9 Strategies to Strengthen your Relationship

Contrary to fairy tales and movies, even the best relationships are bound to hit some rough patches. But there’s no reason to fret. A few simple steps can help set your relationship back on track. Military veteran and clinical social worker Wyn Fournier gives some tried and tested tips on how couples can weather any storm and rekindle their love.

1. Communication is Key

“You have to talk to each other. You have to take the risk of saying what’s really in your heart instead of lashing out in anger,” advises Fournier.

Fournier warns that in many cases where couples start to drift apart, one person begins lashing out due to fear of losing their partner. Their attempt to bring the relationship back ends up pushing the couple farther apart. Remarks like ‘why don’t you love me anymore’ or ‘why don’t you listen’ can cause the other person to shut down. Over time this cycle can spiral out of control.

“It may be very hard to see that the other person is actually doing something that’s their attempt to keep the relationship together because they are so terrified of losing their partner they don’t want to make the wrong turn,” said Fournier. Being passive-aggressive, playing the blame game and stonewalling are reactions that can be damaging to a relationship.

2. Counselling

When couples are too far gone to break the blame-game cycle, Fournier recommends counselling. She also recommends reading Hold Me Tight and Love Sense by Dr. Sue Johnson, the Ottawa-based developer of Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy.

3. Weekend Getaways

If Dr. Johnson’s book Hold Me Tight worked for you and your partner, you can take it a step further with the Hold Me Tight Weekend Workshops. Also developed by Johnson, the workshops are held all across North America and are based on scientifically proven Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy. The workshop is tried and tested by Fournier, who attended one with her husband.

Though it’s not a communication skills retreat, Fournier says, “It really helps your communication with each other by strengthening your bond, so that you feel emotionally safe with your partners and feel your partner is there for you, automatically improves your communication with each other. You can talk to each other about things that are deeper, that are important to you.”

4. Looking on the Bright Side

For the day-to-day upkeep of a relationship, Fournier recommends looking at the positive aspects of your relationship.

“If you start looking for the positives instead of the negatives, you will find them,” assures Fournier.
Also, be open to accepting that disappointments will happen and then choose to focus on the aspects of your relationship that are fulfilling.

5. Positive Reinforcement

Along those lines, be sure to take the time to appreciate what your partner is doing right.
“If you don’t think your partner is listening to you, be observant and find the time when they were listening to you and thank them. Be appreciative,” commented Fournier.

It’s human nature to want to repeat the actions that we are praised for, and a simple thank you can go a long way in strengthening your relationship. “Those little pieces of appreciation for what your partner is doing creates a bit more romance, and you’re more likely to be more intimate,” said Fournier.

6. Intimacy

Intimacy is the foundation of any romantic relationship, and besides being found in the bedroom, it can also be found outside the bedroom. Intimacy can mean a quick peck on the cheek, holding hands and small touches, all acts that signify to your partner that they are your number one. Committing to these acts on a daily basis can rekindle the fire.

“All through life, we have an absolute human need, right from when you’re born to the time you die, to be connected to other human beings,” explained Fournier.

7. Creativity During Deployments

Drawing from her own experiences as a military member and spouse, Fournier advises that it is vital to keep in touch with your partner while they are deployed. Emailing even once a day keeps your partner connected to you and your family. “Really simple everyday things mean so much to the person overseas,” noted Fournier.
Just leave out any details that can stress out the deployed member, she advises. Once you get down to the basics of communication, you can heat up your email conversations and even play out your fantasies.

8. Looking Down Memory Lane

When you tied the knot or first fell in love with your partner, it was for a reason. Holding on to and remembering why you first fell in love are important reminders for any relationship.

“There was something that drew you to your partner, and if you think that is lost, look back and see when it started to change and maybe what was going on when it started to change,” advises Fournier. The little changes that occur over the years can impact both people in a relationship.

9. Date Nights

To cement your rekindled love and stay connected, a good old-fashioned date night is a must, says Fournier. Fournier recommends couples do a date night once a month, if not once every second week or even every week.

“You don’t have to go out for a $300 meal, you can just go for a walk,” said Fournier. If you’re on a tight budget, think of out-of-the-box solutions for babysitting, such as setting up a night with neighbours and switching off. But don’t skip date night!

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Mishall Rehman

Originally from Atlanta, GA, Mishall is a freelance journalist pursuing her passion for writing in her new homeland Canada. She currently lives in Trenton, ON with her husband.

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Canadian Military Family Magazine