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30 ways to improve your relationship

Want to turn back the clock to those sexy, curious, early days when you’d just become a couple? These 30 tips are sure to bring you closer.

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1. Get your adrenaline pumping
Adrenaline is like an aphrodisiac in relationships, especially when you’ve been together for years. It’s what infuses some oomph into otherwise ordinary days. “Sometimes things can start to feel stale and predictable in a long-term relationship,” says Seth Meyers, PsyD, author of Dr. Seth’s Love Prescription: Overcome Relationship Repetition Syndrome and Find the Love You Deserve. “So make sure that you are stimulating your body, which, in turn, stimulates your mind and your emotions.” Give bungee jumping a go if you dare. Too extreme? How about horseback riding or go-karting? Or choose any other activity that you find exciting and gets your adrenaline going.

2. Send a sexy text
Send a sexy text to let your man know he’s on your mind when you’re apart. That’s right, it’s not just for politicians and celebrity athletes; it’s for couples in healthy relationships looking to have a little fun, too. “With technology-based infidelity in the news constantly,” explains sex expert Ian Kerner, Ph.D., contributor to GoodinBed.com, “it’s important to remember that sexting is a great way for committed couples to flirt with each other and make each other smile.” Anticipation is like mental foreplay that could lead to the physical kind, too.

3. Have a heart-to-heart talk
Does your marriage sometimes feel more like a business arrangement than a love affair? It’s not that surprising when you think about it: You’re most likely partners in a bank account, car or mortgage, or all of the above. But none of that serious stuff came into play when you first fell in love, so try to re-visit that tender pillow-talk stage whenever possible. “It’s essential to have a real conversation at least once a week,” says Sherry Amatenstein, author of The Complete Marriage Counselor: Relationship-saving Advice from America’s Top 50+ Couples Therapists. You’ve got to expand your communication beyond “the day-to-day, ‘Are we out of milk?’ and ‘Whose turn is it to walk the dog?’”

4. Say thank you
Every couple knows the importance of saying “I love you.” But, believe it or not, those may not be the magic words your significant other is really longing to hear. “The number one way to improve your relationship is to make your partner feel consistently appreciated,” says Meyers. “And the surest way to do this is to say ‘thank you’ for the little things.” Did he take out the trash? Make dinner? Put his socks in the laundry basket? Let him know it wasn’t lost on you. Plus, there may be an added bonus in showing your appreciation: Forming new good habits.

5. Make eye contact during sex
When you’re having sex, are you thinking about something, somewhere, or someone else? There’s nothing wrong with fantasy when he’s in on it (and occasionally when he isn’t). But closing your eyes can sometimes send the wrong message: You’re only present physically. Keeping your eyes open and looking directly into his reassures him that it’s him, and only him, who’s turning you on in that moment. “Eye contact during sex reinforces the love-making aspect of sex,” says Kerner. “It also enhances the emotional intensity and sense of intimacy.”

6. Reminisce
What’s worse than living in the past? Ignoring it altogether and never taking a moment to reflect on the happy times you’ve shared along the way. “Reminiscing together strengthens your bond and your sense of history together,” says Meyers. After all, the fact that you’ve been together for as long as you have can say a lot about how much you mean to each other and how well you know each other. Remember that B&B where you sat on that porch swing for hours on end? Remember the incredible gourmet meal you shared on your 30th birthday?

7. Do “his” housework sometimes
Is there anything better than waking up to find that your guy emptied the dishwasher after you went to bed? He feels the same way when you handle household chores he’d been putting off, especially when he’s busier than usual. “Being considerate of your partner is the gift that keeps giving,” says Amatenstein. “Not only will he feel he is more than a ‘task-mule,’ he’ll be more inclined to do chores for you when your schedule is crazed.” And surprisingly it’s the little to-dos, like picking up milk when you see you’re running low or replacing a light bulb that can be most noticeable.

8. Take a new risk in the bedroom

In a recent GoodinBed.com survey on bedroom boredom, nearly 60 percent of respondents said they wish their partner would suggest something new to mix up their between-the-sheets routine. “Couples generally lock into a few things that they know work and stop experimenting,” explains Kerner. “But the brain is the biggest sex organ and anytime you try something new, you’re stimulating the brain’s natural desire for novelty.” Some ideas? Try out role-playing, a game of dress-up or give it a go with a sex toy.

9. Give compliments…daily
He knows you think he’s smart, funny and sexy. Why else would you be with him for so long, right? Not necessarily. Even if he’s the most confident man on the planet, he’d probably still love to hear about how you feel about him more often – and compliments are a great place to start. “Giving compliments provides a necessary reminder that you find your partner physically and emotionally attractive,” says Meyers. “And practicing this will make your partner feel warmer toward you.” So the next time he tells you about a success at work, let him know you’re not surprised he’s so well-respected. The next time he wows you with his knowledge of American history, tell him you’re impressed with his social studies smarts. And the next time his butt looks extra-cute in those jeans? Let him know!

