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Relationship advice isn't just for married couples. A few small changes can transform your connection for the better whether you're still in the dating phase, or have just mutually agreed to delete your dating apps, or are having the moving-in-together chat.

That's why we asked couples and relationship experts to share their insights into what makes for a happy relationship – at any stage.

What's more, taking relationship advice doesn't mean there's something wrong with your connection. Quite the opposite: it shows how committed you are to happiness that you're willing to put in the time.

From practical words of wisdom for longer-term couples to some key dating commandments, here are some words of wisdom to live – and love – by. 

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1. Look for the Positives

"Too many new couples expect things to go wrong and are always watching for red flags and people to let them down," says James Preece, The Dating Guru. "So instead, look for green flags and reasons why things might just work out. That way you will always appreciate what you have and be positive about the future."

2. Don't Give – or Accept – Constant Criticism

"I come from a family where we show love by picking each other up on things," says Tash. "Like, when I haven't seen my brother for a while, when I do, I'm all over his life choices, his hair, even the way he drinks a drink. It's normal to us! It's how we show we care, by pushing each other to be better.
 
"However, I realised early on that this drives my boyfriend crazy, and I have really pulled it back with him. He doesn't experience what I say the way my family do, so I try to be as sensitive to him as he is to me."

3. Limit Ex Talk  

"I got dumped for talking too much about my ex," says Siobhan. "I was furious at the time, but when I thought about it afterwards, I realised that I used to bring him up a lot - as in, 'oh, you like Korean food? I went to a Korean restaurant with my ex and we got into a massive fight and I stormed out.

"I'm seeing someone else now and we obviously do talk about our dating history, but it's nothing like how I used to talk about that ex. Actually, I think I probably just wasn't over him back then..."

4. Build in Fun

Heterosexual couple holding hands and running though a field looking happy
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"Once you commit, your partner can feel like 'family' and it can be tempting to treat them like you would your early care-givers and avoid them, control or criticise them or react in unhelpful ways that can create a negative emotional cycle," says love coach Cate Mackenzie.
 
"If this is happening check if you have enough support, fun and self-care in your life. If you get yourself topped up with fun and relaxation you might find it easier to be forgiving about the mess in the kitchen or you might be able to ask for help in a calmer, more charming way."

5. Do the Work with Their Family

"I used to make excuses to avoid my boyfriend's family events," says Laura. "I'm pretty shy and I'm not from a big family, so I found it overwhelming.

"Then I found out that his parents had started to think I hated them and I felt really bad. My boyfriend and I have worked out a compromise where I go to some but not all meet-ups.

"They're his family and they're part of who he is, so I'll make the effort because it's important to him."

READ MORE: 11 Things Only Couples in Relationships Know

6. Listen to Your Support Network

"Make sure you have the support of friends and people who have navigated long-term relationships," says Cate. "They can reassure you that rupture and repair is a normal part of getting to know each other and that it is a great idea to repair as quickly as you can and keep the positivity topped up." 

7. Manage Jealousy

"My ex-girlfriend used to go through my socials when we weren't together and then basically interrogate me about everything I posted," says Cass. "I got that she'd been cheated on before and was feeling insecure, but after a while, I just couldn't take the constant questioning and we split up.

"My now-partner is a lot more relaxed. She can definitely get jealous sometimes, but it's easily cleared up when we chat.

"I think that if you act really jealous all the time, you should ask yourself how you're making your partner feel."

8. Maintain Your Connection

Man kissing a woman on the cheek
Anna Tarazevich/Pexels

"Keep in mind how you felt at the beginning of the connection when you felt really good about your partner," says Cate. "Write gratitude lists of how you feel about them and what they have brought to you. Talk about lovely visions of the future together."

9. Don't Be Afraid of Arguments

"When we first got together, every argument with my boyfriend felt like the end of the world," says Amy. "I'd panic and assume we'd split up, which he found quite confusing.

"Obviously, I'm not saying it's ok to fight all the time, but it took me a while to understand that we can have an argument and come out of it just as strong a couple as before."

10. Remember Important Dates

"My ex used to forget my birthday, my family's birthdays, our anniversary, and he always acted like that was really funny," says Stephanie.

"It wasn't funny.

"My boyfriend sets up calendar alerts for dates that matter to me, which makes me feel loved."

READ MORE: 37 Fun and Cheap Winter Date Ideas

11. Prioritise Meeting Over Texting When You're First Dating

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Christin Hume/Unsplash

"It is tempting to analyse whether they are 'the one' and send lots of texts, but my top tip would be that texts could be niceties and arrangements, and just be present on the dates," says Cate. "During very early dating make the dates short so that you can stay light and not over-bond (like an hour and a half)."

12. Don't Jump in Too Quickly

"Most people can't handle dating, and want to jump into the commitment stage, to lock it down, in order to avoid all of the challenges that come with dating such as rejection, abandonment, uncertainty and many other aspects of dating which serve as mini and major blows to the ego," says dating and relationship coach Kate Mansfield.

"But learning how to manage these things is an essential process and skill set that prepares you for the most important ingredient you need before getting involved.

"Learning how to feel secure in yourself, regardless of how another person behaves or feels about you, will unlock a whole new world of joy, fun and most importantly the ability to choose wisely when it comes to commitment."

