A new University of Illinois study revisits five relationship management strategies that couples can use to preserve or improve the quality of an intimate relationship.
“Relationships are like cars in that you have do certain things to keep them running, especially when your goal is to strengthen and preserve your bond with your partner,” said Brian Ogolsky, Ph.D., a professor of human and community development.
To determine which factors are the most important in promoting healthy relationships, Ogolsky and colleague Jill R. Bowers reviewed 35 studies and 12,273 individual reports.
They discovered that openness, positivity, assurances, shared tasks, and a shared social network are strategies that couples can use to make their relationships better, he said.
To “open up” your relationship, the researchers encouraged not only talking about your feelings but getting your partner to talk about what she is feeling as well.
Positivity entailed being a “fun” person and acting upbeat and cheerful as you interact with each other.
“It’s also important to assure your partner that you’re in the relationship for the long haul, to divide household chores and responsibilities equally, and to make an effort to include your partner’s friends and family in some of your activities,” Ogolsky said.
The researchers found that someone who practices one of these five strategies is more likely to practice the others as well. And a partner who notices that one of the strategies is being used is apt to be tuned in to their partner’s efforts in the other four areas.
“Persons who use any of these maintenance strategies will not only be more satisfied with and committed to their relationship, they are also likely to continue to love and, yes, even like each other throughout its duration,” he said.
Despite the value of these strategies, challenges may arise when couples don’t see or appreciate each other’s efforts in the same way. That is, the approaches had the most influence on the quality of the relationship when each person believed their partner was also performing relationship maintenance, Ogolsky said.
The study suggests that what you do doesn’t matter as much as whether the things you’re doing are noticed by your partner.
Read more: Psych Central