UT Psychologists Offer Five Tips for Healthy Relationships

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As Valentine’s Day is just around the corner, romantic relationships are on many of our minds. Experts at UT are offering tips to ensure relationships stay healthy and strong.

“Couples find over time the romance can fade and even the best relationships can struggle a bit,” said Kristina Gordon, professor of psychology and director of RelationshipRx, a project seeking to make it easier for couples to take good care of their relationship health.

According to those at RelationshipRx, there are some easy steps people can take to build more intimacy and strengthen their relationships on a daily basis.

1. Take a Trip Down Memory Lane: Reminisce on how you first got together.

“With all the different stressors and issues couples face, it is easy to forget what brought you together in the first place,” said Gordon. “What attracted you to your partner? What were your first impressions of each other?”

Gordon says remembering these times can easily rekindle those initial loving feelings.

2. Learn to Listen: According Gordon, it is important to listen to your partner completely and non-judgmentally.

“Many people get caught up in trying to think of their response rather than listening,” she said. “Make sure to avoid that trap. Couples who are skilled at providing each other with social support have been shown to be healthier and happier than less skilled couples.”

3. Draw Love Maps: Couples research shows partners can feel closer and more intimate by taking as little as five extra minutes a day to create something called “love maps,” said Gordon.

“At the beginning of the day, share what your day will be like,” said Gordon. “This way, during the day, you can think about your partner and appreciate what his or her day must be like.”

At the end of the day, partners should share and listen closely to how each other’s day went.

4. Show Support: Identify two small things that each of you can do to provide support when the other is having a difficult day, such as doing the dishes or allowing your partner to vent.

“Research has shown that partners who can support each other around shared challenges can actually experience increased intimacy in their relationship,” said Audrey Kasting,¬†Relationship Rx facilitator and counseling graduate student.

5. Play to Your Strengths. The experts say every couple is good at something.

“Find your strengths and use them to your advantage to help you deal with stress and other issues easier,” said Gordon.

Common strengths include:

  • Friendships: Couples research has found that the quality of a couple’s friendship is one of the strongest predictors of relationship well-being.
  • Acceptance: The healthiest couples have found ways to cope well with each other’s quirks and to accept each other for the “natural flaws in the fabric.”
  • Commitment: Couples research has consistently found a strong association between shared commitment and relationship health and stability.

For more information on RelationshipRx, visit the website.

C O N T A C T :

Kristina Gordon (865-974-3347, kgordon1@utk.edu)

Whitney Heins (865-974-5460, wheins@utk.edu)

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