READ MORE: 21 of the Best Online Dating Sites and Apps

13. Ask for Help When You Need It

"If you notice that you are tempted to blame or avoid your partner and you are finding it hard to be vulnerable, open and authentic, then seek out some help," says Cate.

"You would MOT your car, so why not get some specialist help for you or your relationship so that things can be smoother?

"Most of us did not receive relationship skills at school so go easy on yourself. This is a learny-makey situation but I can assure you - though it may take some time - you can learn the skills to make a happy connection."

14. Don't Underestimate Small Kindnesses

"I'm not great at big romantic gestures, to be honest, but I make an effort for my boyfriend in smaller ways," says Seamus. "This is going to sound a bit cringe, but he gets really cold feet, so in winter I get up early and put his socks on the radiator so they're warm when he puts them on!

"I've learnt to cook his favourite foods and when he stays at mine, I make sure I have a supply of Maoam Stripes, his favourite sweets, even though I personally think they're hideous.

"He told me recently that I make him feel more loved than any other partner has."

15. Don't Rush a Pet

Female couple sit on a bed with a small furry dog
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"This is going to sound a bit random, but the best dating advice I got was from my mum when she said don't rush into getting a pet together," says Miriam. "And she's right!"

"Some of my friends got shared pets with their partners as soon as they moved in together and they had so much stress.

"It was as if they were doing it because they thought everyone else was, not because it suited them.

"My boyfriend and I waited a year after moving in together to become pet parents, so we were secure in our relationship and our decision to commit."

16. Discuss Life Goals

"I know so many couples who haven't had the do-you-want-kids or will-we-get-married conversations, or even shall-we-both-delete-dating-apps, and I don't get it," says Candice. "It would really spook me if my boyfriend wasn't open to talking about what we both want in life and when."

READ MORE: 15 Things Every Couple Needs to Do as Soon as You Get Engaged

17. Be Real About Money

"I earn significantly more than my boyfriend, but I didn't realise that in the early days because he used to match my spending," says Holly. "He'd go halves on weekends away, treat me to dinner, that kind of thing.

"Then one day, he sat me down and basically said he couldn't afford to go out with me if I kept choosing expensive hotels and restaurants!

"I really appreciated that he told me that, rather than building up resentment.

"Now, when we go out, we choose places that suit his income too."

18. Start to Act as a Team

Heterosexual couple on a sofa
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"The biggest difference between a casual and a committed relationship is that, once you're committed, you start to act like a team," says Micah.

"Some of it happens naturally, but you also both have to work at it.

"It's not about putting your partner above you, it's about acknowledging the importance of your relationship and making decisions together."

19. Don't Force Change

"If you get into a relationship thinking you're going to change the other person, you're already in a bad relationship," says Alun.

'I don't care if it's their clothes or their attitude you want to change, that's just not how it works."

20. Avoid 'Something Better' Syndrome

"The problem with dating apps is that it's surprisingly easy in the early stages of a relationship to look at your perfectly lovely partner and think, 'But is there someone out there better suited to me?'" says Frida.

"However, if you've decided to commit, really commit.

"Delete the dating apps, stop flirting with other people.

"Give this relationship a go - it might not work out, or you could end up falling in love."

21. Listen

Couple sitting on a sofa laughing
Pexels / William Fortunato

"This may be the most boring relationship advice ever, but there's nothing sexier or rarer than someone who listens," says Livvy.

"I met my boyfriend on a dating app, and he was genuinely the only man who didn't spend the whole first date talking about himself.

"It is amazing how many people in life aren't listening to what you're saying but are waiting for you to stop talking so they can speak.

"Now we're getting serious, he stills listens to me, and I really appreciate it – and of course I listen to him too!"

22. Don't Hide Yourself

"Once in the commitment stage, focus on open and honest communication about what you want and need, and talk about mutual expectations," says Kate. "Don't be afraid to express who you really are – hiding yourself, and trying to please someone, or be what you think that they want you to be, always fails.
 
"Owning your own stuff, emotional baggage and mistakes, coming from a place of love, care and teamwork requires stepping into maturity and a desire for the greater good."

23. Prioritise the Person, Not Being in a Relationship

"I was single for years before I met my ex, so I ended up staying in the relationship for way longer than I should have," says Tom. "I thought I had to stay with him because I'd never meet anyone else.

"With my boyfriend now, I'm with him because I want to be with him, not just because I want a relationship. That makes a real difference."

24. Enjoy – But Don't Cling to – the Honeymoon Period

A female couple snuggle up on the sofa with a pizza on the table in front of them
Yan Krukov/Pexels

"The only reason I'm so happy with my boyfriend is because this is the first relationship where I didn't get into a major panic spiral when things started to feel more settled," says Cariad. "With previous boyfriends, I used to freak out when we moved out of the 'newly in love' phase to something more stable, like when we'd snuggle sometimes instead of having sex every day and started staying in together more than going on dates.

"I thought that meant they'd stopped fancying me and couldn't be bothered to make an effort. Actually, it's normal – no couple on earth can keep up that just-got-together energy!

"The first few months of dating are amazing, but it can still be amazing after that."

25. Stay Independent

"Keep hold of your own life, hobbies and friendships, as these things will fill you up from the inside and stop you from feeling too needy or dependent," says Kate. "So many people go into relationships expecting their partner to fix them, or provide everything – remember that hungry shoppers make bad choices!"

Are you thinking about getting married one day? Check out the 31 things you should discuss before getting married, to make sure you're on the same page.