You are here because you want to learn all about the process of putting effort in your relationship. And that’s great. We are living in a time when people are struggling to figure out ‘effort in a relationship meaning’ and ‘on the rocks’ is no longer just a phrase you say to your bartender. It is a milestone of modern relationships.
And what does relationship effort look like? Let’s find out, with the help of emotional wellness and mindfulness coach Pooja Priyamvada (certified in Psychological and Mental Health First Aid from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and the University of Sydney). She specializes in counseling for extramarital affairs, breakups, separation, grief, and loss, to name a few.
What Is Effort In A Relationship
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When you start dating, an intoxicating infatuation takes over. There is no dearth of research on how the early stages of a relationship literally ‘expand’ you. You become a new person, imbibing new ideas about the world. You even discover hidden gems on Spotify and addictive shows on Netflix (thanks to your partner!). But before you know it, the infatuation can turn into irritation. And why does this happen? Because you stopped putting work in your relationship.
This effort is about intimacy and involvement in all planes and dimensions of each other’s lives. While you can learn how to navigate a rough patch in your relationship, majorly, it is about paying attention to your partner. Here are some examples of little efforts:
- Prioritize: If your relationship is on the rocks, this is the first step for matching effort in a relationship. Like career and academics, relationships need prioritizing and work. Saying “I love you” is one thing, but you need to show it as well. Dates, Scrabble, walks, watching TV together — whatever it takes
- Communicate: Go on, make an extra effort. Talk to them about everything. Initiate conversations, ask questions, and engage when they are talking. Debate, disagree but don’t forget to resolve as well
- Notice: If you want to put more than the bare minimum in a relationship, pay attention to your partner. Start noticing tiny things as well as the big makeovers. And, of course, tell them about it
- Care: Show an interest in your partner’s life. You might think you know them well but people change as well. Participate in activities that your partner likes
- Share: Don’t be selfish. And this is not just advice for your sex life, but your entire relationship. To put quality time, share the work, the sacrifices, the compromises, and not just the good times
Why It Is Important To Put Effort In The Relationship
You may have skipped your daily chats over coffee, failed to help with the chores, or forgot important dates like their birthday. “I will buy him that wallet I saw online next month, and it will all be fine” — you think after your partner complains you haven’t been paying attention to him. “Ugh, I will take care of the kids next week so that she can go out with her colleagues,” you promise yourself after you realize you cannot count the number of fights you two had in the last week. So, here’s why matching effort in a relationship is extremely important:
- It makes your partner feel seen, heard, and valued
- Your partner doesn’t feel that the relationship is one-sided and that they are the only one doing all the work
- It makes you a more compassionate, empathetic, and giving human being. You learn to step into the other’s shoes
- It makes you a self-aware person as you keep discovering ways you can grow
- It increases trust, honesty, openness, vulnerability, and dependability
8 Signs Of Lack Of Effort In A Relationship
According to Pooja, “Taking accountability in relationships means that you share your part of the responsibility to make that relationship work in a functional and healthy way.” And once you stop putting in the work, there’s no going back. Here are 8 signs that there’s a lack of conscious efforts to make the relationship work:
- The arguments happen all the time and disrespect has become a routine
- The cute texts/calls have stopped
- One of you keeps speaking and the other rarely gets a chance to express
- The ‘surprise element’ is missing, in the bedroom and outside
- Compromise doesn’t come easy and there’s a lack of concern for each other’s needs
- Your friends can see that the relationship is going downhill
- Blame-shifting harms your relationship on a regular basis
- You both keep scores of each other’s mistakes, like it’s a Liverpool match
12 Ways To Show Effort In A Relationship
Commitment issues arise because at some point, spouses/partners stopped working on their connection. Just as Rome wasn’t built in a day, commitment requires constant work. Every little conversation counts, every little habit matters. All these little things accumulate over the years, serving as the foundation of unwavering commitment between partners. So, here are some ways to make your partner feel special:
1. Effort in a relationship means showing affection
Pooja points out, “You need to realize how important this relationship is to you. Maybe start with small romantic gestures. You have to apologize for the little things to establish honesty and accountability in relationships of all kinds, especially the romantic one. Remind yourself that your partner is important to you and so are their feelings. Be honest about your mistakes. If you can’t speak directly, write them down and share them with your partner.”
To feel loved, it is essential that there is a show of affection and expressing your feelings would be an excellent place to start. Don’t shy away from blurting the occasional “I love you” when you feel it, and some heartfelt gifts and gestures would go a long way too. But, don’t forget, affection also means being there when your partner needs your help, from tiny chores to emotional support.
