Finding someone wonderful to spend time with is a huge blessing. Here are four core things you need to do to build a meaningful and happy relationship.

Appreciate your partner. People often think they appreciate their partner and are surprised to discover that their partner doesn't feel appreciated. It’s one thing to appreciate your partner, and it’s an entirely different skill to show that appreciation, through words and actions, in a way that truly registers. A generic comment of appreciation like, “Thanks so much,” or “That was great,” probably won’t hit the spot. But if you can articulate what you’re grateful for, your words will go a lot further. Show appreciation by being specific: “Thank you, Joe, for choosing a great restaurant. I really enjoyed the meal – and your company even more so!”

When you are tuned in to what is meaningful to your partner, s/he will feel loved, understood, and appreciated. An added bonus is that your partner is likely to start showing you appreciation as well.

Don’t be artificial, just be you. Have you ever met someone and then somewhere along the way they changed? You may wonder what happened to them and who they really are. Or have you ever put on airs or pretend to be something that you’re not just because you thought someone else would want that? Instead of simply being yourself, sometimes you’re acting like someone you’re not. Why do we do that?

Sometimes it’s because we are afraid that who we are won’t be what someone else wants. However, what someone should want is the genuine you. We all want someone to like the real us. That’s crucial to forging an authentic connection and relationship.

If you pretend to be someone or something else, your date won’t know the real you. They may be drawn to who you’re pretending to be, but is that ultimately what you want? A phony relationship means no relationship.

The best advice is don’t be artificial – just be yourself. The person who is meant for you will love and appreciate you. Anyone who doesn’t like you is obviously not for you. And remember, being yourself includes being your best self, and that’s not being artificial at all!

Pay attention, notice what bothers someone. Have you ever been in a relationship and felt like someone was doing something purposely to bother you? It’s more likely that what they were doing was a nervous habit rather an attempt to intentionally bother you. Or maybe you were in a relationship where you felt like the other person didn’t care enough about you because they wouldn’t stop doing the thing that bothered you even after you asked them to stop. Why can’t someone just stop the offending behavior after you tell them the first time?

Pay attention to what bothers your partner and stop the offending action. Sometimes someone will tell you in a straightforward way that something bothers them. Other people you date may expect you to just know. Either way, start to pay more attention to verbal and nonverbal cues. Paying better attention is key to building and maintaining a loving and caring relationship.

Kindness is everything. Develop the habit of being kind. Thinking positively about your partner may make you feel good, but it doesn’t show him or her how you feel. Use kindness to show your partner how you feel about them. You can use any method you prefer. If you’re a writer send them a note. If you enjoy buying small tokens or gifts, go shopping for them. Remember to be thinking of them as you’re doing the act. Be sure you’re doing the kindness for them and not for yourself. Random or little acts of kindness will build your connection and help you solidify your relationship.

May your relationship grow stronger and be built on a foundation of connection and joy.