Marriage & Life Partners

Working At It: How to Have a Better Relationship

But Finkel and his team have discovered certain shortcuts for harried marrieds; he calls these shortcuts “Love Hacks. “He offers a variety of love hacks, realizing that they may not all be appealing to everyone, and suggests starting off as soon as possible with those that do seem suitable. They are the following:

Touch Your Partner

This may seem obvious, but it’s easy to forget—and easy to do. Finkel’s research showed that couples felt closer to each other after holding hands—even when they had done it at the research team’s request.

Don’t Jump to Bad Conclusions

When your partner disappoints you, try not to immediately attribute it to a general character trait. Finkel uses the example of a spouse forgetting to call. Instead of generalizing and thinking, “This means he doesn’t care about me,” try first to imagine the situational things that may have delayed him—a late meeting, etc.

Picture a Fight From the Outside

Quarrels can escalate in the heat of the moment, and the research team has discovered a quick check on things’ getting out of hand. Imagine you are a neutral third party examining the action. It may help you to see your partner’s viewpoint more clearly, and where you may be out of line.

Make a Gratitude List

This has become a staple of positive psychologists who work on helping people see the bright side, and it can work in marriage too. Stop and consider what your spouse does for you—the ways in which the marriage is strong— rather than dwelling on the problems.

Accept a Compliment

People with low self-esteem have difficulty accepting compliments or feeling them as sincere. If this sounds like you, give your negativity a rest. Take your partner seriously and graciously accept it when he compliments you, and don’t compare this boon to the number of times you feel criticized, either, since you may be blowing that problem out of proportion.

Celebrate Small Victories

When your spouse comes home with a tale of accomplishment, listen and make something of it. Studies have shown that when we show interest in what our partners have to say, especially if it is important or meaningful to him, marital happiness rises.

While the general demands on our time may be daunting, this list shows there are simple and small ways we can start improving things right away. What is more important to our overall well-being, after all, than having happy relationships, particularly with our significant other? And despite the time crunch, many of us spend a portion of our day wasting time surfing the web or doing other things that don’t yield much satisfaction. If we spend just a small portion of that time actively thinking about ways to be close to our partners, real progress can occur. As Finkel puts it, “satisfying higher-level needs yields greater happiness, serenity and depth of inner life.” Sounds worthwhile, doesn’t it?


Finkel, Eli. The All-or-Nothing Marriage: How the best Marriages Work. (2017).

Finkel, Eli J. “The All-or-Nothing Marriage. ” The New York Times, February 14, 2014.

Parker-Pope, Tara. “How to Have a Better Relationship. The New York Times.

Tierney, John “Try These ‘Love Hacks’ to Fix Your Marriage.” The New York Times, September 18, 2017.



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