6 healthy habits that relationship experts swear by

A healthy, loving relationship with a romantic partner provides more than just nightly cuddles on the sofa. Research reveals that individuals in strong and supportive romantic relationships experience numerous wellbeing benefits, including:

But good relationships take effort to develop and maintain. While being affectionate and considering your partner’s needs are essential, there is more we can do to sustain a positive bond.

We asked six relationship experts the approaches and habits they swear by to enhance and strengthen their romantic connections – that go well beyond ‘never go to sleep on an argument’.

6 healthy habits that relationship experts swear by

Schedule mental load check-ins

In having to spin numerous plates, it’s no surprise that the number of midlife women experiencing burnout is high. Michaela Thomas, a clinical psychologist and couples therapist, says this is due to women predominantly carrying the mental load in relationships.

While many couples split physical household chores, women continually take on the brunt of the mental ‘labour’. This includes planning meals, scheduling the children’s activities, and remembering health check-ups. Add in stress around menopausal symptoms, and everything can quickly feel overwhelming.

To help counter this, Michaela recommends scheduling weekly check-ins to discuss each partner’s wants and needs and what they feel weighed down by.

“This can help swing the seesaw up and down in favour of whichever partner needs a bit of slack,” she explains. “When we have a conscious awareness of who does what in the relationship, with clearly outlined responsibilities that we’ve agreed on, and compassionate and respectful communication, there is less resentment.”

Consistency with check-ins is critical too.

“It is an ongoing calibration you need to make a habit out of, not a ‘do once and be done with’ kind of task,” Michaela says.

Choose to grow together

By the time we reach midlife, chances are we’ve been with a partner for a while and have different priorities, interests, and careers from when the relationship first started.

“This doesn’t mean our relationships need to suffer,” asserts Rhian Kivits, a Relate-qualified sex and relationship therapist.

Instead, work to embrace changes and develop as a pair. “Growing together could involve reading books together or attending couples workshops,” Rhian suggests.

Engaging in activities with a partner helps maintain a romantic connection and brings a sense of fun to the relationship. Studies also show that partaking in leisure activities with our partner improves relationship communication and conflict management.

Positive evolution as a couple doesn’t always have to entail date nights.

“Growing together could also involve becoming curious about how you embrace change and navigate challenges to ensure your needs are met,” says Rhian. “Talk honestly and openly about what you’re learning about yourselves and each other in order to maintain your growth.”

Engage in eye contact

With distracting phones, demanding children, and a never-ending list of chores, it’s easy to multitask during conversations and not give a partner our full attention. However, maintaining eye contact when conversing with our loved one is vital, says Courtney Boyer, a relationship and sexuality expert and author of Not Tonight, Honey.

“Eye contact enhances compassion, connection, and empathy,” she states. “When we slow down enough to look into someone’s eyes, we are also able to note other bodily cues that can inform us on how to best attend to our partner.”

Courtney notes that eye contact can help increase trust and closeness in a relationship and affirm that you value each other. Studies also indicate that eye contact can enhance arousal, stimulate the amygdala (the emotional processing part of the brain), and help you better understand your partner’s emotions.

Practice appreciation reflections

“Expressing gratitude is a cornerstone of a healthy relationship,” states Rachel MacLynn, a psychologist and CEO and founder of matchmaking service MacLynn. While it’s easy to assume that this means saying ‘thanks’ when they complete a to-do list task, Rachel says gratitude comes in all shapes and sizes.

“Not everyone responds equally to words of affirmation, so it’s important to adapt – whether through acts of service, quality time, physical touch, receiving gifts, or words of affirmation,” explains Rachel. “Understanding your partner’s love language and showing appreciation in the way that resonates most with them can deepen your connection.”

Rachel advises regularly taking the time to show gratitude and appreciation in a way our partner will appreciate. “Focusing on positive aspects reinforces a cycle of appreciation and respect, deepening emotional intimacy,” she says.

Showing gratitude isn’t only beneficial for our relationships. Research shows the practice is also fantastic for wellbeing and longevity, contributing to factors such as:

Don’t wait until bedtime for sex

Dealing with work and home responsibilities alongside menopause-related libido changes mean many women enjoy less sex as the years tick by. One survey revealed that people in their 20s and 30s hit the sheets once every four to five days, while those in their 40s do so once a week and those in their 60s only once every two weeks.

But sex is an important element of a relationship, helping foster connection, intimacy, closeness, and desirability. It’s also associated with better health, including improved immunity, reduced heart disease risk, and lower anxiety.

Most people wait until bedtime to initiate sex. However, we could be missing a trick here.

“Something we see in a lot of women past the age of 40, who are juggling a career and parenthood (amongst many other things), is that the last thing they want in the bedroom at night is a literal or metaphorical poke that results in the likelihood of more activity and less sleep,” says Dana Moinian, a psychotherapist at The Soke.

As such, Dana recommends that couples aim to switch up their intimacy and get down to business at other times of the day.

“It doesn’t always have to be the same time, same place, same routine; find the spontaneous ‘time is right’ moments,” she states. “To quote a well-worn sports slogan, just do it.”

View your relationship as a separate entity

Georgina Sturmer, a registered counsellor, says it’s helpful to consider a relationship as involving three separate entities: you, them, and we. While not human per se, a relationship is still a ‘being’ that needs nurturing.

“This [approach] helps us to feel as if we are part of something together and encourages us to think beyond just making ourselves happy as individuals,” she reveals.

Consider the ‘personality’ of your relationship, Georgina advises. “[Think about] things that are great and things that are lacking. For example, perhaps it involves a lot of practical support but lacks impulsiveness.”

She notes that once we can recognise what is missing and needed, it is easier to determine and action solutions. This might mean extra date nights, better communication, or more structure. Focusing on specific relationship needs will ultimately help guarantee its long-term success and strengthen the connection between you and your partner.

Words: Chantelle Pattemore

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