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7 Relationship Rules Actually Worth Following, According To Therapists

There’s no shortage of relationship advice out there. You hear it from friends and relatives, strangers on the internet, books, podcasts and TV shows.

Sometimes there’s so much noise it’s hard to discern which tips are worth following and which might be better to ignore.

Of course, every partnership is different, and what works for one couple may not work for another. That said, therapists who specialize in couples’ issues have a good sense of which relationship guidelines tend to be widely beneficial.

We asked these therapists what relationship rules they believe in and why. Here’s what we learned:

1. Keep dating each other.

No matter what stage of the relationship you’re in, resist the urge to slip into autopilot. Instead, continue pursuing your partner, making a conscious effort to connect with them like you did in the early days.

That might mean making thoughtful gestures, like putting a cute note in their lunch bag, asking each other interesting questions to get to know each other on a deeper level or planning creative date activities.

“We often fall into a pattern of comfort, which leads to being stagnant in a relationship,” licensed professional counselor Priya Tahim of Kaur Counseling told HuffPost. “As humans, our need to evolve is inevitable. By dating your partner, you’re able to continue to grow not only as a couple but as individuals. This allows chemistry and intimacy to continue to evolve alongside the relationship.”

2. Stop comparing your relationship to others.

Comparison is a natural human tendency. Thinking from time to time about how your relationship stacks up against other couples in your orbit is normal. However, spending too much time comparing can be detrimental to your happiness and well-being. You might be so busy trying to mimic what another couple is doing that you fail to create a blueprint that works best for you and your partner.

“We can develop unconscious beliefs about ourselves and our relationships if we are constantly in comparison with friends, people in the media and others,” psychologist and sex therapist Shannon Chavez told HuffPost.

“You get to make your own rules with a partner and be free from the social constraints of how other relationships function. Make rules that support your relationship and normalize that your rules make your relationship work,” she added.

3. Don’t avoid the uncomfortable stuff.

According to therapist Kurt Smith, one of the main reasons couples come to therapy is issues they’ve been ignoring. It may feel easier to bury your head in the sand in the short term, but putting off these conversations often only exacerbates the problem.

“We all want to avoid unpleasant conversations or hurting our partner with something we need to tell them or, the biggest of all, conflict. Yet most of us realize that avoiding is unhealthy, too,” Smith, who specializes in counseling men, told HuffPost. “So make it a rule in your relationship that you both won’t avoid the uncomfortable stuff. And then start practicing this rule on some smaller stuff so you’re ready when you need to do it on something big.”

4. Express gratitude every day.

Noticing the big and small ways your partner enriches your life, from how they support you through a health scare or when they fill up your car with gas, and then giving specific thanks is a powerful habit to adopt. Make expressing gratitude for your relationship a daily practice, Chavez said.

″[It’s] a way to show love and support for one another. It also breaks the habit of complaining or expressing negative beliefs about one another, which can hinder growth and appreciation for one another and build a habit of criticizing each other,” she added.

5. Be transparent with your partner.

Being honest and clear about your needs and desires is crucial for your happiness and the health of the partnership. Showing up in an authentic manner builds trust and intimacy in the relationship, Tahim said.

“If we aren’t transparent, we risk the chance of not being emotionally in tune with our partners,” she said. “Relationships don’t exist off only positive connections. It’s the negative experiences that often bring two people closer together. Being transparent allows you to connect with your partner authentically.”

6. Continue to build trust.

Many couples don’t consider how important trust is until they’ve lost it, Smith said. But there are small things we do each day “that either build trust or take it away,” he explained. Reflect on your actions within the relationship and try to do more things that foster trust — and fewer things that might do the opposite.

“Think about what you could be doing, usually unintentionally, that could make your partner think ‘What’s he hiding?’ such as keeping your phone password a secret; taking your phone with you everywhere you go, even into the bathroom; not saying where you’re going or when you’ll be home, or not coming home when you say you will; having friends your partner doesn’t know about; keeping your spending a secret, etc.,” Smith said. “Have a conversation with your partner about this topic and identify some areas where you each could do better maintaining trust.”

7. Don’t rely on love alone.

It’s true what they say: Sometimes love just ain’t enough. Marriage and family therapist Dani Marrufo of the Kindman & Co. therapy practice often reminds her clients that “there is much more to a relationship than love and that simply relying on the love leaves the relationship lacking deeper meaning,” she told HuffPost.

“If we choose our partner or partners intentionally and with meaning, the relationship becomes much more than a feeling but has character, values and substance,” she said. “Take time to define why you are with this person. When you find yourself in a relationship conflict, you likely aren’t feeling a whole lot of love toward your partner, and being able to lean on why you’re with this person is an essential support to be motivated to work through the conflict.”

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