10. Work out together
Hitting the gym as a couple isn’t only about finding extra time to be together: Being fitness buddies is also a great way to show each other support and encouragement while getting in better physical shape and feeling healthier all around. It even implies that you hope to live a long life in each other’s company. “Working out together gives you a common goal,” says Amatenstein. “The couple that sweats together stays together!” Plus, the gym is hot and increases your heart rate, not to mention your libido.

11. Ask him for advice
Want to give your guy an ego boost while showing him how much you respect him, all at the same time? It’s easy: Ask him to guide you through solving a problem you’re having at work or with a friend or family member. “People need to feel needed,” says Meyers. “And asking for help is a great way to show your partner that you depend on him in a healthy way.” Requesting his assistance and support is sure to make him feel important, especially if you follow his advice and let him know it led to a favorable outcome.

12. Talk about your future plans
How do you want to spend next weekend, your next vacation, even your retirement? It offers a sense of security to know that, however you spend it, you’ll be spending it as a pair, even if you’re only daydreaming – and a little playfulness can even add to the fun. “For couples, it’s ‘two against the world,’ so talking about your plans in a way that’s positive and aspirational can bring couples closer together,” says Kerner. “Discussing babies, buying a house, and growing old together help couples to bond emotionally.” It can even enhance the desire for intimacy, he adds.

13. Practice reflective listening
You often wonder if he hears the sounds coming out of your mouth – or if he’s really listening to what the words mean. There’s a surefire technique you can both try to make sure it’s clear that you’re truly paying attention – it’s called reflective listening. In response to what the speaker is saying, the listener paraphrases each idea out loud. For example, if he’s talking about vacation ideas and suggests Miami, San Diego or the Caribbean, you might respond by saying, “So it sounds like you’re envisioning us going somewhere warm on our next vacation.” The goal, says Amatenstein, is to “ensure that you actually understand the point your partner is making, versus him assuming you understand,” explains. But it’s a skill that takes time to master so be sure to keep practicing; it will feel less forced over time.

14. Kiss more often
Kissing. Remember kissing? We’re not talking about the 2-second peck on the lips – we’re talking those deep, slow, mouth-open kisses. You both used to look forward to it, greet each other with it, brag to your friends about it. So how did it get so completely lost in the shuffle? “Kissing becomes a forgotten act for many couples in long-term relationships, unless it’s during foreplay,” says Kerner. “But kissing is probably the simplest, sexiest act there is.” In fact, he says, “Couples who kiss regularly tend to have sex more frequently.” And sex doesn’t need to be the only incentive; sometimes relationships just need a little mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.

15. Ask for what you’re missing
One of the most common mistakes couples make is resenting one another for not knowing what the other is thinking. If you have to ask, where’s the romance, right? But romance is one thing and being realistic is another. “Your partner is not a mind reader,” says Amatenstein. “He wants to make you happy, but needs instruction on how to make that happen.” So if you need a shoulder rub? Ask for it. If you need more help around the house? Ask for it. And, if you need a date night? Ask for it – or, better yet, take control and plan one yourself.

16. Surprise him
It’s easy to fall into a routine in a long-term relationship, particularly once you’re living together. And, while making a joint decision to break free of it is nice – i.e. Let’s go to breakfast on Saturday morning for once, instead of sleeping in! – deciding to do something special for him without him knowing about it is even nicer. “Bringing fun little surprises to your daily life keeps things fresh in your relationship,” says Meyers. So call him to tell him you’ve scheduled dinner reservations… on a Monday when he least expects it. When he tells you he’s running late, DVR his favorite TV show so – surprise – it’s waiting for him when he gets home.

17. Touch each other
Flirting and holding hands isn’t just for twosomes in new relationships; it can keep your bond sealed for the long haul. “Non-sexual intimacy, such as touch and holding hands, lays a foundation for sexual desire,” says Kerner. “Try giving each other a 20-second hug; it’s reputed to boost oxytocin levels – especially in women – and oxytocin is known as the cuddle hormone.” In other words, cuddling once can lead to cuddling again, which can lead to regular cuddling. And can you imagine his delight if you were to unexpectedly pinch his rear when no one else was looking? Try it and see where it goes!

18. Do an activity intended for kids
Playing basketball on your driveway, hitting the zoo or an amusement park, even the swings at your local playground isn’t just for kids. In fact, a sense of child-like fun may be just what you need to fill a void in your relationship when you’ve reached a point where all you talk about is dull, dry, grown-up stuff. “Too many adults forget to incorporate play into their lives,” says Meyers. “And play can be fun in and out of the bedroom.”

19. Ask about each other’s day (for real)

It’s easy to go through the motions of checking in with one another, when your minds are really on grocery lists, carpool schedules and clients. But how can your relationship grow when you don’t really know what each other is up to during the workday? (That’s where you spend an average of nine hours of every weekday, after all). But just asking the right questions isn’t enough: “Don’t just pay lip service to what he says,” warns Amatenstein. To show that you’ve been listening, be specific: Ask about an ongoing situation, or how a work project he’d mentioned turned out. “It will mean the world to him that you actually pay attention and are invested in his work life.”

