When starting out on your dating journey, most of your focus is likely to be on how to make a great first impression and on finding someone who is compatible and has lots of chemistry with you. And while this is a very important part of the process, it's also worthwhile taking some time to think about how to maintain a successful relationship when you do finally meet your ideal partner.
There's plenty of research available now on how to have a strong and successful relationship. I hosted an ABC series called Making Couples Happy whereby we gave four distressed couples a range of science-based strategies to overhaul their happiness levels. This was a great success and showed there are a variety of little things you can do with your partner to achieve a happy relationship.
With this in mind, here are 5 simple tips to get you on the way for having relationship success:
Bring up issues softly
The first three minutes of a conversation will determine how the interaction goes (Gottman). If you're critical and harsh early on, then things will go poorly. If, on the other hand, you start up with a soft and gentle tone and express "I feel" statements, then your partner will be much more likely to listen. So think about how you want to say things and be kind with your words.
Spend time together
This is a no-brainer. To have a successful relationship you really need to spend plenty of quality time together. That means just the two of you - and when you have a busy social life and/or kids this can be quite a challenge - so prioritise coffee catch-ups, date nights, week-ends away, brunches, lunches and going to events together.
Couples that really celebrate each other's successes are much happier. You want your partner to know that you're there for them and in their corner. One of the easiest ways to do this is to be a cheerleader for them, and share in any victories they have - big or small.
Listen, don't fix
When your partner is under stress, it's very tempting to try and solve all their problems - to jump in and give them advice, solutions, suggestions and directives to ease their anxiety. The issue with this is that it feels dismissive and often it can create conflict and withdrawal. Instead, side with your partner, empathise, ask questions and never ever try to fix.
Give out praise and gratitude
It's so easy to nag your partner for the things they don't do, and to criticize or judge them for the mistakes they make. Rather than falling into this trap, praise them instead for the great things they do and show gratitude to them. Flood the relationship with positivity and watch your relationship happiness levels increase.
John Aiken, RSVP dating and relationship expert, as seen on the hit show Married At First Sight, and on Ch 9’s Today show, Today Extra and A Current Affair. He is a best-selling author, regularly appears on radio and in magazines, runs a private practice in Sydney, and is a sought after speaker. (www.johnaiken.com.au)