2. Work on your emotional connection with your partner
Psychologist Shazia Saleem says, “Sex with one person becomes monotonous when you make it a physical need/bodily want. The key to interesting sex is to strengthen your emotional connection by spending time with your partner. When you’re emotionally bonded to someone, one look is enough to send a shiver down your spine. Be sensitive/caring toward your partner and enjoy the little moments. This emotional intimacy will keep your relationship exciting for long term.”
As she points out, an emotional disconnect between a couple is one of the biggest signs of effort in a relationship falling short. It could have various reasons, but they are always significant. Trauma, loss of a loved one, children moving out, cheating, relocation, and moving out after separation are some familiar stories.
3. If you are lying in your relationship, don’t
One of the ways to put effort is to be honest with your partner. Often, for small and big reasons, you will find yourself thinking that not telling something to your partner or lying to them is a better idea. Stop right there. No matter how much you justify it, dishonesty is universally considered a red flag. Then why do it to the one person you love the most?
In fact, statistics indicate that there is at least one incident of infidelity in 40% of unmarried and 25% of married couples in the US. This is also the reason behind up to 40% of total divorces. If you know that you want to explore, go out there and explore. Don’t commit. Just be honest about what you want, with yourself and with your partner. Psychotherapist Dr. Aman Bhonsle says, “They will keep telling you that it’s all innocent, and they are just “having some fun”. Why do they need to have fun at the expense of your feelings and respect?”
Related Reading: Freedom In Relationships – What It Means And What It Doesn’t
4. All communication channels need to be clear
“Clear rules and boundaries about communication need to be set so that each partner automatically puts enough effort in the relationship. This must be done when both are calm and stable. Blame-game and angry lashing out does not resolve anything,” says Pooja.
In Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, J.K. Rowling wrote, “Indifference and neglect often do much more damage than outright dislike.” Silence, neglect, monotony, ignorance are slow and imperceptible but can consume your relationship. Listen well, pay attention, show adoration, spend time, and communicate with your partner in all manners possible.
Do not be scared of revealing your fears, desires, motivations, reservations, and all the types of insecurities in a relationship. Facing your issues and talking about them is always better than hiding them away. The only thing that will hurt your relationship is a lack of communication.
5. Get an A for acknowledgment
Time breeds familiarity. And, familiarity turns into a habit, a routine, a monotony of schedules. Instead of inspiring passion, this dulls the senses into forgetfulness, negligence, even ignorance. You forget to acknowledge the tiny things that your partner does for you, the responsibilities that they take up because you can’t. Often they also make sacrifices and compromises for you. Do you always acknowledge those tiny things instead of taking your relationship for granted?
While sharing all the responsibilities of life is the utopia everyone wants, it doesn’t work out like that at all times. And most of the relationships come with both the partners making some or the other tough choices. For a thriving relationship, it is crucial that you acknowledge every little thing your partner does for you. And why shouldn’t you? You deserve the same.
6. If apologies are due, don’t forget to offer them
Forgotten apologies can pile up and become damaging to your relationship’s health. So, start with asking yourself a couple of questions when your relationship feels off. How is this about me? How did I create this? What part did I play? What can I learn from this? Trying equally in a relationship basically means acknowledging and taking full responsibility for your actions.
Sometimes in the heat of an argument, we don’t accept our mistakes even though deep down we know that we are wrong. To have an upper hand, we focus all our energies on proving ourselves right and shifting the blame onto the other person. This is when we need to ask ourselves, “What is more important, the power game or the relationship itself?” To give up your ego for the health of your bond with your SO can help you resolve issues as a married couple.
Related Reading: 25 Most Common Relationship Problems
7. Do what your partner loves
When was the last time you showed interest in an activity that your partner loves? Truthfully, while all I want to do is watch Queen’s Gambit on Netflix and snuggle, I had to learn to play the game with my chess-obsessed partner. And you know what? I like the game even though I am horrible at it, and he finally read Harry Potter. Win-win, right?
Pooja suggests, “Rediscovering new common interests, having a fulfilling life other than marriage and kids, and maintaining your own personality, interests and social group away from the partner are some of the cute ways to strengthen your relationship.”
Seeing your partner attempt to learn something new just for you is heartwarming and only gives you more to experience, talk about, and share. Sports, Netflix, languages, traveling, hiking, or chess, choose anything that your partner loves, and begin! Even if you hate the activity, you will still have loads of fun.
8. From bold declarations of love to quiet kisses
Some of us might like a quiet personal gesture occasionally, while others might prefer more bold and public displays of affection daily — romance is for everyone. Now, there is enough literature and cinema to confuse you regarding how to be romantic. You can go for those big and bold marriage proposal ideas, but at the same time, it’s vital to not forget that a weekly date is one of the sure-shot ways for creating lasting memories.
