Whether you're nurturing a budding romance or you've been married since the first lunar landing, you can have a more committed, loving, and fulfilling relationship -- if you're willing to do a little work. Not sure where to start? WebMD consulted with top relationship experts to bring you this set of intimacy-building tips.
Listen, With the TV Off
All of our experts agree on this point -- listening, truly listening, can reduce conflict, boost trust, and lead to a more satisfying partnership. Listening may sound simple, but it requires more than being in the same room while your better half is speaking. Signal that you care by turning off the television, offering your undivided attention and making eye contact. And don't forget to follow up on what you hear.
This is particularly important when your partner is upset. If you listen carefully, you are more likely to understand the problem and find a way to help. This can take practice, according to Steve Brody, PhD, author of Renew Your Marriage at Midlife. "Practice listening in less-loaded relationships, like with customers at work or friends on the phone," Brody suggests. "After building up listening muscle in those less-challenging relationships, the weight of your partner becoming unglued won't be as overwhelming."
Focus on the Relationship Positives
"When you first meet someone, you pay attention to all the things you like," says Kate Wachs, PhD, a Chicago psychologist and author of Relationships for Dummies. "As time goes on, you start to take that for granted and instead you focus on what bothers you. If the relationship becomes more negative than positive, you break up."
The solution is to make a conscious effort to focus on the things you like about your partner. "Your partner has many good qualities, as well as things that drive you crazy," Brody says. "Look for [the positives] and drink those in. Jot them down to remember them."
Nagging not only creates tension, it usually gets you nowhere. "If you're nagging, your partner will tune you out," Wachs tells WebMD. "If someone isn't giving you what you want, think about what you are doing. It's not working. What can you do instead? Have a dialogue ... Instead of saying what you don't like, say what you would prefer. Give alternatives."
Remember to balance any criticisms with a heavy dose of positive feedback. When making a request that could be seen as nagging, take the edge off by expressing appreciation for your partner's good qualities. "Give 20 positives whenever you want to ask for a change," Wachs says. Your partner will be more motivated to please you if he or she feels appreciated.
Spend More Time Together
You've probably heard the idea before -- make dates and keep them. Putting couple time on your calendar reinforces your sense of dedication to each other. "Couples benefit when they feel commitment," Peter A. Wish, PhD, clinical psychologist and author of Don't Stop at Green Lights: Every Woman's Guide to Taking Charge of Her Life and Fulfilling Her Dreams, tells WebMD. "Make these private times special by not including others."
But don't make the mistake of limiting your interaction to designated couple time. Try to enjoy each other's company for at least a few minutes every day, especially first thing in the morning, at the end of the workday and right before bed. "At those times talk about positive things," Wachs says. "It makes a big impression." Make a special point of greeting each other at the end of the workday. If you're home first, stop what you're doing when your partner arrives and spend a moment together. "Act like [he or she] is important," Wachs advises, "not just the postman stopping by with the mail."
Touch More Often
Physical communication is as important as emotional communication in a relationship. It relieves tension and shows your partner that you care. "Physically being in contact with your partner breaks through a lot of ice," Wachs says. "Go out of your way to kiss and hug during the day. Always sleep together in the same bed. Just assume you're going to have sex every night. ... It's hard to fight if you're having great sex."