Makeover your relationship

Jul 21, 2009 at 6:56 p.m. ET

As Americans, we love a good makeover. Just look at our films and TV shows: Pretty Woman, My Fair Lady, What Not to Wear, TBS' Movie and a Makeover, and, most recently, singer Susan Boyle of Britain's Got Talent who donned a new hairdo before making her stateside debut.

Happy Couple

However, while it's not a wise idea to try to makeover a person who doesn't want to change (you should love the person you are with, hairy arms and all) – making over your relationship can help increase your overall happiness and satisfaction as a couple. Below are five ways to give your relationship a new look and feel.

1. Decide what your dream relationship would be

It's important when making the decision to makeover any part of your life, including your relationship, that you are able to articulate the specific changes that you want to make, both to yourself and to your partner. Think of this process as Extreme Makeover, Relationship Edition. Before you can start tearing down the walls, you have to know what you want to replace them with. Try observing the interactions of other couples that you admire and focus on specific behaviors, such as 'I want to fight less' and not generalizations like 'I want us to be happier.'

2. Nix destructive habits

In his book, Getting Together and Staying Together: Solving the Mystery of Marriage, Dr. William Glasser identifies seven of the most common and destructive relationship habits: complaining, criticizing, nagging, blaming, threatening, punishing, and bribing. Are you guilty of any of these? If so, becoming aware of the patterns that are hurtful to your relationship is the first step to changing and getting rid of them for good.

3. Spruce up your look as a couple

Have you gained weight over the years? Or has your hubby had the same hair cut since the 90's? Sometimes making over our physical selves can have a profound effect on our inner and emotional well-being. And you don't have to go to the extreme of plastic surgery to see a difference. Even small changes such as throwing out old clothes, starting an exercise program, or flipping through some magazines together for hairstyle inspiration can have a positive affect on your relationship.

4. Evaluate your communication style

Frustrated with the level (or lack of) communication in your relationship? Being able to communicate effectively is important to the success of a relationship and keeps it thriving. And while improving your communication skills as a couple is possible, it's not always easy, as people's different styles can sometimes clash. However, learning to really listen, showing respect, and focusing on your relationship during a conversation (and not just proving that you're right) will lead to improvement on the communication front.

5. Become closer

Lastly, break out of a relationship rut and reinvigorate your relationship by planning activities, trying new things together and discovering new interests as a couple. Not only can it breathe new life into a previously stale relationship, but it will also bring you closer than you were before, the ultimate goal of the relationship makeover.

Want more relationship advice:

Love in 90 Days: A Q&A with Dr. Diana Kirschner
Learn how to make him commit: The Secret Lives of Men
How to recharge your relationship over the weekend