Tips for better relationships  AUDIO VERSION
by Claire Halsey

Spend time alone together
Find a short time every day to share your thoughts and feelings about the little things as well as the big news. Every week or so make a date to do something you both enjoy. Arranging a babysitter or having a special meal at home can keep the fun and romance going.

Make plans together for your family
You may enjoy organising an outing or holiday, sharing ideas about birthday presents or organising family celebrations.

Share your hopes and dreams
You can bring ideas to life and feel closer this way.

Ask for what you want
You can't read each other's minds so be clear about what help you need from each other.

Talk about your feelings
There may be times when one of you feels left out of family life - perhaps you're at work and miss the big changes as your child walks and talks, or you can't get to the school play or sports day. Talk this over, share how you feel and work on ways to get more involved.

Talk about money
Make a realistic budget together.

Laugh together
Sharing a joke or a funny incident from your day can brighten everyone up.

As your family grows and life gets busier, you'll have less chance to spend time together as a couple. When you do, conversations are likely to be filled with practical details of who's doing what and when, and you'll have less opportunity to share your thoughts and feelings.

Remember when you first met and spent hours exchanging stories and secrets? This intimacy brought you together and is still needed to keep you close. Staying interested in one another and sharing an emotional life can be important to your enjoyment of each other as a couple.

Once a week, try looking at and listening to your partner as if you're meeting for the first time. Notice all the things which attracted you in the first place. Refreshing your relationship like this can be as important to your family as all the effort you put into being parents.

How to be a good listener
This means more than just keeping quiet and not jumping in - though that can be hard enough!

Pay attention to the person speaking. Take the time to hear them without interrupting.
Watch out for all the non-verbal parts of a conversation. How a person looks when they talk tells you a lot about their meaning. When you're not interested in what the other person is saying you tend to look away or fidget. When you're interested, you'll lean forward and smile more. Caring words don't seem genuine when spoken with a frown or while walking away.

Make sure you understand by repeating back what your partner has said. For example: "Do you mean you feel let down?" or "You sound excited about the visit to your sister" This avoids misunderstanding and shows you've been listening carefully.

Hold back and be slow to give advice
Often your partner simply wants to tell you their story.

Make the most of couple time
To bring you closer through talking, make a time away from the children each week when you can avoid talking about family matters and focus on your relationship.

Use feeling words
Talk about your emotions as well as events. Don't assume your partner knows how you feel. Keep telling each other how much you care.

It's a good idea to discover more about each other, too. Take turns to ask these simple questions - you may be surprised by some of the answers.

  • What are your top ten favourite songs?
     
  • What are your top ten favourite movies?
     
  • What is your happiest childhood memory?
     
  • Where was the best holiday we ever took together and why?
     
  • If you could change one thing about where we live, what would it be and why?
     
  • What would be your idea of a great night out together?
     
  • What is your dream for our future?