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relationship advice

Improvement activities

Discuss and agree what you need to do differently

Relationship Improvement Goals   

The first step is to discuss and agree some broad areas about how you want to improve your relationship. After you have done this, the challenge is coming to an understanding about how you are going to do this.  

You need to decide together what you are going to do differently that will have an impact on your relationship. This can be hard because it means one or both partners have to change the way they think and behave.


Questions beginning with 'How' are a great way of generating practical ideas and suggestions about what you are going to do differently to improve the relationship. For example, you might ask your partner:

"How should we divide the chores?"

"How would you like me to help around the house?"

"How can we find more time to spend together?"

"How can I help with the kids?"

 "How can I help you get on in your career?"

"How can I help lessen the stress you are feeling?"

Skills Development

Another approach to thinking about what you might do differently is to look at what people who are really good at relationships do. It takes energy and skills to hold down a successful personal relationship just as it takes energy and skills to hold down a demanding job. In the world of work, there are skill and competency frameworks to help people acquire the knowledge and skills they need to perform effectively and continually improve.

When people get together, especially when they get together very young, they have to learn these skills through trial and error. You may get some advice--for example, from your parents, friends or a priest--but no-one tells you about the things that keep couples together and those that cause couples to drift apart.

Watch this short video with tips about how to repair a relationship.


When you have kicked the problem around for a while, you should decide on a range of specific things that you are going to do differently as a couple that you both agree will make a real difference. In the world of work and sport, people are encouraged to define their performance improvement activities or objectives to meet what are called SMART criteria. Try this approach.

SMART stands for:

S-Specific. Committing to help more with the chores is not specific. Committing to doing the online ordering and unpacking of the weekly groceries is specific.

M-Measurable. Saying you will try to help more with the kids is tricky to measure. Saying you will read to the kids every night is easy to measure.

A-Achievable. Promising to share all your thoughts and feelings with your partner is unachievable. Promising to tell him or her when you have had a difficult day at work and are feeling stressed is achievable.

R-Relevant. Saying you will give up your annual golfing weekend with your friends is probably irrelevant. Committing to going to the gym together on Sundays mornings is relevant.

T-Time-bound. Committing to trying to find more time to be together is not time-bound. Committing to arranging a city break for the Easter holiday is time-bound.

The SMART approach is effective because it makes you think about specific changes you are going to make in your relationship within a time-frame. It prevents people making vague promises and undertakings about behavioral changes that they then fail to make.

If you each come up with some SMART activities/behavioral changes and you both deliver on them, you will see a rapid improvement in the problem areas in your relationship.

Spend 5 minutes a day visualizing yourself performing some of the behavioural changes you have committed to.
1. Imagine yourself carrying out the improvement task/activity.
2. Create a strong mental image which includes the visualized scene and the people in it.
3. Play it like a short movie with a start, middle, and end. Run the movie several times in your mind zooming in on different aspects of the scene each time.
4. Run it from start to finish and then try running it in reverse.