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7 Steps to a More Caring and Fun Relationship

7 Steps to a More Caring and Fun Relationship

By Lara Symonds, MA, LMFT

  1. Create list of caring behaviors that your partner does, used to do, or you would like them to do—be very specific and concrete (e.g. “You surprise me with flowers”, not, “You surprise me”). Ask your partner to do the same.
  2. Exchange said lists and go over your partner’s list, rating each item as “easy for me to do,” “difficult for me to do often,” and “not willing to do this right now.” Have your partner do the same with your list.
  3. Start working off the list, incorporating the “easy” items on a daily basis, the “difficult” items now and again. Hold off on the “not willing” items for now. You may find that your feelings about those items will change later, or that you’ll be ready to talk about those items with your partner after having received caring behaviors from them for a time.
  4. Create a second, “secret” list of things you can do for your partner that you know (based on previous experience and/or from hints and comments that your partner has made) that they would find especially pleasing, but weren’t on their list of caring behaviors. Be a detective and make observations if at first you come up blank. Ask your partner to do the same.
  5. Randomly select one thing from your secret list to do each week and surprise your partner with it at some point during the week.
  6. Track both what you’ve done for your partner and what your partner has done for you—not competitively, but to ensure that you really do notice what they’ve done and thank them for it (positive feedback goes a long way toward insuring repetition). Tracking what you’ve done helps you to fine-tune your efforts to get the most bang for your buck.
  7. Add to your lists as new ideas and feedback arises—keep it fresh!

If you have a partner who is unwilling to participate in creating and working off the lists, don’t despair for your relationship! You can still effect much positive change in your relationship simply by working on your own half. Create a list of behaviors that you know please your partner and start mindfully integrating them every day into your interactions with your partner. Chances are s/he will respond favorably to your efforts and may even reciprocate in kind!

For more ideas about love styles and how to tailor your caring for your partner’s unique needs, check out Harville Hendrix’s Getting the Love You Want: A Guide for Couples; Gary Chapman’s The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts; and/or Stan Tatkin’s and Harville Hendrix’s Wired for Love: How Understanding Your Partner’s Brain and Attachment Style Can Help You Defuse Conflict and Build a Secure Relationship.

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