Whether you’re in a romantic relationship or currently single, Valentine’s Day is a good time to think about stepping-up your love life and sharpening the skills that keep love alive.

Improving your social life by opening yourself up to more people and more experiences is a great first step toward finding the love of your life or bringing more fun and excitement into your existing relationship. Psycom spoke with Los Angeles-based psychotherapist Allison Cohen, MA, MFT and New York-based psychotherapist Nicole Breck, LCSW, for tips to help get you started.

#1. Define What You Want

To get what you want, it helps to know what you want, and that’s as true of love as it is of anything else. Remember, it’s about what you want, Allison points out, not about societal expectations. “We get further and further away from finding true happiness when we look for the things we think we ‘should’ go after instead of the things that are core to our unique personalities,” she adds. Start by identifying your needs when it comes to romance and establishing your relationship goals. What do you want to give and what do you want to get out of a partnership? When you have a firm grip on what you want, you can look realistically at your own behavior patterns to see if they are helping or hurting your search for lasting love, and take steps to make changes, if necessary.

#2. Use Your Loneliness

While chronic loneliness isn’t healthy and can contribute to depression, feeling lonely from time to time is normal, whether you’re in a romantic relationship or not. And feeling emotionally disconnected from people doesn’t have to be a negative if you use those lonely feelings as motivation to make necessary changes that will move your life in more positive directions. “Finding an enduring partnership takes effort,” adds Nicole. “You don’t want to settle for a series of casual relationships if what you really want is something long-lasting.” Start by paying more attention to relationships you already have and reconnecting with people you’ve lost touch with over time. Make new connections by joining clubs and special interest groups or volunteering. You never know how you’ll meet someone new, but you’ll only meet them if you get yourself out there!

#3. Balance Your Love Budget

While generosity is normally considered a positive trait, you may be sending the wrong message to a current or potential mate with extravagant spending on dinners and gifts. In fact, you might make a better impression by displaying more of an inclination to save money because it shows you are able to exercise self-control and are likely to accumulate greater financial resources over time.1 “But be careful not to appear too restrictive or too controlling when it comes to your finances, Allison warns.” That could lead someone to believe you’re not fun and won’t bring much in the way of excitement to the relationship.”

#4. Start Talking

If and how couples communicate, along with individual willingness to change, determines whether or not problems can be resolved and the quality of a relationship maintained. Some problems, especially minor issues, are best resolved with a cooperative and affectionate approach that doesn’t put anyone on the defensive. Serious problems may have to be addressed more directly, but that approach is only helpful when both partners are confidant and secure enough in the relationship to respond in productive ways. When one or both partners lack that type of confidence, a critical or defiant approach can cause even more harm to the relationship.2 “I always talk to clients about ‘soft language’ and words to use and avoid in order to have the most successful discussion,” Allison says. “Using phrases like ‘I was thinking…, how would you feel about… or ‘Could we possibly…’ open up the conversation, while phrases like ‘You always…,’ ‘You never…,’ ‘you need to…,’ and ‘you should…’ indicate judgement and will instantly shut down a conversation.”

#5. Open Up About Sex

Couples typically have different levels of desire for intimacy and sex, and may enjoy different types of sexual activities. Perhaps not surprisingly, one study found that middle-aged women in same-sex marriages tend to have an easier time communicating their sexual desires and discussing problematic issues with their partners than women in heterosexual marriages, allowing for a healthy amount of openness and ongoing trust in their relationships. Those couples that were able to keep communication open were also more likely to be working on their individual and relationship issues with a clearly-established goal of maintaining or rejuvenating their sex lives than couples who had a hard time communicating with each other about sex.3  

Both Allison and Nicole encourage couples to regularly set aside time to check in with each other and assess the health of the relationship. It’s important to specifically talk about any and all aspects of the relationship, including sex. Knowing there is an opportunity for discussion can help relieve any tension or concerns either partner has about unmet needs and is a way to demonstrate to each other that you value the health of the relationship.

#6. Switch Things Up

Although passion and sexual satisfaction in relationships can start to dwindle over time, studies show that couples who continue to enjoy passionate, satisfying sex not only communicate their sexual needs and have sex more often, but also incorporate a wider variety of sexual acts into their lovemaking routines. 4 “Mindfulness is a critical component of mutually satisfying sex,” Allison says. “Spending time getting in touch with yourself, your body, and your physical and emotional needs will help you better communicate your feelings and desires to your partner.” Staying in the moment during sex, rather than thinking about the climax, can help you stay in touch with your partner’s needs as well.

#7. Respect Personality Differences

If you’re an introvert, you know you’re not necessarily shy but, rather, you’re averse to small talk and don’t enjoy mindless activities. You’re more careful than most about how you spend your time and who you spend it with, and that’s OK. You may be looking to fellow introverts for love, but If you find yourself involved with an extrovert, as often happens, recognize and honor your differences, and use them to your advantage (i.e. to help you try new things) rather than argue over them. All successful relationships require guidelines, negotiations and the occasional giving in to a partner’s different way of doing things. At the same time, Nicole warns, a solid relationship develops over time, so be wary of anyone you feel is moving too quickly or too intensely. It may seem flattering, but it can be a warning sign that you’re moving in the wrong direction.

#8. Practice Positive Psychology

Research shows that the happiest couples have five times as many positive interactions as negative in their relationships. It may not be enough to try to make up for a negative experience with a single positive one, perhaps because the impact of negative behavior is often much stronger and deeper. At every opportunity, show support for your partner, express gratitude, forgive slights, respond enthusiastically, and plan to spend time together in challenging and engaging new ways. These investments in positive thinking and behavior help create more relationship satisfaction, and can hold you over when you face inevitable problems, conflicts, and tough times in the future. 5

“And if you’re not in a relationship right now but you’d like to be, always be open to new experiences,” Nicole advises. “Look up from your phone, take out your earplugs, and engage in the world!” Love is everywhere, she adds, and can be found even in seemingly inconsequential everyday interactions.

 

 

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Last Updated: Jul 18, 2019