February, the month of love. Everywhere we go, we see hearts, reminders to plan something for our Valentine, and Cupid with his arrow ready to fly. But what if we aren’t feeling the love or wish our relationship looked a little bit different? Maybe you’re feeling disconnected or like you keep “missing” each other. Ultimately, relationships thrive when certain elements are present and when we are willing to put in the time and effort required. Just like preparing for a mission, we can’t “wing it” at the last minute and expect success. So, let’s delve into the strategies that propel us toward our relationship aspirations, crafting the love story we truly desire.

Start with yourself.

I know it seems cliché to say, “Love yourself first,” but it’s true! To have a healthy relationship with others, we need to holistically be the best versions of ourselves by prioritizing and caring for our needs. That means prioritizing regular physical activity, good nutrition, healthy sleep routines, and our mental health to keep us in “fighting shape” so we can be a great partner, ready to participate fully in the relationship.

Woman doing yoga on the beach at sunset.

Listen to understand, not to respond.

Give your undivided attention and just listen. The goal is not to respond or advise but to acknowledge what our partner is experiencing by understanding what they are trying to express. In relationships, achieving the valuable moment when your partner acknowledges, “Yes, that’s exactly what I’m saying,” after you’ve reflected on their communication is akin to striking gold. It emphasizes the importance of taking time for a thoughtful response or discussion once mutual understanding has been established.

Don’t come in hot.

How we address a topic or handle a challenging subject significantly influences the conversation’s outcome. Approaching with aggression often triggers defensive reactions from our partner, leaving both parties unheard. Our partner is a crucial team member in our shared mission of creating a fulfilling relationship. Collaborating as a team is the sole pathway to accomplishing this mission.

Man and woman talking in a relaxed setting.

Edit yourself!

Not everything we think needs to be said. Simply put, think before you speak.  Being critical of our partner erodes trust and acts as a barrier to open communication. It can be challenging but finding ways to communicate our feelings and needs using “I” statements and collaborative language with a, “We can do this” focus increases trust as we can navigate the most challenging conversations successfully. Remember, words spoken cannot be taken back.

Focus on the positive.

During times of stress or conflict, it’s common to be overwhelmed by challenges. However, deliberately directing our thoughts towards positive aspects and reminding ourselves of the qualities we love about our partner can steer us toward open communication instead of heading into a confrontational situation.

Be curious.

We, as humans, are always growing and changing. We can learn new things throughout life. We are also encountering new experiences that impact how we continue to evolve. Your partner today is not the same person you met at the start of your relationship. We often stop seeking to learn new things about our partner as time passes. Those first few months of a new relationship, when every conversation brings exciting revelations about this person, we find so intriguing, seem a distant memory as the years pass. While we may know our partners well, there is always more to learn. Thankfully, plenty of tools are available to assist us in finding new questions in our never-ending mission to know our partner better.

Here are some of our favorite tools and apps!

Gottman Card Deck App: A relationship app from the Gottman Institute

Couple Questions Game: 150 questions to quiz your partner

Eight Dates: Essential Conversations for a Lifetime of Love

Best Couples Table Topics

Create a battle rhythm.

Having rituals in a relationship is a way to be intentional about the time we spend together. They can be as simple as an evening walk after dinner or a regular Friday night date. Keep them simple and make them a priority. Consistency is the key.

While most of the time, the success of our relationship is within our control, there are times when we need to seek help. An accountability partner to keep us on track with changes we’d like to make, a support group to provide insight, and “been there done that, this worked for me” encouragement or even a couple’s therapist can be the catalyst to our success. Seek help early when it’s needed.

HOPE is here to help.

Well-Being is the state of being comfortable, healthy, or happy. It includes having good mental health, life satisfaction, a sense of meaning or purpose, and managing stress.

Hope For The Warriors functions from Six Domains of Well-Being: financial wellness, life roles, physical wellness, emotional wellness, social support, and community connection. We understand that many factors impact service members’ and their families’ lives. That’s why we take a holistic approach to well-being.

The mental health of veterans and the entire family is woven into every aspect of our well-being model. Through this model, we restore a foundation of stability, strength, and community for military families.

Click here to learn more about all the programs and services HOPE offers.