Tips for a Healthy Relationship

Communication is the foundation for all relationships, and without it, you can have problems. It’s the No. 1 reason, in fact, that U.S. couples get divorced, research suggests. “When two people are communicating, roughly half of the message that is being passed and received is nonverbal,” Hardin says. “So it’s really critical to take a step back and think about your partner’s perspective when you’re communicating, especially when navigating text messages and emails.” Hardin suggests embracing a communication style called a bid for affection — where one partner reaches out to the other partner for connection and validation.

Occasional arguments are inevitable — and can be perfectly normal. It’s how couples argue that matters, Hardin says. “For a productive argument, couples need to converse with respect and dignity, and actively listen to their partner, versus getting emotionally activated, which can cause more issues,” she adds. If you notice you or your partner getting overwhelmed, Hardin suggests pausing the conversation and agreeing to come back to it another time. Physical closeness can also help when you’re tackling a tough topic.

If physical intimacy is important to you in a relationship, Hardin says that expressing your personal needs is critical. “As humans, we do a terrible job of helping people figure out how to communicate successfully around physical intimacy,” she says. “Start by talking openly about what works and what doesn't work, what you like and what you don't like, and then making adjustments in the moment.” If physical intimacy continues to be an issue in your relationship, Hardin suggests visiting a professional sex therapist.

School, work and kids, among other things, can take the focus off our relationships, so it’s important to maintain balance. “If you're giving 100 percent to work or 100 percent of yourself to other activities, then you’re not leaving much else for your relationship,” Hardin says. “Keep in mind that you need to save part of your energy for yourself and for your partner to productively engage.” Hardin recommends pulling back from work, hiring a babysitter, scheduling date nights or even physical intimacy.