The Only Proven Way to Improve Your Relationship

How To Improve Your RelationshipDid you know there’s only one technique for improving relationships that’s actually been proven to work?

That’s right. Just one.

I know what you’re thinking. I suggest tips for making your relationship better all the time. Not only that, but I back up my suggestions with research. How can there be only ONE surefire method?

It all comes down to the limitations of studying relationships.

The vast majority of studies rely on the concept of correlation. Correlation is not the same as causality.

It’s fairly easy for researchers to identify the typical characteristics of successful relationships. Couples that are happy tend to have good communication, for example. But that’s correlation. It’s not the same as proving that good communication causes healthy relationships.

Sure, it stands to reason that patterning your relationship after other healthy relationships will improve your connection with your guy.

But in a sense, even the best studies on romantic bliss are just educated guesses. Very well educated guesses, but guesses all the same.

Except for one.

According to a study done back in 2000, the key to making your relationship better is to do new and interesting things with your partner on a regular basis.[i]

Granted, that study is more than 15 years old, but that’s a good thing. Its conclusions have stood the test of time.[ii]

Just make sure you don’t miss the two most important details.


It’s not enough to do stuff with your guy. You need to do things that are different, exciting, and new.

That can be tough because once a relationship solidifies couples usually fall into a routine. You know what he likes, he knows what you like, and the two of you rarely venture into unchartered waters.

But the trick to maintaining passion over time is to tackle the unknown.

To be clear, I’m not talking about wild, risk-your-life adventures. You don’t have to skydive or run marathons together. Unless, of course, that’s your thing.

Low-risk adventures work just as well. Check out that art museum neither of you have ever been to. Take a weekend trip to a nearby tourist spot. Go to a murder mystery dinner. Or go on a group date with some folks you don’t know that well.

Just make sure the experience is new to both of you.


Okay, so maybe an afternoon at an art museum sounds fantastic to you. If he yawns at the very mention of the idea, keep brainstorming.

This only works if the activity is something you both genuinely want to do.

Put your knowledge of his likes and dislikes to work and get creative. Find something you can share that piques his interest as well as yours.

And get him involved in the planning process. Challenge him to come up with something new you’ll both get a kick out of. You might even consider taking turns planning “adventure dates.”

How To Improve Your RelationshipThere are a lot of things you can do to better your relationship. Embarking on shared adventures is the ONE thing that’s been proven to have significant positive impact.

Find something new and interesting to do with him. Not just this weekend, but on a regular basis.

Couples that seek out adventure together aren’t just having fun. They’re enriching their relationship at the same time.

[i] Aron, A., Norman, C. C., Aron, E. N., McKenna, C., & Heyman, R. E. (2000). Couples’ shared participation in novel and arousing activities and experienced relationship quality. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 78, 273-284.

[ii] DiDonato, Theresa E., Ph.D. “Improve Your Relationship With a Simple Change.” Psychology Today. Sussex Directories, Inc., 22 June 2016. Web. 22 June 2016.

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6 thoughts on “The Only Proven Way to Improve Your Relationship

  1. Nancy Jessen said:

    If he says no to what you want to do on your “allocated” night—-going to the concert—-I don’t see much reassessment needed. I suggest you let him know you are going to go to the concert (whether alone or with friends) and go! Have a great time like you did at the last one, and by all means don’t waste any time at the concert worrying about what he might be thinking, saying, feeling, or doing. Just enjoy yourself. After this night out without him (if that is how it goes), that will be the time for reflecting and reassessing your relationship. Please, please don’t skip your concert to stay home having a quite possibly boring time with him. If you do that I can tell you from experience that you won’t enjoy yourself and will stew about the concert…he will be able to tell you are unhappy and it could easily blow up in a very bad way. You might even lose one of your allocated nights permanently. OMG!

  2. Colleen said:

    Hello Wendy…

    I am in complete agreement with Julia.
    A number of years ago I bought “What Men Really Want.”
    It’s become my bible for a number of reasons.

    James really opened my eyes to not just what men want, but what we as women put on the line, thinking we know what our men want.
    We make ourselves too available. We give too much and too often. We reward a man’s behaviour due to wanting to keep peace and making things better. We do not want to appear demanding or start something that we know may very well end up in conflict. We reward a pattern of behaviour, that tells the man we’re okay with with it, despite it being something we would not normally tolerate from anyone else.

    Much of this learned behaviour comes from past relationships, the way we have interpreted marriages closest too us, thinking that this is the way relationships are.
    They’re not!!!!

