3 Tips to Keep a Relationship Strong and Happy

UPDATED: April 4, 2024
PUBLISHED: May 21, 2022
Lesbian couple on vacation smiling at each other because they know how to keep their relationship strong and happy

All day long, my wife and I exchange the sweetest text messages filled with emojis: hearts, the kissy face and the sweet new inclusive family one with two moms and two boys (we have twin sons). Sometimes we even go public with our moony proclamations on social media. We are so in love. Sigh. Why would we ever need tips on how to keep our relationship strong and happy?

But then we come home from work and see each other In Real Life. The romantic glow of our love lasts about 30 minutes before it fades. We argue. We fight over big stuff and ridiculous stuff. We don’t feel seen, heard or understood. We feel taken for granted. But mostly, we are dumbstruck and crushed that we could go from a place of such sweetness and light to one so dark.

We fall—and keep falling—for the trap that plagues almost every modern relationship and relationship-seeker: the false intimacy of online connection.

How to strengthen a relationship

A quick primer on intimacy: It’s what happens when people share their true selves—strengths, faults, fears and hopes—with one another and then continue to choose each other (as romantic partners or friends). When two people feel comfortable enough to be vulnerable with each other, trust is created—and no relationship will last long without trust. But being vulnerable is tough for everyone, and it can be terrifyingly so for some of us, depending on our childhood bonds with family, past hurts and our self-esteem.

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That difficulty is why online connection is so seductive. You can select and curate what you share and then rake in affirmation (likes, retweets, whatever) with little risk. Those brief, in-the-moment online intimacies (“We both like Stranger Things!”) can help create community and are akin to the “weak-tie” relationships—like the laugh you share with your barista in the morning—that contribute to happiness.

How to keep a relationship strong and happy

Yet, it’s “strong-tie” relationships that count for more when it comes to long-term happiness and life satisfaction. Your communication through email, text and social media must be paired with quality offline intimacy to be worthwhile. Here are a few ways to cultivate that love with some tips on how to strengthen relationships with real-life intimacy. 

1. Figure out your intimacy profiles

“Have a conversation about what makes you and your partner feel close to each other,” says Lauren LaRusso, a licensed psychotherapist. Some people put a premium on intellectual conversation, while others feel more connected when they’re cuddling on the couch and making jokes.

2. Hug

Intimacy means a lot more than sex, but physical affection is a central component of romantic love. Beyond feeling good, skin-to-skin contact causes our bodies to release oxytocin, the “love hormone” that helps humans bond. Remember to hold hands with, cuddle and kiss your partner often—even if you’re not feeling particularly amorous. It’s hard to be mad at someone you’re physically connected to.

3. Take up pottery

Or go to an improv class. Try new things together. A novel activity gets you out of relationship ruts and exposes different aspects of your personalities, says Jim Seibold, Ph.D., a marriage and family therapist in Arlington, Texas. If you’re both new to something, you’re both vulnerable. You might make fools of yourselves, but that’s the point: to see each other in a new light and trust that your relationship will still be strong and happy even if that light turns out to be unflattering.

As for my wife and I, we recently tried a Ninja Warrior class together. I dislocated my finger halfway through. But before that, we shared a massive case of the giggles when we both sunk into the foam pit and flailed around like upside-down turtles. LOL.

This article originally appeared in the Fall 2018 issue of SUCCESS magazine and was updated April 2024. Photo by PeopleImages.com – Yuri A/Shutterstock.com