Beyond the cute Instagram posts and meme tagging, relationships can be fickle AF. Because even if you’re head over heels for someone, there’s still going to be those s**tty moments of uncertainty, frustration, and confusion.
But working on having a deeper relationship with your partner and ensuring you have a strong connection will ultimately mean that during these kinds of moments, you’ll be able to work through it together.
As with most relationship things, it all starts with the one key need: communication.
While it takes time and effort, the good news is that it doesn’t have to be difficult. And over time, you’ll find you have fewer lows – all thanks to your connection.
Here are 12 rules that will help deepen your relationship, according to couples counsellor Lissy Abrahams.
1. Look after yourself.
When it comes to being in a relationship, we can often end up spending so much of our time and energy on the other person, that many of us lose sight of ourselves and take the back seat.
“This is especially the case if we do not have a strong enough sense of self,” said Abrahams. “I’ve seen many people become preoccupied with their partner and their needs and neglect their own.”
Abrahams said one of the best ways we can improve our relationship is by bringing our healthiest selves into the relationship and maintaining this – so try to concentrate on developing yourself and who you are before focusing on someone else.
Go on, you got this!
“We need to look after our mind, body, and spirit,” reminds Abrahams. “When we do this, we keep toxicity at bay so we can spend our time connecting and being intimate.”
2. Check your ego.
That voice inside your head? That’s your ego. And it can do a lot of ✨things✨ to a relationship.
“Our ego holds our conscious and unconscious beliefs and expectations about relationships. Think of it as a relational template that we operate from,” explains Abrahams.
“To deepen our relationship with our partner, we need to remember that our relational template will be different from theirs.”
According to Abrahams, there will always be a gap between our templates that we need to resolve – and that’s okay.
“What matters is how well we both navigate the gap. If we can discuss and work through difficulties, we will deepen the relationship. However, if the gap causes us fear and anxiety, then we may have a lot of conflicts instead.”
3. Keep sexual intimacy on the agenda.
You know how it gets. Life is busy. There’s work. Kids. Social engagements. Netflix. Sometimes it seems like relationships (and intimacy) get placed on the back burner, while we go about our business and focus on all the glorious stresses daily life has to offer.
“We all have busy lives with many competing demands at any given moment. This is even more the case if we have children. We need to take care as sexual intimacy can decrease quickly in couple relationships,” said Abrahams.
While it’s okay to be too tired to have sex at times, if we are too tired too often it can really harm the relationship. Without this, there’s a kind of… gap.
“It reveals that our relationship is at the bottom of our priority list. I believe this is a huge mistake. This breeds loneliness, shame about feeling undesirable, or shame about being a low- or no-sex couple.”
“Sex is what makes the couple relationship different from other relationships, and without it, we can feel like flatmates or siblings. Sex is often a special glue that deepens our connection and holds a relationship together.”
4. Keep emotional intimacy alive.
And it’s not just sexual intimacy – the same goes for emotional intimacy, too.
“When we take our eyes off emotional intimacy in our couple relationship, we open the door to disharmony and conflict,” said Abrahams, who said all humans need connection.
“We are social animals, and connection with our partner helps us feel safe and secure in the world.”
“Without the emotional connection, we no longer feel safe. We can feel lonely, depressed, or anxious that our relationship is in trouble or may even end. Emotional connection and intimacy is a crucial ingredient for a deeper relationship.”
5. Focus and get in sync.
How much time do you spend together after work? On the weekends? Be honest.
“In a world that continuously competes for our attention, we can find it difficult to pay attention and listen to our partner. We have work emails coming in, Netflix programs to watch, or our mobile notifying us every other second to pay attention,” said Abrahams.
When this happens, Abrahams said we may lose sight of our partner’s need to communicate with us.
When you create a fulfilling routine with your partner, you’ll find you’re able to spend more quality time together and reconnect with one another.
It could be as simple as going for a walk together after work, or waking up at the same time and making breakfast together in the morning.
