Here is a “Top 10” list of tips that can help you improve your relationship.  These tips come from our experience with individual, couples and group therapy.  Here goes:

1. Don’t blame your partner.

         Often times we expect our partner to be perfect (despite the fact that we are not!).  We often hold our partner to unreasonably high standards.  Think of how much more you expect from your partner than almost anyone else, (including patience).

2. Your partner is not your parent.

         This one may not be readily apparent.  Often times we expect our partner to ‘fix’ problems that really belong to our relationship with our parents.  One example could be insecurity.  This usually develops in childhood, however, we typically look to our partner to make us feel perfectly secure.  This often puts extra pressure on the relationship, and can often have a negative effect.

3. Remember to keep courting your partner.

          We often pull a “bait and switch” in relationships.  When we are first dating, we present ourselves as the ‘perfect mate.’  However, once we get a commitment from the other, we often stop being as gentle, thoughtful, etc.

4. Appreciate what you have.

           We often overlook the good things in our relationship.  Notice the good times, be aware that it feels good just to hang out together or do an errand together.

5. Listen!

           Often times we worry that we won’t be heard, and we end up trying to make our point(s).  We often spend much less effort and time really trying to listen to our partner’s feedback (instead, we often fend it off).  How can we make improvements to the relationship without listening to what our partner wants?  How can we expect them to feel valued if we don’t listen?

6. Your partner needs you to say what you want or expect.

           How often have you heard, “If I have to tell (him/her) it means …. s/he doesn’t care/love me/know me?”  Unless your partner is a fortune-teller, this is unreasonable, and puts a lot of pressure on the relationship.  The fact that your partner doesn’t always know what’s on your mind simply means she or he is human.  The other problem with this situation, is that you can convince yourself that he or she does not love you, rather than they don’t have special powers.

7.  Re-examine the expectations you have for your partner.

          We typically expect more from our partners than we do from any other person.  Often, our expectations are even unreasonable.  Sometimes, we expect our partner to make the world right for us.  They can’t.  Often we regress in our relationships, and unresolved childhood issues get played out.  One way this happens is expecting perfection, like we expected from our parents (see also #2).

8.  Make some special time.

          It is too easy in our busy lives to keep running at full speed.  Even if you are in school and/or working a lot, set aside some time.  Quality time goes a long way.  Maybe it’s just a meal, a walk or even going to the store together.  Find ways to make the found time together quality time.  Really listen to your partner, hold hands.  Tell yourself this time is for the both of you, and that you will get back to the other things.  Focus on this time together.

9.  Don’t use global statements.

         Many times in arguments we say things like, “You always …”  “You never …”  Generally these are over-statements, and they have an insidious effect.  First, your partner is forced to defend him- or herself rather than listen to your complaint.  This will most often escalate the fight.  The other problem, is that we often begin to believe these over-statements.   At some level we think to ourselves, “Yeah, that’s right … she NEVER ….”

10. The Golden Rule.

         You know, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”  It’s golden for a reason.  If you want your partner to think well of you, do things that will promote those feelings.

11.  (Bonus point!)  Be mindful.

          We spend a great deal of time just going through our days.  However, when we approach our partner in a mindful state, we usually are more prepared to respond in ways that are more consistent with who we want to be, rather than just acting out of reflex.