3 Science-Backed Ways To Improve Your Relationship
When you think about it, being in a relationship is pretty unusual. Spending crazy amounts of time with just one person, living with them, sharing stuff with them, all whilst trying to keep a cool head. The whole set up is intense, to say the least.
Tolerating another human being is tricky at the best of times, let alone when you’ve had a naff day at work. Even if you love someone, it can be hard keeping up a quality and satisfying relationship. There are those, however, who manage to stick at it and live happily ever after. Want a slice of that Disney romance pie? Follow these 3 relationship tips and be the best you can be in your relationship, for the sake of you, your health and your partner.
Tip 1: I FORGIVE YOU, NOW GIVE ME A KISS
Don’t roll your eyes. Hear us out. Forgiving your partner for something they’ve done is not only healing, but also empowering. Too many studies to mention have highlighted the psychological and physical benefits of forgiveness and putting effort into a relationship.
One such study by Novak et al., in 2017 explored the positive impact of forgiveness in relationships. They examined data from 679 committed couples to find the associations between commitment, forgiveness and a partner’s efforts to maintain the relationship. They found that partners who reported higher levels of commitment and forgiveness were associated with a high rating of their partner’s relationship-maintenance effort levels. These findings demonstrate the importance of maintaining a relationship and being less self-centered and being more focused on your partner. All of which can have some great long-term benefits.
How can you start to forgive?
It’s tough and it needs to be a conscious effort. Take the following scenario as an example:
You’ve arrived home. Your partner is lying on the sofa and the dishwasher needs emptying. They’ve also spilt a cup of coffee and left it to soak into the carpet. Seeing red? Your knee-jerk reaction may be to come in all guns blazing, effing and blinding. And then walk off and ignore them for the rest of the evening – or week. Here’s how to stop that natural knee-jerk reaction and forgive instantly:
- Catch your breath. Breathe in deeply 3 times. This helps to relax the tense muscles in the face, jaw and body and can buy you time to rethink your reaction. And buy them time to get the heck off the couch.
- Positive interaction. Head straight to your partner and interact positively with them. Ask them how their day was, how they’re feeling or give them a compliment. Interacting in a positive way can release your tension and your partner’s too.
- Ask. Once you’re in a calm state and communicating positively, ask if your partner would mind helping to empty the dishwasher. You could even turn it into a game: “How quickly can we empty it? Go, go, go!” If they say no, that’s fine. Just carry on calmly, head into the study and start drafting those divorce papers. No, only joking.
It takes small, conscious efforts to make a huge difference in your relationship. By learning to forgive, you’ll stay in control of your adrenaline and cortisol levels, which is great for your brain, body and soul.
Tip 2: SHOW ME YOUR SOUL
Too often, we can find ourselves judging a partner’s behaviour and seeing their actions as selfish and obnoxious. It seems to be human instinct to assume the worst of people. What this does in a relationship is to create a hostile and explosive environment. Full of stress and anxiety. How can you stop judging your partner’s behaviour and stop assuming everything they do is a personal attack?
- Ask. If your partner seems quiet, ask yourself why this could be. Remind yourself that they’re (most likely) not moody or upset with you. Ask yourself if there’s something going on at work this week? Maybe it’s their company’s financial end of year and it’s pretty stressful at work?
- Open up. Communicate and see if there’s anything you can do for them. Offer to run them a bath or to give them space to chill. Would they like a hug? The minute we see the world from their side and through their eyes, is the minute a new patience and understanding is formed within a relationship.
A study by Vinokur et al., explored the strains partners can face, with a focus on financial problems. They found that a couple who had one partner unemployed and the other at work, struggled to feel satisfied in their relationships. The study used 815 recently unemployed job seekers and their spouses or partners.
“The results demonstrated that financial strain had significant effects on depressive symptoms of both partners… Reduced supportive and increased undermining behaviors had additional adverse effects on satisfaction with the relationship and on depressive symptoms.”
Rather than undermining one another and showing a lack of support, the partners could have tried to communicate with each other, asked each other how they could help and offered up an openness and new levels of understanding. If they had done this, would these results have been more positive? It’s highly likely.
These frustrations usually lead to the brain giving up on the relationship. With scientific studies finding that ‘frustration neurons’ in the brain are actually a thing.
Try opening up, asking questions and helping to support your partner when the going gets tough.
Tip 3: OMG REMEMBER THIS TRIP? IT WAS SO FUN!
Reminiscing has been proven to help relationships stay strong and healthy. By sharing memories and creating relationship nostalgia, you can improve your relationship tenfold. Let’s look at the scientific evidence to back this claim up.
Scientist Guan says that “memory sharing has been frequently suggested (as a tool) to use for developing relationship closeness, especially autobiographical memory.” Guan’s study investigated whether sharing different types of memories would make a couple closer in their relationship. 481 participants were presented with “10 scenarios of five types of conversation content (conversations involving general personal memory, specific personal memory, general vicarious memory, specific vicarious memory, and non-person information) followed by several questions testing the degree of closeness to the hypothetical character in each scenario.”
They found that relaying old memories of a couple’s past “influences the effect of developing closeness.”
Other studies have found similar results. Mallory et al., found that “relationship nostalgia is associated with a movement toward emotional homeostasis.” Making you feel stable and psychologically sound. Although they did find that reminiscing with your partner is something you need to keep doing to feel the long-term benefits.
The health-related benefits of being conscientious in your relationship and actively ‘working on’ maintaining a positive bond are proven by science. So if you want to be the best you can be in your relationship, then follow these 3 tips to get you there.
Be warned, they require perseverance and a bit of hard work, but nothing good ever came easy, right?
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