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The beginning of a new year offers an opportunity for a fresh start. No matter how your 2023 went, you can let it go and try again in 2024. One particular area on which you may want to reflect as you enter the new year is your romantic relationship. These relationships can be a source of both great joy and great heartache in our lives (sometimes even at the same time!). But whatever phase you’re in in your relationship, there is always room to improve and grow. Below are three ways you can work toward a stronger relationship in 2024.

Strong and healthy relationships begin with strong and healthy individuals.

A Stronger Relationship Starts with You

It’s human nature to look for fault and blame outside of ourselves. If our relationship isn’t where we want it to be, it’s likely that we see our partner as the prime culprit (or at least a major part of the problem). While it is certainly true that healthy relationships require effort from both partners, the quickest way to begin improving your relationship is to look at how you can improve. Try asking yourself these questions:

  • How well am I taking care of my own mental, emotional, and physical wellbeing?
  • How am I doing at expressing my feelings and communicating my needs to my partner?
  • What can I do to show my partner that I am committed to them and to our relationship?
  • How well do I know my partner and their life as it is at this moment?

Exploring the answers to these questions can help you identify some areas where you might get to work, whether alone or with your partner. 

Prioritize Time With Your Partner

It’s hard to have a relationship with someone if you aren’t ever with them! Life is busy, and it can be easy for partners to drift apart as they deal with all of the responsibilities on their plate: work, parenting, education, keeping house, hobbies, friendships, volunteering, etc. Intentionally scheduling time in your day to spend with your partner can help you stay connected and be there for each other when it matters. It also can help you keep your love strong as you make memories together, have fun together, and learn and grow together. Some ways that you can prioritize time with your partner include:

  • Sharing a meal together;
  • Planning frequent dates;
  • Going to bed at the same time;
  • Saying “Goodbye” and “Welcome home” at partings and reunions;
  • Making time for sex; and
  • Having frequent “State of the Union” meetings.

Practice Turning Toward Your Partner

Relationship researchers John and Julie Gottman have observed a pattern in relationships that has been shown to make or break the connection between partners. This is whether or not partners respond positively to each other’s bids for connection. A bid is essentially when your partner says, “Hey, I want to connect with you in some way.” They can do this with their words or actions, and it can look like:

  • A pat on the back while you’re at your desk working;
  • Asking for help chopping vegetables for dinner;
  • Letting out a loud sigh after reading a disappointing text;
  • Pointing out something interesting they would like to show you; or
  • Seeking reassurance or advice.
Couples who intentionally turn towards each other's bids for connection have stronger relationships.

Through decades of research, the Gottman’s have found that couples who stay together and who have happier, healthier relationships turn toward their partner by responding positively to each other’s bids 86% of the time. For the examples above, turning toward your partner could look like:

  • Looking away from your computer to smile at your partner or say, “Love you!”;
  • Replying, “Sure, I’m happy to help chop!” or “Give me just a minute to finish this email, and then I’m there.”;
  • Asking, “What’s up? Everything okay?”;
  • Looking at what caught their attention so you can share in their excitement; or
  • Reassuring them and giving appropriate advice.

Turning toward your partner’s bids more often will help both of you feel more seen, appreciated, respected, and loved—feelings that are essential to creating safety in relationships and building lasting love.

For more information on bids for connection, check out this video here

We are looking forward to this new year with anticipation, and we hope that you are, too. We especially hope that you find these three strategies helpful in bringing you and your partner closer together to make 2024 the best year yet for your relationship!

Want more ideas for how to strengthen your relationship? Check out our free Couples Workshop, the R3 Academy for Couples!