When it comes to love, relationships can be like cars: constant care and adjustment (instead of pricey and painful visits to the body shop/marriage counselor) are often the best way to improve and strengthen your bond. One of O's staffers gets the lowdown from the experts on five fixes to start making now.
1: "Stop all shame, blame, and criticism. Instead ask for what you want in a clear, specific, and positive manner, and express appreciation for your partner. To elaborate: Men need to feel competent—that they make a contribution and that it is noticed. They like to be told what 'behavior' makes you happy. Since men tend to express affection by doing things, you should interpret their actions as love. When men know what to do and are acknowledged for it, they tend to keep doing it." — Harville Hendrix, PhD, author of Getting the Love You Want
2: "Change from a critical habit of mind, in which you're very involved with your partner's mistakes, to a positive one, in which you catch him doing something right. Notice one small thing, and express genuine appreciation. That will change your interaction patterns from escalating negativity and criticism to building a culture of appreciation." — John M. Gottman, PhD, author of The Relationship Cure: A 5 Step Guide to Strengthening Your Marriage, Family, and Friendships
3: "When your relationship starts to break down, you need AAA: an Apology, Affection, and a promise of Action. You say you're sorry for what you've said or done to hurt or disappoint your partner. You immediately offer a hug, a kiss—some meaningful gesture of warmth. You pledge to do something that matters to your partner ('From now on, I will…'). And, of course, you stick to that. This whole AAA thing can take two minutes, but in that time you've healed the past, built a bridge to the present, and created hope for your future." — Mira Kirshenbaum, psychotherapist and author of The Weekend Marriage
4: "With books on the market like How to Make Love Like a Porn Star, one of the greatest services you can do for a guy is to reassure him that he doesn't have to make love like a porn star. You can show him how to have sex like a woman: creative, sensual, non-genital-based, and more pleasure- than orgasm-focused. Lead him to an experience that goes beyond his penis and makes him fully engaged—mind, body, and soul." — Ian Kerner, PhD, author of She Comes First
5: "All relationships grow a bit stale as time goes by, and the longer-lasting they are, the staler they can get. The best thing you can do is pump in some fresh air. A long weekend in a romantic hideaway would be ideal, but even a few hours in a motel helps. Don't tell anyone where you are, turn off your cell phones, and unplug the TV. When you get home, you'll find your relationship has acquired ruddy cheeks." — Dr. Ruth Westheimer, psychosexual therapist and author of 52 Lessons on Communicating Love
More from the O vault: Heartbreak Academy
From the May 2005 issue of O, The Oprah Magazine
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