    First and foremost is knowing one’s own worth. Understanding our own core non negotiable values and “settling” for nothing less, even if it means we have to give up what seems to be a potentially “great” guy.

    Relationships can change when understanding and insight comes together. You’re waiting in hope that he will change, when all you have to do is change some of your approach and interaction with this man.
    He may well be using work as an escape valve, it helped him initially to overcome the loss of his marriage. (It may be interesting to know why his marriage failed.)

    There is no reason to play games or test his reactions, all you need to do is begin standing up for what you want, what you value. You’re allowing him to lead a relationship that suits him, but you’re falling short. You sound unfulfilled and unhappy. Instead of living weekend to weekend for him, do things for yourself. Invite him along, make suggestions that includes him. If he declines or makes excuses, keeps making them, you will find the answers you’re seeking without any form of conflict having to take place.

    Living in fear, fear of loss, fear of “making waves” it’s a hellish place to be. I lived there for many years despite my own strength and independence. I had a wonderful man who worked cycles of 6 weeks away, 6 weeks home. I was the most important thing when he was away, yet when he arrived home, friends, family, things were placed ahead of me.

    But I tried to constantly keep peace, not wanting to cause conflict, fearing that I may lose him. I did lose him, for almost 2 years. Why? Because I never stood up for myself, my values, my worthiness. When I changed my outlook, took what I considered risks, which really are not risks, but very normal relationship interaction, he came back. He re-engaged, he has begun making all the dates, initiating conversation, if he hasn’t heard from me calls me. The moment I showed my worth by acting worthy, he began to treat me accordingly.

    Remember men are not mind readers, if they act in a way that is not okay with you, and you keep silent, they will keep acting in the same manner. But it’s not okay to one day blow up at him, because you’ve kept it bottled up for so long.

    I honestly wish for you to finding some inner guidance. Listen to your inner voice, work with it.
    Find yourself, and you’ll find everything else you’re looking for 🙂

    • Wendy Monaghan said:

      Julia and Colleen,
      Thank you so much for taking the time to comment with your insights. I really appreciate it.

      Colleen, he didn’t throw himself into his work because of his marriage break down, rather the marriage broke down because of his constant working over and above his contracted hours. It was him who told me this, he said when he was at home and not working away he spent all his time working on his files and documents so that his wife complained that he didn’t even touch her anymore. Also, they didn’t have a social life together as he had a group of female friends he socialized with that she had not met. Eventually, she persuaded him to stop seeing his friends and so he threw himself into his work even more than before. His wife tried to commit suicide at one point, I imagine as a cry for help and the marriage broke down after that.

      He usually works away through the week and comes home at weekends (as he did when he was married). During the rare weeks when he works at his local office we still usually only see each other Friday and Saturday evenings as he works on his files until the early hours midweek.

      It wasn’t too bad at first because we had a lot of contact midweek via facebook. He would always comment on my posts and post romantic songs for me etc. It was quite a public display and I’m afraid that I miss that in some strange way. A couple of months ago he announced on facebook that he was going to open a new facebook account just for work and work mates. He said he knew I would understand that it was purely for work. I wasn’t invited to join but I did look at the site. What I found was that he had listed himself as ‘single’ and many of the friends he had added had nothing to do with his work. All of the women who his wife had objected to (who are nothing to do with his work) are added on there as friends.

      I explained to him that I thought it was wrong of him to list himself as single so he changed it to ‘no relationships to show’. However, he has still not added me as friend. More importantly, he has not used his original facebook site since he started up his new one. I have twice mentioned that I miss his responses to my comments etc and that I am confused as to why he has added women as friends on his new site who are nothing to do with work yet he won’t add me as I am nothing to do with work. I can’t really get a satisfactory answer from him.

      I do have a social life of my own, I always invite him along but he doesn’t want to come. He has periodically mentioned that he must go and see his friends (in another city) but hasn’t invited me, ever. He hasn’t actually been to see friends yet as he is always working but there always seems to be something ‘coming up’ whereby he is going to have friends staying in his house or him staying in theirs. These friends are all female and I wonder if they know I exist.

      He is lovely when I do see him, he tells me he loves me and wants us to be together forever. I’m starting to question things now as he recently told me that when him and his ex wife were on honeymoon, after 4 days on a cruise ship he wanted to just be by himself as he can’t stand being with someone 24/7.

