We’re now a good few weeks out from the unbearable stress of Christmas – meeting relatives, buying presents, having enforced festive ‘fun’ with the family. Who needs it?!
But if you thought we were clear of the minefield of relationship stress, you’d be wrong because in just a couple of weeks it’s… Valentine’s Day. That time of year when we’re supposed to show off how perfect our relationships are and organise romantic (aka expensive) nights out with our significant others. And when a relationship is put through this unnecessary stress (on top of the day-to-day shit like money worries and jealousy), it can sometimes seem like it is fraying at the edges.
To help you get a better idea of how well you’re getting on with your partner, ShortList spoke to dating coach James Preece, Match’s dating expert Vicki Pavitt and eharmony’s relationship expert Verity Hogan to find out some of the most important features of healthy and unhealthy relationships, which we’ve turned into a simple personality quiz.
Now you can take this test below to find out just how strong your relationship is…
Whether you need to make some major lifestyle changes or if you’re ticking along nicely and only need a relationship tune-up, we’ve rounded up some expert opinion on how to improve your partnership.
Dating coach James Preece, author of a book on online dating, told ShortList about the first thing you need to work on to build a healthier relationship.
He said: “The best way to improve any relationship is to work on your communication. The way you talk and interact with each other has more impact than anything else. If something is worrying you, you need to be able to discuss it. Couples that talk about their problems and the solutions are much stronger.
“If you find it hard, set aside a few minutes each week where you’ll both be able to say things without fear of an argument. Quite often, the simple act of getting it off your chest can make all the difference rather than allowing resentment to build.”
Relate counsellor Denise Knowles also spoke to us about the top five things you can do if you think you’re having trouble with your partner:
1. Talk openly, listen actively
“Poor communication is behind so many relationship issues whereas talking openly and listening actively builds bridges and helps us to remain connected. Avoid having ‘taboo subjects’ that block communication. Set aside some regular time to check in on your relationship.”
2. Do things together you love
“Spending quality time together strengthens relationships and creates happy memories. Be proactive and arrange to do something you’ll both enjoy. It doesn’t have to be expensive - why not go for a bike ride, try out a new recipe or learn a language together.”
3. Create space for yourself
“Having separate interests, friends and spending time alone may not make you feel closer to your partner at the time, but when you see each other again, you’re likely to feel more connected. Your relationship with yourself is the most important one of all. Book out some me time and make the most of it.”
4. Think of love as a skill
“Hollywood films and romantic novels heavily influence the way we approach relationships but take them with a pinch of salt. The myth of ‘the one’ can lead people to think that if they’ve found the right person they shouldn’t have to work at their relationship. This attitude can make us stay in unhealthy relationships for too long or leave pretty good ones without giving things a proper try. All relationships take work and the more you practice at them and learn from your mistakes the better you’ll get.”
5. Seek support (early)
“We know that relationship counselling works - 95% of Relate clients say their communication is ‘better’ after attending couples counselling. Despite the importance of good quality relationships for our health and wellbeing people often don’t seek help until things have already reached crisis point. You get your car MOT’d so why not do the same for your relationship? Book a session with a couples counsellor to find out if there’s anything you might want to work on.”
(Images: Brooke Cagle / iStock)