Outside of Disney cartoons featuring doe-eyed characters, schmaltzy music and a menagerie of cute furry companions, very few relationships coast along without any blips or what are often euphemistically described as ups and downs. Whether your partnership is relatively recent or you’ve been going out for some time, or whether you met on a dating site like this or were introduced by mutual friends, there will always be room for improvement. Here are seven straightforward steps which will go towards making things better.

Seek to understand your partner’s perspective

One characteristic of friction within a relationship is for both parties to become insular in their outlook. This is an unfortunate aspect of human nature – when we become defensive we tend to focus on ourselves and achieving a satisfying outcome from our own point-of-view. However, your relationship will not only improve but flourish if you consistently put yourself in your partner’s shoes. Having the ability to empathize is the first step towards achieving a successful resolution rather than allowing issues to simmer

Never give up on spontaneity

It is common for the early stages of any relationship to be defined by spontaneous actions. Whether that’s flowers being presented or tickets to some concert, it’s all about maintaining the initial excitement of meeting someone special by continuing to aspire to keep him happy. In time, these romantic gestures can give way contentment and routine. But it’s so important to maintain that spark. Keep surprising your other half.

Anticipate and pre-empt friction

The more you get to know all and understand your partner, the more readily you will recognize the signs they are not happy with a particular situation. If you are not able to second-guess times when they are likely to be dissatisfied, you can take appropriate action before things escalate. While this might lead to you having to bite your proverbial tongue rather than get embroiled in a full-scale row, it is a far more mature approach than succumbing to a slanging match.

Be prepared to make sacrifices

The key to improving your relationship is appreciating those moments when it would be far better to put your partner’s wishes before your own. Perhaps you had your heart set on a particular activity which you have subsequently found out is going to clash with something your partner was really looking forward to. It will strengthen your bond no end if you put their feelings first, and are clearly seen to be doing so.

Never, ever give in to jealousy

The green-eyed monster is the enemy of any successful relationship. Whenever you are tempted to confront your partner about some situation where you have perceived someone else is showing an interest, just consider what you actually have with them, and what you stand to lose if you give the impression you no longer trust them.

Give your unconditional support

Relationships are built on trust and a key aspect of this attribute is having each other’s back, no matter what. So whenever there are situations where your partner needs advice or support, always be there. Try recognizing whenever they seem unhappy but are trying to hide this. Be the shoulder to cry on.

Make future plans together

All partnerships will flourish if you come remain focused on the bigger picture at all times. Rather than living for the moment, take some time to think of your future together. Whether this is planning an exciting holiday next year, or discussing bigger commitments such a moving house or starting a family, this will all help to create the impression your relationship is going from strength to strength.