      A couple of Sundays ago, there was a live band I really wanted to see. My best friend was on holiday and my other friends were either working, without babysitters, ill etc so I asked him to go with me even though it wasn’t one of our allocated days together. He said no as he had to drop his dog off at his ex’s at a certain time and then had documents to prepare. I went to see the band alone (and had a great time). I was disappointed though that he wouldn’t change his routine just that once.

      So, this Friday coming (one of our allocated times together) there is another band I would like to see. I’m going to ask him to come and I expect he will say he is too tired and can we just watch TV. Then, I am going to have to reassess our relationship.

  3. Wendy said:

    OMG if only! My guy is a self-confessed workaholic. He works around 17 hours per day, other than our ‘allocated’ time together Friday and Saturday evenings. He is not contracted to work all of these hours, but he says he has an addictive personality and he has channeled it into his job. Even when on leave from work he works from home and often goes into the office. He tells me that if I want to go on holiday I will have to go with friends as he can’t stay away from work for that long.

    Even though we only see each other at weekends (because he is working most nights) even that time is limited due to his routines. Every other weekend he gets his dog, which he has shared custody of and he won’t leave her in the house alone, so we watch tv. Saturday mornings he visits his parents and walks their dog, so I can’t see him Saturday afternoons. Sunday afternoons he works at home so basically our weekends consist of him picking me up at 7.30 pm Friday and Saturday evenings, and taking me home around 11.30 am the next day.

    On the weekends he does not have his dog he will either plead tiredness or illness if I ask that we ‘go somewhere’. Hence, we watch tv those weekends too. During the 10 months that we have been dating we have ‘been out’ 3 times. In all of that time I have never met his friends or family and he has not seen his friends either – only work pals, at work.

    I’m actually not looking forward to Christmas as he says he ‘doesn’t do Christmas’. He will be having dinner with his parents and I’ll be having mine alone, and you know I just love Christmas! Before it’s suggested I go to his parents for Christmas too, well I haven’t been invited to meet them yet as they are staunch Catholics and my guy is separated from his wife and in their eyes he is still married to her (even though she is living with someone).

    I’m not really sure what to do about him

    • Julia said:

      Hi Wendy, and wow! I don’t comment often, but when I saw your story, I felt so triggered, that I simply have to jump in. First of all, I want to send you some support and virtual hugs – you sound pretty unhappy, and I can imagine how frustrated I would be in such a situation!!

      Second… (I’m sorry if this will sound harsh): why are you dating this man? A few hours of watching TV together every week doesn’t sound like a relationship at all. From how you presented it (and please correct me if I’m wrong), it sounds like he doesn’t want to, or is simply not able to, make you a priority in his life. It looks like a classic “accepting crumbs” situation to me…. 🙁

      If you have expressed this need in a way that he could hear (think James’s Respect Principle, for example) and after 10 months he STILL didn’t change his habits to make more time for you, then why stay with him? You clearly want more than he can give you.

      I’m not saying he’s a bad person (though workaholism can be a true, toxic addiction!), I’m just saying that he really might not be the right person for you. Are you at least dating other people as well, or are you exclusive with this man?

      Also, the “why” in my harsh question was literal – it might help you immensely to start analyzing the underlying reasons why you accept this kind of arrangement. Do you have a fear that there are no more good men out there (scarcity mentality)? Do you suspect that this is the best you can have, that nobody else would want to be with you? Do you have self-worth issues?

      I’m asking because I’ve been in a similar situation. 4 years ago I was in a relationship with a man who was still in love with his ex wife. He gave me lots of time together, but not the real connection I was craving. I stayed for half a year because, deep down, I was convinced that I don’t deserve better. Luckily, I shook off that limiting belief and I started dating again, and now I’m in a relationship with a man who IS a good match for me, and who is in love with me, not anybody else.

      Today I believe that we all deserve love, that there are many, many good people out there, and that, with the right knowledge and skills (like the ones we learn from James’s blog and programs!!), we can have deep, meaningful, life-enriching relationships… But it all started with me realizing I had to let go of a relationship that was simply not meeting my needs…

      I hope this helps, Wendy, and once again, please forgive me if I am too critical or prying. It just pains me to see people deny their most basic relationship needs…

    • Helen said:

      Hello Wendy, I have read your message, as well as the other replies to your message. My advice to you would be to drop this guy as soon as possible, because he is a jerk & does not love you. I would not put up with this behavior for one day myself, and you deserve 10,000-times better treatment. Someone who really cares for and loves you. And know how to translate that into actions.

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