Last year the national well-being guide: Life in the UK 2012 drew the fairly unsurprising conclusion that how satisfied you are with life directly correlates to how satisfied you are with the quality of your personal relationships. Granted, it's not a life-changing discovery, but it still highlights that to be happier in life we need to take a step back and assess the state of our current relationships.
I've been delving into Paula Hall's book 'Improving Your Relationship for Dummies' which has some top tips for recognising when a personal relationship needs work and how to improve ones that have broken down.
Spotting when your relationship needs more time
The most obvious signal in spotting a breaking relationship is if you begin to constantly argue. Paula says: "Arguing is one of the most common signs that a relationship is drifting apart, a much more worrying sign is when people stop arguing. Although conflict can be very damaging to a relationship, indifference is even worse. If you're finding that you just can't be bothered to raise issues anymore or fight for the things that matter to you, then it's definitely time to look at your relationship."
Look out for the following warning signals:
• You find you have less to talk about
• One of you is spending less time at home
• You feel things that used to be fun just aren't anymore
• You often find conversation has lots of silences, or is focused on jobs
• You don't feel close anymore
• You find yourself arguing easier - people who are close to each other often find it easy to quickly fly off the handle at the smallest thing
If you are starting to spot any of these signs, it is likely that your relationship needs some care to help bring it back to life. The earlier you begin to address any patches in your relationships the easier they are to fix.
A great way to give your relationship some TLC is to get away from it all and have a holiday together. A single night in with your partner doesn't give you enough time to switch off from what's happened that day and getting away will enable you both to relax and unwind. It's in this state that you are more likely to find the original sparks to why the relationship worked so well in the first place. It's not enough just to book the time in, holiday activities are very important too as they help you reconnect and form stronger bonds.
• Plan ahead - make sure you've sat down together to look at brochures and websites and agree where you want to go. The more you do together in the planning, the more together you'll feel when away
• One of the most important things is to make sure you choose somewhere that's stress free. The key to the holiday is that you can relax together
• Although you want to be relaxed, you also need to find somewhere that is stimulating as boredom will fuel frustration
• Explore a range of activities that you'll both enjoy
• Talk about what you want to get out of the holiday so that you're already anticipating the good times before you get there
• Pack together - think about new or special things to take to make the holiday extra special.
• Remember the camera - make sure you capture those special moments on film so you can continue to share when you get home
Keeping the relationship alive when you return home
With your relationship back on track after a relaxing holiday, it's important not to let your hard work go to waste. You have re-set the dial and your relationship is working well but there are measures you can put in place to help keep that new-found energy alive:
• Put photos on the wall or as your screen saver as a constant reminder of the good times. Not just photos of the amazing scenery, but photos of you and your partner having fun together
• Consider what you did on holiday that you can continue to do at home. For example, eating meals together, spending time outdoors together and playing games together
• Make a list of the things you learnt, or re-learnt about your partner that makes you feel close to them so that next time you're feeling grumpy or irritated you can look back at that list
• Book another holiday - by far the best way of ensuring your relationship continues to benefit from holidaying together is to book another one!
Paula Hall has written a more in depth article about how holidays in the outdoors can help strengthen relationships too with some great suggestions for where to go in the UK on a weekend couple's break.