as food pantries, animal shelters, or elderly care support. Once you and your partner find a volunteer activity that feels right, make a commitment that fits your schedule and calendar the dates so that your good intentions don’t fall by the wayside!

You and your partner can surely improve the quality and longevity of your relationship when you take small, steady steps to build love, connection, and trust. In truth, healthy love relationships never occur by chance; they are always the result of both partners’ intentional, loving effort. It’s never too late—or to early—to build healthy habits that keep you and your partner lovingly connected for a lifetime.

Dr. Carla Marie Manly is a clinical psychologist and wellness expert based in Sonoma County, California. In addition to her clinical practice, Dr. Manly is deeply invested in her roles as an author, consultant, advocate, and speaker. With a holistic, body-mind-spirit approach, she specializes in improving professional and personal relationships through mindfulness and healthy communication skills.

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