Greet your partner with a kiss. When you’ve been apart, reconnect by wrapping your arms around one another and kissing like you mean it. The Gottman Institute says a 6-second kiss is all it takes to bring you back into your partner’s world. They suggest doing this when taking leave of one another as well. It’s a simple gesture that takes very little time but shows your partner (s)he is loved and valued.
Put your phone down. In today’s world, we are all connected 24 hours a day. When you’re with your partner, make a conscientious effort to unplug and be present. Facebook and Twitter aren’t going anywhere, but your partner might if your nose is in your phone every time you’re together.
Take care of yourself. Eat right, get enough sleep, drink your water, and exercise. Meditate and do yoga. Take your vitamins. Get massages. Run naked through the woods. Do what you need to do to feel well. It’s YOUR job to take care of YOU. When you feel good, you’re apt to be a more pleasant person to be around, and that will spill over into your relationship.
Touch. Hand-holding is under-rated. In long-term relationships especially, it gets to be way too easy to walk down the street separately, sit on opposite couches, or side-step one another in the hallway. Take whatever opportunity you can to lovingly touch your partner. Caress her cheek, snuggle up with him on the couch, spoon. Non-sexual touch is just as important as sex. Which leads me to…
Make love. Make it a lot. Make it the way you like it, the way your partner likes it, the way the two of you figure out you like it together. Sexual intimacy within the safety of a loving relationship can bring you incredible contentment and closeness. It’s also a good stress-reliever, and can dissipate petty relationship arguments like magic.
Communicate. You pissed? Tell him. Don’t beat around the bush and make him guess what you’re mad about. You irritated? Talk to her. Explain why. Passive-aggressive games confuse people and exacerbate issues. Feel like you’re done? Discuss it respectfully. Get a therapist if it’ll help. Tell the truth. Be kind and transparent. It will save you a lot of heartache and misunderstanding.
Be a good friend. We often forget, especially in long-term relationships, that this person we share romantic love with is also our friend. In some lucky cases, this person is our best friend. Friends support one another, they are good listeners, they remind us who we are when we forget. Friends are the people who hold us up when our world crumbles. Friends are precious and should be cherished.
Give each other room to grow. Even when our lives becomes entwined with another’s, we remain individuals. Keep that in mind. If your partner finds a new hobby, encourage him in the pursuit of it. If she wants to go back to school, support her every step of the way. It’s very possible to be completely different people 25 years into a relationship and have a stronger bond and more love for each other than ever. Humans need to be able to evolve. Give each other that gift with open hearts.
Laugh together. The ability to laugh is the ability to experience joy, and who better to do that with than someone you love deeply? Make light of absurd situations. Tell each other stupid jokes. Send each other funny crap you see online. Have fun together. Bring joy to your partner’s life, and (s)he will be inclined to reciprocate.
Understand that no relationship is perfect. Just as there are no perfect human beings, there are no perfect relationships. Our imperfections actually make us pretty amazing. It’s not your partner’s job to make you happy or “complete” you; it’s yours. Over time, relationships go through peaks and valleys. Some of the valleys can be pretty dark. Each of you has to make a conscious decision to stick around through those valleys to make the relationship last. This means CHOOSING your partner every single day. CHOOSING to pull one another through those dark patches. CHOOSING to kiss, hold hands, and make love even on days you may not feel like it. There’s much to be said for weathering life’s storms with a consistent source of support right by your side.
Value and appreciate one another. You don’t have to stay in a relationship, and neither does your partner. Promises, rings, legal documents, and children do not guarantee that a relationship will last. We only get one thing of significance in this life: time. Your partner is choosing to spend his or her most valuable resource with you. Recognize, respect, and value that each day.
Say goodbye with grace. All relationships end. They end by respectful parting, contentious divorce, and death. When it’s time to say goodbye, release your partner with dignity and compassion. Remember that this is a person you have loved deeply during your lifetime, and let them go with all the loving kindness you can muster. And then, when you’re ready, move forward with a heart that is open enough to love again.