Even a healthy relationship is not a perfect relationship. Good relationships require hard work and attention. Here are some tips we can all use to nurture our relationships:

Be Helpful

The distribution of work can be an area of contention in even the most solid relationships, and definitely one of the most common ongoing issues I see in couples with children. One partner may feel burnt out at their job, while the other feels overworked by household and family duties (which do not always get the same recognition as work outside the home). This can often lead to tension and resentment, and feelings of inequality in the relationship.

It’s hard to meet in the middle, but that doesn’t mean you should stop trying. Everyone wants to feel validated for the work they do. Acknowledge…pitch in…communicate. Make an effort to recognize and thank your partner for the ways they contribute to having a happy, healthy household, whether it’s mowing the lawn, cleaning the fridge, taking the kid to soccer practice, or putting in overtime.

Be Open and Communicate

Openness is the sense that things are transparent in your relationship, which in turn helps to create a culture of comfort and security. It also means being open to difficult conversations. Communication is the foundation of a healthy relationship, however, it’s virtually impossible to be in a relationship with someone for any period of time and not have a few disagreements.

All couples—even those in good relationships—have conflicts, ongoing issues, and sore spots. Some avoid communicating about sensitive issues in order to maintain the status quo and avoid conflict, but it’s important to connect with your partner about the thoughts and feelings that are important to you.

Likewise, it is important for us to be open and present when our partner expresses their concerns. It’s not necessarily what you argue about, but how you argue about that counts. If you find yourself struggling to have a healthy dialogue, it may be helpful to see a therapist who has the skills to facilitate the conversation.

Be Present

I know many couples who spend more time apart than together due to careers that require travel. At times, they spend more time with each other online than in person. However, a solid commitment to the relationship, and making an extra effort to remain connected to their partners help their relationships continue to thrive. Texting and apps like FaceTime and Skype make it easier than ever for partners to remain “present,” even when they’re halfway across the world. You can also use a Pinterest video downloader to send you partner pictures that inspire you, or something that can cheer her/him up.

On the flip side, our increasingly technology-laden lives can be a barrier to being emotionally present with our partners. I often hear couples say they feel as though their partner is “somewhere else,” even when they are together. Everyday challenges (parenting, job stress) can create space between us, but ultimately we want to know that we have someone we can count on; that will witness the recounting of the minutiae of our day. Make an effort to genuinely connect to, and listen to your partner…and try a smart-phone free date. How hard could that be? 

Be Yourself

It’s nice to be with someone whose company you enjoy and who makes you feel good about yourself; indeed, many people in healthy relationships consider their partner to be their best friend. This doesn’t mean that you have to do everything together and enjoy all the same interests. On the contrary! It’s healthy to have a little space, and interests outside of the relationship should be supported and encouraged (yes, even your husband’s penchant for prog rock). Your lives outside the relationship are vital to your self-development and make you both more interesting to be with.

Be Okay with Lulls

In a long-term relationship, it’s natural to have times when things feel a bit…routine. It doesn’t mean that there is anything wrong with your relationship just because you have a lull. Lulls are normal. When you start to feel like you need a little “jolt” in your relationship, open a dialogue about it—your partner might even be feeling the same way and glad to have you bring it up. Sometimes, the answer is just as simple as getting away from your daily routine and planning a date night, enjoying some pina coladas, and getting caught in the rain (hat tip to Rupert Holmes).

Be Willing to Work at It

Playing the long game takes some serious intention, self-reflection, and compromise. Most people in lasting relationships have had their share of challenges. Parenting, unemployment, family illnesses, financial strains, or sometimes just the slog of the day-to-day can put a strain on even the strongest and most loving relationship. You’re going to struggle and have ups and downs; other times, things are going to be lovely and romantic and easy, and you’ll marvel at this life you’ve created together. Be willing to put in the work required to grow your relationship and remember, the grass is greener where you water it.

If you feel that one of the “core” ingredients is missing, talk to your partner about it. Choose a time when you are both feeling calm, rather than in the heat of the moment. If you suspect you are in a relationship that is unhealthy, toxic, or abusive, trust your instincts and seek the advice and support of a professional or someone you trust.