5 Steps to Take Your Relationship from Mediocre to Magical

Making a conscious effort together can go a long way toward improving your relationship.

With more and more marriages headed for divorce, we are living in an era of relationship crisis. The story that has echoed through the ages is that love is a mystery and, sadly, quite often a tragedy.

Fortunately, thanks to psychologists and researchers such as Dr. Sue Johnson, author of the 2013 book, Love Sense: The Revolutionary New Science of Love, a way of making love work is available, even for people who have never seen love work.

 Thanks to these brilliant scientists who have cracked the code of love, it is no longer a mystery, and it most certainly is anything but tragic.

Based on some of this new science behind love, here are five steps to improve your relationship today, so it can go from mediocre to magical.

Step 1: Make the Decision to Improve Your Relationship Together

This step alone can do you wonders. Reinforce your commitment to each other and making your relationship better. Learn the three key ingredients to happily ever after and stop making common mistakes that so many couples unknowingly make. This may seem easier said than done, but making the commitment together to work on your relationship and improve it will go a long way in helping you actually do that.

Step 2: Spend Time Together. Schedule It if Necessary

Perhaps nothing sounds less romantic to you than an automated time to connect with your other half, but be honest with yourself: Are you ever seeing each other?

So many couples drift apart because they get caught up in their busy lives and they lose sight of their priorities. Healthy relationships literally change the way our brains work. Maintaining or creating one is a wise priority. Upholding this priority should start by actually being together, and if that means you have to put it in a google calendar, go for it.

Step 3: Get Clear On Your Needs and Be Unapologetic About Them

We live in a society in which far too many people squelch, ignore or try to deny their needs. Science has been showing us that we actually need safe and secure connections in our lives to be our best, but this finding spits in the face of the sad fact that many would rather be considered anything but "too needy" in their relationships. My advice would be to get clear on what your needs are, even if that means you feel "selfish," and express them to your partner. Those needs are not going anywhere other than into feelings of disappointment, hurt and resentment if they are not met, but it is up to you to be clear on what they are.

Step 4: Be Grateful

"What you appreciate appreciates."

This is very true in relationships. ​If you see something you like, say something about it. Do not take for granted the belief that your partner knows how you feel. Everyone needs to hear on a regular basis how much they are valued and appreciated. No one needs to hear this more from you than your partner. Turning up the gratitude and appreciation only helps create a stronger relationship.

Dr. John Gottman, a psychologist who has been researching what makes relationships ​work for over four decades, found the “magic ratio” of positive to negative interactions among happy couples to be 5:1.

That means it takes five times as many positive interactions to counteract one negative one. The take home point is to keep the positive interactions flowing. Expressing your gratitude for all the ways you appreciate your partner is one way of doing this.

Step 5: Change Up Your Dance

Dr. Sue Johnson has highlighted three negative "dances" that couples get caught in. These dances are negative relationship patterns that feed off of escalating negative emotions and pull partners apart from each other. If your relationship is caught up in one of these negative patterns, take a step back from it and try to look at what happens to you both more objectively.

Agree to take on your negative pattern together and team up against it.

Depending on how entrenched this pattern is, you may wish to involve a third party facilitator to really help you reverse this negative dance. Emotionally Focused Therapy for couples is a well researched form of couples counseling that has been shown to be an effective short-term approach to helping couples create stronger relationships. If you are not yet ready or willing to see a therapist, check out Dr. Johnson's book, Hold Me Tight: Seven Conversations for a Lifetime of Love.

Your relationship is worth improving. Make a conscious decision together to step it up, try some things that may be new and out of your comfort zone, and make the qualitative change that you have been looking for.


Gottman, J. & Silver, N. (1999) The seven principles for making marriage work. Three Rivers Press: New York.

Johnson, S. (2008). Hold me tight: Seven conversations for a lifetime of love. Little, Brown & Company: New York.

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