The  Best Relationship Tips Ever

These days, more and more happy couples are seeing counselors to keep their unions humming along. Here, the country’s top love experts offer up their best advice — for free!

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TAMARA SCHLESINGER

Beginning a relationship is generally the easy part; it’s
maintaining the connection that gets a little tricky. That’s
why a growing number of twosomes (whether or not
they’ve tied the knot) are going into couples therapy as a
preemptive strike against the tough times that will inevitably
hit…and to learn how to keep the good times flowing.
To give you a leg up in your love life, we asked the country’s
top relationship experts to share the most crucial things
they’ve uncovered over the years — from big-picture philosophies
to little gestures that go a long way. These practices
will help keep your union in a happy, healthy place.

1. Act Out of Character

Couples develop a particular
dynamic: the way they relate to
each other that repeats itself
over and over. If you break that pattern and act against
type — in a positive way — you inject new life into the
relationship. For example, if you always get angry at your
guy when he doesn’t follow through on some chore, try
addressing him in a nicer, more friendly tone, then thank
him when he does a good job. It works every time.

—Toni Coleman, psychotherapist and relationship coach in McLean, Virginia

2. Get in Touch a Lot

No doubt you hug and kiss
each other hello and maybe
snuggle a little after having
sex. But simple acts like stroking his arm while you’re
watching TV, taking his hand when you’re walking
down the street, or fondling his thigh during dinner are
also ways to bond. Touching your partner throughout
the day triggers your feel-good hormones, which reinforces
your affection and makes you feel closer on an
instinctive level.

—Psychotherapist Barton Goldsmith, PhD, author of
Emotional Fitness for Couples

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3. Don’t Be BFFs

Being pals with your man is
great in theory. But that kind of
connection actually can kill your
sex life. You could wind up having a roommatelike bond
with each other rather than a hot one if you let yourself
lose track of the masculine-feminine tension that excited
you at the beginning of your relationship. Save the gab
sessions for when you hang out with your girlfriends and
your sexy energy for connecting with your guy.

—Lana Holstein, MD, director of sexuality and vitality programs
for couples at Miraval Resort in Catalina, Arizona

4. Enjoy a Steady Diet of Sex

If you want to maintain
closeness with your man,
get out of your head and
into bed. Guys feel more comfortable connecting with
women on a physical level, not engaging in deep discussions.
To strengthen your bond, approach your lust life as you would
your gym regimen or your diet — make it part of your routine.
Set a goal to have sex at least a couple times a week.

—Toni Coleman

5. Take Turns Talking

To make sure you both get a
chance to state what’s on your
mind during a disagreement —
and get your points across — alternate playing reflective
therapist, where one listens while the other talks.

—Psychologist Diana Kirschner, PhD, author of
 Opening Love’s Door

6. Find the Intersection

When making decisions
together, try to find common
ground. You each
should write down exactly what you want. Let’s say
you’re angling for a vacay in San Francisco to see the
sights and hit up the cool shops and restaurants, while
he wants a tropical getaway where he can veg out by
the pool and sip drinks with umbrellas in the glass. Now
that your desires are clearly laid out on paper, you can
pick a place that will satisfy both your needs. A cool
city, a little sun…how about Miami?

—Paul Dobransky, MD,
author of 
The Secret Psychology of How We Fall in Love

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7. Be More Positive Than Negative

There’s a more effective
way to air
grievances than to
file an angry complaint. Sandwich your negative comment
between two positives. If you want to complain
about how he’s always late, for example, try something like “You know, I love that you’re so laid-back and easygoing,
but it really bothers me when you show up so late.
I’m sure you can still be the fun guy I adore and also be
on time.”

—Los Angeles psychologist Yvonne Thomas, PhD

8. Echo Each Other

When you and your man are
having a serious relationship
talk, it’s easy to get so caught
up in how you want to respond that you’re not really
listening to what’s being said. That’s why it’s important
for both of you to repeat each other: so you know you’ve
been heard and you feel understood.

—Yvonne Thomas

9. Grow Your Tolerance

Neither of you is perfect, and
the quirks you both have are
here to stay. So rather than
let those annoying traits work your last nerve, try to
get in touch with the upside of those particular flaws,
even if it’s not immediately recognizable. Instead of
getting annoyed when he starts screaming at the TV,
for example, remind yourself how much you love his
passion. Or if his shyness with new people bugs you,
think about how refreshing it is to be with a chill,
genuine guy rather than a blowhard who needs to chat
with everyone in the room.

—Denver psychologist Jennifer Oikle, PhD, dating coach for Coupling Connection

10. Take a Time-Out

It’s important that you
get a break from the
daily grind and spend
alone time as a couple — cell phones and the Internet
are off-limits. It can be a fun day trip or just a few
quiet hours to yourselves. The point is simply to steal
away (even if you’re going nowhere) so you can reconnect,
free of any distractions.

—Diana Kirschner

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11. Have His Back

You might not agree with
your guy when he’s had a
riff with a friend or he
thinks his boss is being unfair, but you should always
be on his side…and vice versa. Otherwise, you’ll both
feel like you can’t count on each other. That doesn’t
mean you have to take the “you’re so right” route all
the time. Just hear him out, and let him know that
you’ll support him no matter what.

—New York City psychotherapist JoAnn Magdoff, PhD

12. Spend a Little Money on Each Other

You don’t have to
wait for a
special occasion to give small presents to show your
love. In fact, gifts are more fun-and meaningful —
when they’re not expected. Try to get into the
habit of exchanging sweet tokens of appreciation for
no particular reason. Don’t go and blow your paycheck
though. It’s not about being extravagant; it’s
just a way of showing that you really get — and think
about — each other. Maybe you buy him a tee of his
favorite band that you saw on sale or he gets you a
pair of pajamas in your favorite color.

—Barton Goldsmith

13. Be a Good Date

Face it, no one can stay
fascinating forever.
After being together
for a while, the initial excitement fades, and your guy
can start to get kind of boring sometimes. Hey, don’t
think you’re off the hook — if you’re feeling a little
ho-hum about him, the feeling is likely mutual! To
combat the blahs, take turns coming up with an interesting
date idea every month. Keep the time and
details to yourself, and try to think outside the box —
dinner and a movie is not exactly innovative. An awesome
concert or a snowboarding lesson, for example,
is a much less predictable treat.

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