“They need us to focus, listen, and get in sync with them. This will deepen our relationship as we are showing them that we value, love, and respect them above everything else,” said Abrahams.
“They will feel a deeper connection with us too. The opposite damages relationships. When we don’t focus or pretend to listen, our partner can tell feel we’re not properly with them, and this often causes upset or anger.”
6. Go to couples therapy.
Another way to deepen your connection with your partner is to get to know them through the help of a therapist.
“This can be life-transforming as couples therapy allows you to understand why you both behave or think as you do, and where you are so different,” said Abrahams.
“Therapy also helps you both understand where these thoughts and behaviours came from. This experience will stay with you forever and have such a positive impact on you both for the years ahead.”
7. Honest communication.
Honesty is one of the biggest core values every couple needs in their relationship – without it, things will kind of just fall apart.
Opening up and being truthful with your partner about what you both want from the relationship, is key to establishing a strong foundation for trust and connection.
“To have a deeper relationship with your partner it’s important to be honest with them about what’s important to you and the relationship,” said Abrahams.
“Be mindful that honesty can connect you both, however, the way you deliver your message may disconnect you. To deepen your relationship, connect respectfully and kindly as you share your viewpoint with them.”
8. Look in the mirror.
To be honest with someone and be able to deepen your relationship with your partner, it’s essential to know yourself and your intentions.
Abrahams said, “Have an honest look in the mirror to see if you would want to have a partner like you. We all have areas we could pull up our socks.”
“Reflect on whether removing resentment, complaining, sulking or snapping at them would improve the relationship. Reflect on areas you could offer more support, be kinder, or do more to improve the functioning of the home.”
9. Say thank you.
Say iiiiit! Being nice to one another is seriously underrated, you guys. Not only does it show a massive sign of respect, but it also proves you appreciate them.
It’s a simple thing to do, but it’s often one that’s the most forgotten.
“This one is huge. I see many partners become resentful and bitter as they feel unappreciated by their partners,” said Abrahams.
“I tell my couples to play the ‘thank you game’ where for one week they thank each other for every single thing their partner does for them that they don’t have to do themselves.”
“Thank you for feeding the cat, putting out the washing, paying the bills, picking up food, doing the dishwasher, walking the dog, taking the kids to the dentist, or getting the shirts from the laundry.”
“Partners are often shocked just how many things both of them are contributing in their shared lives. They feel closer and more appreciated when their many contributions have been acknowledged.”
10. Remember you are both unique individuals.
According to Abrahams, another great way of deepening your relationship is to remember that both you and your partner are unique individuals.
Like, remember when you first met? Both you and your partner had your own identities – hobbies, friends, freedoms.
“You both chose each other and committed to this relationship. However, the biggest mistake that prevents relationships from deepening is when we feel we own our partner.”
“We can become quite controlling or even demanding. We both have hopes, dreams and desires for life. And our connection can deepen when we remember and respect their unique qualities exists.”
11. Be curious.
Let’s go back down memory lane, again. Remember when you first met your partner, and you found them interesting, funny, clever, and super sexy? Remember?!
Gah! What a time.
They had all these fancy life experiences we enjoyed, different friends and hobbies we didn’t know about – things were… exciting!
When you’ve been in a relationship for a long time, it’s easy to lose sight of this.
“Many of us believe we know our partners and lose curiosity about them. However, we are all altered by life and by our experiences in life,” said Abrams.
She suggests keeping curious about your partner and how they are at this age and stage of life.
“Being curious about who they are will deepen the relationship as they will feel understood and respected by you.”
12. Relationships are a privilege.
“Always remember that it’s a privilege to be in a relationship and not a right. This can help you rise above what you may find problematic or irritating about them,” Abrahams said.
“There are many people who would love to be in a relationship, yet haven’t found someone to commit to. It will deepen your relationship if you remember that relationships are conditional, and they can end if partners don’t satisfy enough of the often unspoken conditions.”
Looking for more tips on improving your communication with your partner? Check out Abrahams e-book, here.