You could also invest in that travel plan that you have been keeping on hold because of work. And, of course, an occasional gift. To make your partner feel special, make it personal and sincere, and show your partner that not only do you care but that you also notice. Show your attention, your commitment, love, interest, and create a common ground for some cheery banter as well as passionate debates.
Related Reading: How Do You Set Emotional Boundaries In Relationships?
9. It’s about time and effort in a relationship
Research points out that a flawed work-life balance spills over into personal relationships. People tend to overwork, get stressed, and then take it all out on their partners. So, one of the worst relationship mistakes that one makes is not being able to find the right equilibrium. A relationship gets messed up when there is an imbalance. Work and relationship, family and relationship, friends and relationship, me-time and relationship…the list goes.
In such cases, planning always helps, and then the rest can be taken care of with communication, patience, and effort. Plan for what is coming, and how the years that yawn between then and now need to be lived. And plan together. Effort in a relationship, to make it last longer, has to come from both sides. You can also look into some conflict resolution strategies as well.
10. How to show effort in a long-distance relationship
It is not that long-distance relationships need a separate section, but that a relationship turning long-distance is a significant probability these days. And the general outlook toward long-distance relationships (LDRs) compared to geographically close relationships (GCRs) is pretty negative. Statistics suggest that 56.6% of people believe that GCRs are happier and more satisfying than LDRs.
Pooja advises, “Trying equally in a relationship becomes a habit when you consider your relationship important enough to work on. On a daily basis, try to ensure that you and your partner are on the same page regarding routine as well as important things. Make sure there is open communication and quality time spent to facilitate this communication.”
For example, “I am sorry that I haven’t given this relationship enough time lately. I acknowledge it and I will surely try my best to take out quality time for you.” Allocate time every day to have a meaningful conversation, no matter how busy you are. Fix a specific time in your calendar. It could be over dinner or on a morning stroll. If you are in a long-distance relationship, you can talk to them while you are commuting. Being there with each other, sans distractions, is all that matters.
Related Reading: 12 Simple Tips To Build Healthy Relationships
11. When it comes to sex, use the “I” language
Sexpert Dr. Rajan Bhonsle talks in great detail about the “I” language. He emphasizes that one should say, “I would like for you to cuddle after sex” instead of saying “You always run away after sex”. Similarly, instead of saying “How can you like oral sex? It’s so disgusting!”, you could say “I don’t have a liking for oral sex/I don’t prefer oral sex”.
He goes on to say, “Accusation is not just specific to romantic relationships. As a part of counseling, we even train parents to use the right language. It makes more sense to say “You did a naughty thing” instead of using a generic statement, blaming the kid for ‘never’ doing their homework.”
Set realistic expectations and be patient with your partner. It is good to be open to experimentation but maintain personal boundaries and be clear about them while sharing with your partner. And do not shy away from consulting a mental health specialist/family therapist to help you make more informed decisions.
12. Step into your partner’s shoes
What does work in a relationship look like when there’s an incident of loss? Pooja emphasizes, “Never judge your partner’s process of grief, they might go to and fro in the various stages of grief. Be patient with them. Let them process it the way they want to. Be in a supportive role and never try to lead the process. Don’t make it about yourself. It is about their experience and feelings and not yours.”
Sometimes, all you need to do is to step into your partner’s shoes and understand how they perceive the world. In case of disagreements, it can help to step back and understand your partner’s point of view, rather than ignoring or defending yours all the time. This is one of the golden rules to make a relationship work.
- Put effort into your relationship by being a good listener and participating in activities that your partner likes
- If your relationship leaves you feeling drained every single day, there is need for your partner to make some effort
- Making an effort means empathizing, apologizing, being honest, and giving your partner quality time
- Use the “I” language when it comes to sex
- Seek help from a licensed therapist if healthy communication is a constant struggle
Finally, we all need help time and again. And accepting that your relationship needs help is one of the biggest signs of a good relationship. While we often recognize the need for help in terms of work, education, finances, mental and physical health, we often ignore the support we need to keep our relationships going. Partners often struggle to communicate their feelings. You need someone, someone professional, to reason and contemplate with you. Also, it’s never too late to ask for relationship counseling.
This article has been updated in November, 2022
Yes, paying attention to the little things will help your relationship flow naturally. You don’t have to spend too much money on material things. Just the thought counts. For example, remembering important dates like anniversary and planning cute surprises.
If you start noticing the first signs that your needs aren’t being fulfilled, take out a suitable time and talk to your partner. Clarify your specific needs in a respectful manner. Also, make sure you don’t have unrealistic or high expectations.