11 Tips for Improving a Strained Relationship

Amy Cunningham

My husband and I welcomed our second daughter into our family just 2 months ago. Since she's arrived, I'll admit that our marriage has been less than perfect.

All marriages go through their ups and downs like the one that my husband and I are experiencing. Without a little TLC, you can easily find yourself in a rut that's difficult to escape. Overcoming that disconnect can be difficult, but the following 11 tips can help you build a more satisfying and intimate relationship.

  1. Avoid criticism.
    It's easy to criticize your partner for even the smallest incidents or actions and often it leads to a snowball effect. Once things begin to slide, you end up in a rut, looking at your partner through a set of not-so-happy glasses. Remember that it's all too easy to criticize our partners for their imperfections while overlooking our own.
  2. Accept imperfection.
    Remind yourself that there's no such thing as perfection. You're not perfect, so how can you expect that your partner be?
  3. Focus on change.
    Once you've accepted that perfection is an unattainable myth, begin focusing on the one thing that you can control -- yourself. Think about the traits you'd like to see in your partner and instead of trying to fix him or her, instead focus on turning yourself into that kind of partner.
  4. Have patience.
    Change doesn't happen overnight. As with any worth fighting for, you must have patience to make changes and work through your issues.
  5. Avoid the blame game.
    Blame and resentment are toxic to relationships and once started, the cycle can be difficult to reverse. Instead of blaming your partner for certain situations and/or resenting them for the results, focus on what you can do to change and improve.
  6. Accept responsibility.
    Accept responsibility for your own actions. If you're in the wrong, recognize this, accept it, and change it instead of rationalizing or offering excuses. By accepting responsibility for your part in your relationship disconnect and focusing on the changes you can make within your control, your relationship will reap the benefits.
  7. Practice forgiveness.
    This isn't meant to "let your partner off the hook" for their actions, so don't think that if you forgive, you're "letting them win" or giving them control over you or the situation. Rather, forgiving helps you to resolve the situation internally and move forward with improving your relationship without hanging on to the baggage of the situation that may otherwise hold you back.
  8. Put your partner first.
    This may be the last thing you want to do, but it can also be the key to bliss. When you do something nice for your partner, they'll be appreciative and likely do the same. It's a natural instinct to do something nice for someone who's been nice to you. Happiness, kindness, and generosity are contagious.
  9. Set goals.
    It's easy to look at the end goal and expect results immediately, but it's not realistic. Instead approach your relationship goals with small steps. This makes it easier to make lasting improvements that bring you closer together. Think of what they say to dieters -- rather than thinking of your overall weight loss goal, focus on smaller goals of 5-10lbs. Do the same with your relationship goals and you'll feel less overwhelmed and happier as you achieve them.
  10. Maintain Balance.
    While you're focusing more on your relationship and partner, it's important to remember to maintain a healthy balance between all facets of your life. Take some time to evaluate your different roles with regards to work, kids, friends, family, and your partner. A healthy relationship requires a healthy balance.
  11. Ditch the scorecards.
    Don't keep tabs on who is or who isn't making the biggest effort in improving your relationship. Focus instead on what you can do and let that guide you.

While the reason for your marriage disconnect may not be the same as mine, our end results are the same. As relationships grow and change, we must grow and change with them.