Relationships are like plants in the garden of life.

They must be tended to, care for, and continually nourished. Our ability to form meaningful connections with others is an essential ingredient in the recipe for happiness. While many of us already know this to be true, relationships are not always easy. Fortunately, with awareness and conscious effort, many common relational dilemmas can be resolved or avoided all together. Here are just a few potential ways to fortify the bond between you and your significant other.

1. Spend quality time together

From favorite foods to favorite hobbies, make an effort to share meaningful experiences. While it’s important to have some separate interests and alone time, the act of being side by side while seeing or doing something can create incredible intimacy and closeness. These interactions also create lasting memories that become part of your history which you can later reflect upon together. This face to face time can be either planned or spontaneous, and is most optimal with little or no screen interference.

2. Listen to each other

We all want to be heard. If one partner feels like the other person isn’t listening, it could result in quiet (or not so quiet) contempt and resentment. Try putting down your phone, turning toward the person, making eye contact, and listening attentively without interrupting. When it’s your turn to share, vent, or tell a story, you deserve the same in return.

3. Engage in Physical touch

This includes sex, but also other forms of contact such as cuddling, holding hands, massages, etc. Go to a concert and dance together or try a partner yoga workshop! Find ways to display affection through bodily sensation.

4. Lift each other up

Bring out the best in each other! One hallmark of a strong relationship is if your significant other helps make you the best version of yourself and you do the same for your significant other. Comfort your partner after a hard day or give your partner a pep talk before a big interview. Again, this goes both ways. Inspire each other to do and be good.

5. Be a team

Aim to create more unity rather than separateness. We all need our space, but aiming to be partners or teammates will translate to more winning overall. Have each other’s back, whether it’s sticking up for your partner when they’re mistreated or saving them a seat so they don’t feel left out, these types of acts signal to the other person that you are there for them and that they truly matter.

6. If something is bothering you, speak up

Don’t wait until an issue is full-blown to use your voice. Utilize effective communication skills to express yourself before it’s too late. Everyone has a right to their privacy, but just make sure you’re being as honest and transparent as possible with your significant other. Saying what’s on your mind could help keep things open and minimize the risk of a major conflict.

7. Know your partner’s triggers AND know your own

The better we understand (and accept) ourselves, the easier it is to interact with others and maintain relationships. Getting to know yourself and what makes you tick will serve you and your relationships in the long run. Striving to understand what sets your partner off will demonstrate empathy and sensitivity, which are crucial elements of a lasting bond.

8. Compliment more than you criticize

We all have our own biases and insecurities. Like in #7 above, get to know what these are in each of you. Make an effort to say nice things to your partner, not only about physical appearance, but also about their character and worth as a person. Tell them that you accept them and that they’re enough.

9. Express gratitude

Let your partner know that you appreciate them. Of course it’s nice to say thank you for gifts or experiences of significant monetary value, but let the person you love know that you’re thankful the trash was taken out (and you didn’t have to do it!) or just that you feel lucky that you met.

10. Pick your battles

Try not to make every little thing into a fight. Speak your mind of course, but also find it in your heart to be accepting, tolerant, compassionate and forgiving whenever possible. Put yourself in their shoes and ask that they do the same.

11. Compromise

Be willing to do the dance of give and take. We can’t always get what we want in relationships and in life. Learning to compromise is a skill that can serve you in your romantic relationship, and in other areas of your life, too.

Decipher the traits that make you, your partner, and your relationship special. Honor these factors and start to incorporate some of these strategies.

Watch your love garden begin to blossom and grow!