There’s a reason why fairy tales usually end in “happily ever after.” In reality, life and love aren’t always that tidy. Most relationships will probably face challenges that can test the bond between partners, especially if a couple has been together long after the honeymoon phase has ended. But even if you face hard times together, you can still fall more in love with your partner every day. It is possible to grow as individuals and grow your love at the same time, which can ultimately help you strengthen your bond and face the aforementioned challenges as a team. Deepening and improving your connection starts by simply having the right frame of mind.
“Gratitude and appreciation are like water and sunlight for the garden of a healthy, enduring relationship,” Lisa Concepcion, certified dating and relationship expert and founder of LoveQuest Coaching, tells us. “The more you focus on what you love and appreciate about your partner, the more of those qualities (plus others) you’ll evoke from your partner. Also, when you offer feedback from a place of love and not judgment and practice unconditional love of yourself, you’ll strengthen the love in your relationship.”
Here’s what two relationship experts suggest when it comes to helping the connection and affection between you and your partner grow, even when it feels hard as hell.
Set Shared Goals Together
One way to feel closer and more in love with your partner is by creating a sense of unity and a shared vision for the future. “Setting and achieving small goals together can make you both fall deeper in love,” says Concepcion. “Even something like planning and saving up for a vacation can bond you.”
Your shared goals could look like anything from saving up enough money for concert tickets, to moving in together. The key is that goal-sharing can foster a sense of being on the same team, which is ultimately what a strong couple is: a team.
“When you come together on goals and crush them, you feel unstoppable as a couple, and that positive feeling that comes with shared accomplishment makes people fall deeper in love,” says Concepcion.
Focus On The Positive
As time passes, your partner’s quirks can start to get on your nerves, and it can become easy to dwell on the memories of past arguments that created small cracks in your connection. “Far too often, we become obsessed with nitpicking and finding fault with our mate,” Susan Winter, NYC relationship expert, love coach, and author of Breakup Triage: The Cure for Heartache, tells us. “Over time, noticing the negative becomes a habit that’s hard to break. Resentments grow, as does the distance between each partner. We become miserable.”
The key to falling deeper in love is to stop giving those small things so much power. Instead of harping on the negative, Winter suggests focusing on all the aspects that make your partner special — the ones that made you fall for them in the first place. “Focus on the positive rather than the negative,” she says.
Embrace And Encourage Your Partner’s Growth
A healthy, happy relationship allows both partners the space to grow and change over time. But when one partner changes in a way the other partner isn’t expecting, or grows at a faster pace, this change has the potential to become a source of friction. As a result, the couple can begin to feel like they’re growing apart. Winter encourages anyone facing this issue to turn the pitfall into a strength by embracing and respecting your partner’s journey.
“Growth can be messy and disorienting, but it’s necessary for a healthy relationship to survive,” says Winter. “Allow your partner to expand who they are and who they’re becoming. The key is to look at them with fresh eyes and focus on falling in love with who they’re becoming, in addition to who they used to be.”
Work On Loving Yourself More Every Day
Surprisingly, the most effective step to falling deeper in love with your partner actually begins with self-love, says Concepcion. “It starts with loving and appreciating yourself,” she explains. “When we vow to love ourselves first, most, best, and always, we develop unconditional love for self and others.”
The experts ultimately agree that while love can change over time, it also has the potential to grow stronger every day as a result of the difficulties you face and how you choose to approach them together. “Meeting life’s challenges together as a team deepens and widens a couple’s love for each other,” says Winter. Once you realize that, it’s clear that the most meaningful love stories aren’t always the ones that end happily ever after. They’re the ones that face ups and downs every day, and grow stronger because of them.
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