The answer can make or break a relationship. Some couples can go through a rough period and come out the other side closer. Some just . . . don’t make.
Would you like to know what the successful couples do? The secret involves cute puppies. More on that in a bit.
First, why do relationships have low points at all. If you’re really supposed to be with this guy, should things ever feel tense? Or is tension a sign that he’s not the one?
There are relationship experts out there who argue both sides. For example, Travis Bradberry is the author of Emotional Intelligence 2.0. He cites four signs that a relationship is failing. All four of them have to do with tension.
On the other end of the spectrum, therapist Margarita Tartakovsky makes the case that conflict actually strengthens romance.
Confused yet? Let’s pause and talk about cute puppies.
Researchers from Florida State University recently set out to determine if looking at pictures of cute puppies could help struggling couples regain some of their lost intimacy. The verdict? Cute puppies make a difference.
Couples who looked at images of adorable puppies just once every three days actually began to feel more positively toward each other. It’s all about association. When you enjoy something, you enjoy other things you associate with it.
You can use the same effect to give it a boost. I have three tips for unlocking the magic of positive association.
Create positive associations.
One way to do this is by simply doing fun things together. But I’m sure you already knew that.
A more sophisticated (but less obvious) way to create positive associations is to look for and call attention to the positive stuff happening around you all the time. I’ll give you a wonderful, easy to use example.
Let’s say you’re hanging out with your guy in the evening. The sun begins to set. Often, we don’t appreciate the beauty of things we see every day. As you’re talking to him, pause and say, “Wow. This sunset is amazing.”
There you go. A positive association, right there in the middle of the otherwise mundane world. And there are opportunities to do that sort of thing all the time.
It’s simple, but it makes a real difference.
Stop negative associations.
If positive associations draw you closer, you can guess what negative associations do. Granted, there are times when you have to do not-fun things with your man. Things like washing the dishes or attending a boring work event.
But if your relationship is going through a difficult time, limit negative experiences as much as possible. It’s better to take turns washing the dishes, for example, than to insist on tackling the chore together.
Avoid unpleasant stuff as often as is reasonably practical when you’re with him.
Don’t expect miracles.
Cute puppies (and kittens, and sunsets) are all amazing. But positive association can’t solve every relationship problem.
Don’t expect positive association to do more than it can. Think of this like a really flattering outfit. It makes things look better, but it doesn’t magically change the underlying reality.
The good news is that a positive outlook is often all you need to restore passion. As long as the foundation of your connection is strong, this simple trick can really come in handy.
Focus on the positive. Avoid the negative. Before long, you and your man will be smiling more often, laughing, enjoying life, and loving each other’s company.
That’s the kind of love we all want.
 Bradberry, Travis. “Four Signs a Relationship Is Failing.” Forbes. Forbes Magazine, 20 Oct. 2014. Web. 22 June 2017.
 Tartakovsky, Margarita. “How Conflict Can Improve Your Relationship.” Psych Central. N.p., 17 July 2016. Web. 22 June 2017.
 Mcnulty, James K., Michael A. Olson, Rachael E. Jones, and Laura M. Acosta. “Automatic Associations Between One’s Partner and One’s Affect as the Proximal Mechanism of Change in Relationship Satisfaction: Evidence from Evaluative Conditioning.” Psychological Science (2017): 095679761770201. Web. 22 June 2017.