3 Ways to Strengthen Your Relationship in September

The kids are back in school. You can officially stop obsessing about finding the perfect one-piece/planning the perfect vacation/fixing your sub-par garden situation. So what to do with all that newfound free time? Spend it with your one and only, of course. Hey, we’re adding (pumpkin) spice to our lattes. Why not our love lives?

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Quit Keeping Score

He made dinner last night, so it’s your turn tonight, right? You dealt with the plumber, so he has to get the car inspected. Tit for tat and all that? Not really, says relationship guru John Gottman. According to research, “marriages oriented around reciprocity were less successful,” he explains. “And from what we’ve seen in our clinical work, keeping track can cause couples to keep score, which can lead to resentment. Deal making, contracts and quid pro quo mostly operate in unhappy marriages. Criticism and contempt can arise from unfulfilled expectations, especially if those expectations are quantified. And when one partner does something nice for the other and there is a contract in place, they may expect something equally nice in return. That response may not happen for any reason—a busy week, forgetfulness—which can create resentment and an environment of trying to ‘win.’” So rip up any contract—real or imaginary—you might have and do something great for your love just because. And the next time he does something wonderful for you, see what happens if you say I love you instead of I owe you one.

couple kissing under the blankets
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Let’s (not) Talk About Sex, Baby

A lackluster sex life may be a symptom of trouble in a relationship, but it is generally not the cause, explains psychologist Neil J. Lavender in Psychology Today: “Sexual issues are usually the result of other problems and once those problems are fixed, good sex follows.” If you can get to the heart of what’s bothering either or both of you emotionally—he feels hurt because you are often sarcastic with him; you feel trapped beneath the weight of your invisible workload, etc.)—and express your needs out loud, your intimacy issues could clear right up.

two couples having a double date
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Make It A Double

Like adding a sparkly necklace to a decade-old button-down, nothing snazzes up a comfy old relationship like a double date. What is it specifically about being around another couple that makes you appreciate your partner even more? Perspective—whether it’s due to comparison (I’m so relieved my husband never talks over me the way Phil just did with Sarah…) or performance. “Whenever we’re out with other people, I see [my husband] Alex with fresh eyes,” writes A Cup of Jo’s Joanna Goddard. “He’ll tell an anecdote with a new twist, or he’ll talk about sports with such authority, or he’ll order everyone a round of drinks. It makes me feel buzzy to look across the table and see him in action, and I’m always so glad I get to take him home with me.” Seeing your partner the way others see him may be all it takes to reignite the spark. (That, and the bottle Pinot Noir you all just shared, obviously.)