Relationships: Top 10 Relationship Tips
Beginning a relationship is generally the easy part; it's maintaining the connection that gets a little tricky. That's why a growing number of twosomes (whether or not they've tied the knot) are going into couples therapy as a preemptive strike against the tough times that will inevitably hit... and to learn how to keep the good times flowing. To give you a leg up in your love life, we asked the country's top relationship experts to share the most crucial things they've uncovered over the years -- from big-picture philosophies to little gestures that go a long way. These practices will help keep your union in a happy, healthy place.
1. Act Out of Character. Couples develop a particular dynamic: the way they relate to each other that repeats itself over and over. If you break that pattern and act against type -- in a positive way -- you inject new life into the relationship. For example, if you always get angry at your guy when he doesn't follow through on some chore, try addressing him in a nicer, more friendly tone, then thank him when he does a good job. It works every time. -- Toni Coleman, psychotherapist and relationship coach in McLean, Virginia
2. Get in Touch a Lot. No doubt you hug and kiss each other. But simple acts like stroking his arm while you're watching TV and taking his hand when you're walking down the street are also ways to bond. Touching your partner throughout the day triggers your feel-good hormones, which reinforces your affection and makes you feel closer on an instinctive level. -- Psychotherapist Barton Goldsmith, PhD, author of "Emotional Fitness for Couples"
3. Take Turns Talking. To make sure you both get a chance to state what's on your mind during a disagreement -- and get your points across -- alternate playing reflective therapist, where one listens while the other talks. -- Psychologist Diana Kirschner, PhD, author of "Opening Love's Door"
4. Find the Intersection. When making decisions together, try to find common ground. You each should write down exactly what you want. Let's say you're angling for a vacay in San Francisco to see the sights and hit up the cool shops and restaurants, while he wants a tropical getaway where he can veg out by the pool and sip drinks with umbrellas in the glass. Now that your desires are clearly laid out on paper, you can pick a place that will satisfy both your needs. A cool city, a little sun... how about Miami? -- Paul Dobransky, MD, author of "The Secret Psychology of How We Fall in Love"
5. Be More Positive Than Negative. There's a more effective way to air grievances than to file an angry complaint. Sandwich your negative comment between two positives. If you want to complain about how he's always late, for example, try something like "You know, I love that you're so laid-back and easygoing, but it really bothers me when you show up so late. I'm sure you can still be the fun guy I adore and also be on time." -- Los Angeles psychologist Yvonne Thomas, PhD
6. Echo Each Other. When you and your man are having a serious relationship talk, it's easy to get so caught up in how you want to respond that you're not really listening to what's being said. That's why it's important for both of you to repeat each other: so you know you've been heard and you feel understood. -- Yvonne Thomas
7. Take a Time-Out. Neither of you is perfect, and the quirks you both have are here to stay. So rather than let those annoying traits work your last nerve, try to get in touch with the upside of those particular flaws, even if it's not immediately recognizable. Instead of getting annoyed when he starts screaming at the TV, for example, remind yourself how much you love his passion. Or if his shyness with new people bugs you, think about how refreshing it is to be with a chill, genuine guy rather than a blowhard who needs to chat with everyone in the room. -- Denver psychologist Jennifer Oikle, PhD, dating coach for Coupling Connection
8. Have His Back. You might not agree with your guy when he's had a riff with a friend or he thinks his boss is being unfair, but you should always be on his side... and vice versa. Otherwise, you'll both feel like you can't count on each other. That doesn't mean you have to take the "you're so right" route all the time. Just hear him out, and let him know that you'll support him no matter what. -- New York City psychotherapist JoAnn Magdoff, PhD
9. Spend a Little Money on Each Other. You don't have to wait for a special occasion to give small presents to show your love. In fact, gifts are more fun -- and meaningful -- when they're not expected. Try to get into the habit of exchanging sweet tokens of appreciation for no particular reason. Don't go and blow your paycheck though. It's not about being extravagant; it's just a way of showing that you really get -- and think about -- each other. Maybe you buy him a tee of his favorite band that you saw on sale or he gets you a pair of pajamas in your favorite color. -- Barton Goldsmith
10. Be a Good Date. Face it, no one can stay fascinating forever. After being together for a while, the initial excitement fades, and your guy can start to get kind of boring sometimes. Hey, don't think you're off the hook -- if you're feeling a little ho-hum about him, the feeling is likely mutual! To combat the blahs, take turns coming up with an interesting date idea every month. Keep the time and details to yourself, and try to think outside the box -- dinner and a movie is not exactly innovative. An awesome concert or a snowboarding lesson, for example, is a much less predictable treat. --