20. Call him by a private nickname
Nicknames usually stem from lighthearted affection or playful teasing, but over time, they become even more valuable. That’s because they start to symbolize how long you’ve known each other – and how well. “Couples who have pet names and secret words are forming their own private world,” says Amatenstein. And if you don’t have pet names for each other, make one up! You may feel silly at first, but rest assured it will give him the warm fuzzies every time you use it.

21. Be the first to apologize
Arguing about little things like chores, picking up the kids or spending some extra money doesn’t have to be about who’s wrong and who’s right. Do you want to keep hovering over the tension or do you want to move forward? If it’s the latter, it might require you being the bigger person – if it makes you feel more comfortable, try using humor to get there. “Too often men get stuck on their pride and don’t even remember what they’re angry about,” says Kerner. “When a woman makes the first move towards reconciliation, it often saves the situation from escalating.” And there may be a racy reward, he says: “The nice part about fighting is the make-up sex to follow.”

22. Grudges, be gone
On the flip side, accepting his apology can be a struggle, as well. You may say you’re ready to move on, all the while keeping your actual feelings bottled up. You may not believe that he’s being sincere, or maybe he’s apologizing for something that ruffled the balance of your trust. But saying you accept his apology too soon doesn’t benefit anyone, says Amatenstein: “Holding a grudge will make you bitter and push him away.” Instead, be clear about why you’re unsure and ease into a resolution; otherwise he’ll think you’re back to normal when the truth is, you’re not.

23. Leave him a note
Jot down a quick thought on a small piece of paper and slip it into the shirt he’s planning to wear tomorrow – or in his lunch or briefcase. When he finds it, he’ll certainly be thinking about you. “Who doesn’t like a little reminder that he’s special?” says Amatenstein. Handwritten notes may feel old-fashioned, but because they’re not the norm it’s another reason why he’ll appreciate the gesture.

24. Reveal a sexual fantasy
Many women keep their fantasies to themselves because they’re too shy or embarrassed to reveal them even to a spouse. But that could be a mistake, says Kerner: “Fantasy can make familiar moves feel fresh and sexy.” Even incorporating a sexy scenario into your standard foreplay routine can make a huge difference, he explains. “It’s practically guaranteed to enhance arousal. Plus, couples who fantasize together also feel less judged by their partner and ultimately more connected.” That’s potentially a pretty substantial pay-off – but only if you’re willing to step out of your comfort zone.

25. Brag about your guy

Did your guy do something brag-worthy, like making you a gourmet dinner, getting a promotion at work or scoring a touchdown in his Sunday flag football game? Be his biggest cheerleader and shout it from the rooftops. And don’t be confused: Bragging isn’t necessarily about being conceited or smug. “Bragging about him in front of others makes him feel accepted and loved,” says Meyers. “He’ll beam with pride and feel closer to you as a result.” Think he’ll be embarrassed? Then remember that bragging about him when he’s not present, and telling him about it later, also counts.

26. Send flowers for no reason
That’s right: Flowers aren’t just for us ladies! Men may be teased a bit at the office for receiving roses, but inside most will just feel adored. You know your guy best, though, and flowers are just one example – any gift will do. Food gifts, such as cookie basket, are also a good bet. “Men are trained to give us flowers and little gifts,” says Amatenstein. “How appreciative he’ll be to receive his own!” As an added advantage, showing him how good it feels may lead him to send you a gift back at some point, as well.

27. Offer a massage
“Giving your partner a massage is a great way to let him indulge in the sensual pleasures of sex – and to surrender to the power of arousal,” explains Kerner. “A sexy massage may lead to sex or to a variety of different paths to gratification.” But if you really want to make him feel pampered, here’s the secret: Don’t ask for anything in exchange – not sex and not a reciprocated massage or anything else. Make it all about him. (It will be your turn another time).

28. Go to religious services together
Varying religious beliefs may be one of the most common causes for break-ups, even divorce, but the opposite is also true. “Studies have shown that sharing a belief in something outside oneself is a powerful marital glue,” says Amatenstein. “And couples who pray together are less likely to stray.” So visit your church, synagogue or mosque together regularly to center yourselves as individuals and as a couple. Sermons, and even your spirituality as a whole, can lead to illuminating conversations about your morals and upbringing.

29. Get competitive (really)
Usually when you hear about game-playing in reference to relationships, it’s the bad kind of games – the scheming kind. But those aren’t the ones we’re talking about. In this case, the couple that plays together stays together: Scrabble, Boggle, Taboo, whichever may be your favorites. “Games provide a vehicle for fun competition that can spark a lot of exciting feelings between the two of you,” says Meyers. As long as there’s laughter, consider it a win.

30. Have an impromptu dance party for two
Long week? Let loose! Turning on some tunes, cranking up the volume and getting jiggy with it can break tension of all kinds for a twosome. It reintroduces silliness to your relationship and breaks down barriers, especially when things have reached the point of all seriousness all the time. “A dance party for two can be incredibly fun and sexy,” says Kerner. Feeling a little risqué? “Start fast and then end slow, removing a few items of clothing in between.” Sounds like a vote for “Sexual Healing!”

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