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Want a New Year resolution that really pays off? How about spending a little time on relationship maintenance?
Relationship maintenance doesn’t have to take a lot of time, but it’s an intentional action that can set your new year off right as a couple. Read on to learn 4 quick and easy activities right now.

What is Relationship Maintenance?

Now that the holidays are over and you're done putting all your energy and attention toward relatives, children, workplace events, shopping, baking, and gift-wrapping, it's time to take a fresh look at your relationship.
Research shows that relationship satisfaction declines over time if you don’t pay close attention to maintaining it, even if there is nothing wrong at the moment.
A commitment to relationship maintenance is like a commitment to maintaining your car, your teeth, or anything else. You don’t wait for the car to break down or your teeth to rot. You do maintenance check ups to make sure everything is working properly.
Engaging in basic relationship maintenance means that you are prioritizing your relationship over other activities and that you are paying attention.

4 Easy Relationship Maintenance Activities

Successful couples do basic couples’ maintenance on a regular basis to keep their relationship strong and healthy.
Sometimes, partners start taking the relationship for granted and stop doing the things they used to do during the courtship and romantic period.

Here is a list of what successful couples do to maintain their relationship. These activities are simple, don’t take up a lot of time, and the research shows that they have a positive effect on intimate relationships.
Before you get started, note that if you aren’t used to doing exercises like this regularly, they will feel awkward at first. But, with a few repetitions, you’ll create a new habit that feels more fluid and natural. If you already do some of these activities, give yourself a pat on the back and wait for the next newsletter for more advanced relationship maintenance ideas!

1. Greetings
Greet each morning and each night before going to bed. This simple activity takes about 30 seconds. Research shows that this activity lowers stress hormones and calms the brain.

Suggestion: Whoever gets up later and whoever goes to bed first has to be the initiator of this activity. Look at your partner in eye, say good morning (or good night), and give a full body hug.  

2. Verbal Appreciation
Verbally appreciate each other on a daily basis. Research shows that verbal appreciations given or received lower negative thinking about your partner.

Suggestion: Complete at least one of the following sentences: “I really liked it when you...”, “I appreciate that you…”, “It was really nice of you to….”, “It felt good to see you do X…”; “It was very helpful when you did Y…”

3. No-screen Meetings
Meet for at least 10 minutes on most days without looking at phones, computer screens, TV, or other interruptions. Research shows that doing this on a regular basis increases relationship satisfaction dramatically.

Suggestion: Sit on the couch or at the kitchen table. Take turns asking some of the following questions. Of course, you can also talk about something else or ask other questions. What you should not talk about are relationship problems. This isn’t a “state of the relationship" meeting.

Whoever asks gets to pick the question. Try to go for at least 5-6 questions each.

In response to your partner’s answer, you can just say “thank you” and move on to the next question. If your partner's answer sparks another question, don't hesitate to go for it, but remember, do not react to the answers, particularly if you disagree with them.
  • What is one thing you are worried about in the coming month?
  • What are you most looking forward to in the coming week/month?
  • What is one thing you are most proud of that you did today/last week/month?
  • What is one thing you are least proud of that you did today/last week/month?
  • Is there someone who has been irritating you lately?
  • What is your idea of a relaxing weekend nowadays?
  • What is your current favorite song/movie/TV show?
  • What are two of your favorite childhood memories?
  • What is your favorite memory of a good time in our relationship?
  • Where do you like to go these days when you need a place to think? 
4. Plan Something New
Plan a new and fun activity to do together. This doesn’t have to cost a lot of money. It can be as simple as playing a new card game at home or as elaborate as planning a trip to a new place.

The important thing is it should be something new. Keep in mind that planning a trip does not count if you’ve already done that together (even if it’s to a new place). It has to be something new you have not done before. Take turns planning something new at least twice a year. Research shows that diversification of activities rewires the brain in a positive way.
Additionally, successful couples engage in many more activities on a regular basis: they have sexual encounters, they have “business of the household meetings,” they know how to stop a fight that is not going well, and they know how to repair after a fight.
For more relationship maintenance ideas, explore the exercises in the eBook Habits for Relationship Success.
To your success!
This is an occasional newsletter with advice, articles, and information for couples written by Dr. Sara Schwarzbaum, Ed.D, LMFT, LCPC.

Copyright © 2019, All rights reserved.

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