You change the oil in your car so it doesn't poop out on you, you go to the gym so you can walk up a flight of stairs without passing out, and you feed and walk your dog so that you have many healthy years together covered in dog hair.
Taking care of your relationship is kind of the same thing. You've gotta put some love into it to get sweet, sweet lovin' out of it.
While there's no surefire way to divorce-proof your relationship, there are plenty of things you can do to lower your risk—starting with maintaining the emotional health of your partnership, says Michael D. Zentman, Ph.D., director of the postgraduate program in marriage and couple therapy at Adelphi University in New York
"The most common symptom that precedes a breakup is serious emotional alienation between partners," says Zentman. "When a good emotional connection has become a thing of the past, divorce may be just around the corner." Mayday, mayday!
Here are the simple ways you and your S.O. can create an unbreakable bond.
1. Do things alone.
"In every relationship, there are three parties involved: two individuals and the relationship itself," says Joshua Klapow, Ph.D., an Alabama-based clinical psychologist. As much as you need to focus on your relationship and nurture it, you must also nurture yourselves," he says. "Otherwise, neglect in one area of the triad can spill into the others, causing your relationship to unravel." So go shopping by yourself or read a magazine in the bathtub. Just do the things that make you feel amazeballs about yourself, and your relationship will reap the benefits. On the flipside, try to give him space to do the stuff that makes him feel good. It's a win, win.
2. Let him know you’re there for him.
Check in as a gentle reminder that you have each other's backs. Squeeze or massage his shoulders, give him a hug after you get home from work, and just straight-up ask how he's doing at the end of the day, says Jane Greer, Ph.D., author of What About Me? Stop Selfishness From Ruining Your Relationship. Let him unload about his day and what is on his mind so you can continue growing together. Checking in also helps you understand where any stress-related arguments are coming from (and vice versa). That way you'll be able to come from a place of compassion, instead of getting defensive when he freaks out about the dirty dishes in the sink.
3. Meet each other’s top needs.
We all have certain needs that we consider to be a top priority, such as affection, intimate convos, or getting busy. So tell your partner what the number one thing you need from him in your relationship is. Then ask for his numero uno, says Wyatt Fisher, Ph.D., a Colorado-based licensed psychologist. By finding out what each of you needs to get the most out of your bond, you'll be able to come through for each other, he says. This is especially helpful since people who don't get what they need out of their relationship tend to seek fulfillment from outside sources, says Fisher.
4. Step up your texting game.
Sure, texting to make sure your S.O. doesn't forget to pick up dinner or to find out when they're coming home is a solid way to keep the status quo—but it can also be a romance killer, says Greer. Boost your bond by sending special texts every so often (about how much you love them or how excited you are to see them) that could also reference something important you share together (like an inside joke or moments that remind you of them) as a subtle way to boost your bond.
5. Speak up when you’re annoyed.
"Couples are asking for trouble when they keep their thoughts and feelings to themselves," says Kathryn Esquer, Psy.D., Florida-based licensed psychologist. If your dude's habit of talking with his mouth full sends you off the deep end, speak up—but do it tactfully. The key is to focus on how that annoying thing is impacting you, says Esquer. For example: "When you talk with food in your mouth, I get distracted from the conversation we're having. I'd really like to give you my full attention, so would you mind chewing first, then talking?" Instead of: "You look like a slob when you chew with your mouth open." This should keep him from getting defensive or feeling bad about himself. At the same time, voicing your frustrations will prevent your feelings from building up and trickling into other areas of your relationship, says Esquer.
6. Say, ‘Thank you.’
The longer you're together, the easier it is to start taking each other for granted. "Don't forget to say thank you—even for the little things like doing the dishes or making coffee in the morning," says Greer. But don't just take her word for it. Research from the University of California, Berkley suggests that demonstrating appreciation on the regular can make for a happier, longer-lasting partnership.
7. Commit to an annual checkup.
"Set aside one day a year where you can check in on the status of your relationship," suggests Esquer. "Talk about the strengths and weaknesses of your bond, as well as what you'd like to improve on in the next year." Making this check-up a priority will keep you on the same page as your partner and prevent surprises from throwing your relationship off course. "As always, don't hesitate to seek help from a psychologist if you need guidance," says Esquer. "Not all couples need therapy, but all couples could benefit from therapy."