They say the devil is in the details, which is also true in relationships.
Often, the behaviors we tend to take for granted hold the most influence when it comes to the quality of our love stories.
In this article, we will look at actions (or inactions) that can give your relationship a fairytale-like happy ending or a tragic tale of heartache.
Here’s a list of 9 subtle behaviors that can make or break a relationship:
1) Active listening
Let me ask you this:
What do difficult conversations with your partner look like? Do you both actually listen to each other?
Which of these scenarios are your conversations likely to fall in? Have a look:
- Make: Focusing on what your partner is saying, asking clarifying questions, and sometimes paraphrasing their points to ensure you understood them correctly.
- Break: Hearing what your partner is saying and thinking about your rebuttal to every point they’re trying to make.
Listening goes beyond just hearing words. When you actively listen, you understand your partner’s emotions behind those words, making them feel heard, valued, and understood.
“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.”
– Stephen R. Covey
2) Showing your appreciation
Recognizing your partner’s efforts and letting them know you appreciate them, no matter how big or small they may be, makes a relationship stronger.
Let’s look at another hypothetical situation:
After an exhausting work day, you come home to a freshly cleaned house and a warm dinner, thanks to your partner who arrived home earlier than you.
- Make: You affectionately thank your partner, mentioning your gratitude for the tidy house and the delicious meal.
- Break: You go on with your night without showing any acknowledgement or recognizing the extra effort your partner put in.
When you express gratitude towards your partner, it makes them feel noticed and loved.
But when you leave them unappreciated, it can cause resentment that may build up over time, eventually causing the relationship to crumble.
“Appreciation can make a day, even change a life. Your willingness to put it into words is all that is necessary.”
– Margaret Cousins
3) Practicing the art of compromise
If you’re in the “honeymoon stage” of your relationship, chances are you tend to agree or “go with the flow” for your partner.
But sooner or later, you’ll eventually discover that you won’t always see eye to eye, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
It’s not the differences, but how you navigate through them that can make or break your relationship.
And that’s where compromise comes in:
While you’ll both sometimes alternate between having to give and take throughout the relationship, you’ll find that meeting halfway is a solution to most of your differences.
The beauty of coming together with your partner to figure out a middle ground between your preferences is that it ensures you both feel equally acknowledged and valued.
“The most important trip you may take in life is meeting people halfway.”
– Henry Boye
4) Sharing power
If compromise is deciding on where to eat out tonight, sharing power is deciding on the entire week’s dinner menu.
Here’s some food for thought:
If only one partner decides on all or most of the dishes all the time, they’re risking the other partner losing appetite – not only for the dinners but for the relationship, too.
In short, compromise is about reaching a mutual agreement when differences arise and sharing power is about balancing the influence within the relationship at all times.
Let’s look at one more example to strengthen this point:
When you compromise, you agree on the color of the walls of the home you’re about to build. When it comes to sharing power, you both have an equal say on how many floors there will be, the budget, the overall layout, etcetera.
But when only one person takes charge of the decisions from the beginning of the build to its completion, the other partner might feel more like a guest in their own home.
“The day the power of love overrules the love of power, the world will know peace.”
– Mahatma Gandhi
5) Admitting mistakes
As humans, we’re bound to stumble every now and then, and that includes making mistakes in our relationships.
But here’s the thing:
The difference between a momentary slip-up and a lasting scar is how we respond to it.
When you admit that you’ve messed up and offer a sincere apology, it’s like saying, “I value you and what we have.”
Owning up to your wrongdoing goes beyond the word “sorry,” too. It’s about acknowledging how your mistake has affected your partner. It’s like saying, “I see the hurt I’ve caused and am willing to make up for it.”
On the flip side, brushing things under the rug and trivializing your mistakes may cause your partner to feel hurt and disrespected. And we all know that doesn’t usually end well.
“An apology is the superglue of life. It can repair just about anything.” – Lynn Johnston
6) Being consistently reliable
Speaking of sharing, let’s tackle shared trust and how it strengthens our relationships:
I won’t go into honesty and fidelity in this discussion because it’s my personal stance that these are non-negotiables in relationships.
Instead, I’d prefer to touch on reliability to foster shared trust in relationships.
Here’s how I look at it:
If you always follow through with your commitments and be there when your partner needs you, that’s the definition of a trustworthy partner.
Not only that, when you’re consistently reliable, your partner will feel a sense of security in the relationship.
If you think about it, it’s really not that complicated and doesn’t need to be grandiose – just keep your word.
“Call when you say you will. Show up when you say you will. Deliver what you say you will. Inconsistency destroys trust and trust is the foundation of all relationships.”
– Paul Carrick Brunson
7) Being touchy-feely
Another thing that we need to be consistent with to retain the strength of our relationships is physical affection.
Remember when you first started dating and couldn’t get your hands off each other? The aim is to be as close to that level of intimacy as possible.
And it doesn’t always have to be sexual, too. Regular hugs, cuddles, holding hands, and random kisses on the cheek will do the trick.
And don’t just take my word for it. Let’s look at what the experts say:
A Harvard Health article showcases a study about the effects of non-sexual intimate touch on 184 couples. The study results suggested that the more often people expressed affection, the more likely they were to feel happy in their relationships.
Another study suggested that the more couples hug or touch, the more content they usually are with their partner and the less insecure they are in their relationship.
There you go. Science has given you the license to be as touchy-feely as you want with your beau.
“Touch has a memory.”
– John Keats
8) Balancing the “me” and the “we”
I know I just said try to bring back that can’t-take-my-hands-off-you physical intimacy, but I should also emphasize the importance of being apart to pursue individual interests.
Have quality time together, but have time apart, too. Use this time to pursue hobbies that make you happy, and let your partner do the same. Go shopping with the girls and let him have a game night with the boys.
Being one with your partner doesn’t mean always doing the same activities, having the same interests, and sharing the same opinions. That’s just a recipe for boredom and, dare I say it, a doomed relationship.
Sure, a beautiful and strong relationship has shared goals and experiences. But you have to remember not to lose yourselves in the process.
Let’s look at Tom and Jerry, for example. Most people think of them as a pair – the cat and the mouse. But if you ask them which one’s the mouse, which one’s the cat, or which one’s Tom and Jerry, it will take them a while to distinguish between both.
See what I’m trying to say here?
You want to distinguish your personal identity from your shared identity. You want to make sure that you can still be identified as you even if you’re already part of an “us.”
“The best relationships are the ones where you don’t lose yourself while being a part of something great.”
9) Embracing a growth mindset
We’ve talked about identities, now let’s tackle mindset – a growth one.
So what does this mean in terms of a relationship?
Throughout your relationship, you are bound to face a lot of challenges. They won’t all be easy, but a growth mindset will undoubtedly give you the upper hand.
For example, a growth mindset will take disagreements as a chance to better understand each other. The same mindset will help each partner realize their flaws and work on overcoming them.
This mindset will push both partners to cheer each other on as they aspire to achieve more – in their career and personal growth journeys.
This growth mindset will also push the couple to explore new experiences together and help them dwell on the positives whenever life throws them a curveball.
In short, a growth mindset welcomes change, celebrates imperfections, and nurtures love.
“In the context of a relationship, a growth mindset is the belief that the capacity to learn and grow exists in both partners.”
– Carol Dweck
Your love story is only as strong as your behaviors
There you go – 9 subtle behaviors that can make or break your relationships. It all comes down to love, understanding, mutual respect, a positive mindset, and trust.
On one final note, let me remind you:
Every relationship is unique. What works for you may not work for others.
But, at the end of the day, your actions write each chapter of your love story.