One of the biggest misconceptions many have about relationships is that it requires work from both partners to improve the marriage. But the most effective way to improve any relationship is to focus exclusively on your own actions, words and thoughts. Instead of giving fifty percent and expecting your partner to give fifty percent, focus on becoming the kind of partner that you expect your spouse to be. (Of course I am only referring to basically healthy relationships, not abusive ones.)

Here are ten ways to improve a relationship through your own actions:

1. Cultivate gratitude. Focus on being grateful every day for the presence of your spouse in your life. Remind yourself of all the blessings and benefits your relationship brings into your life. Pick specific traits in your partner that you are especially grateful for and focus on them on a daily basis.

2. Focus on giving. Don’t keep score over who is giving more in the relationship. Focus instead on what you specifically can give to the relationship and how you can go above and beyond your partner’s expectations.

3. Be interested in what your spouse cares about. Even though you don’t share all the same interests as your spouse, be genuinely interested in what your spouse cares about. Ask questions and express support and empathy. Actively listening and sharing in our spouses’ enthusiasm improves the closeness and the communication in our relationships.

4. Express feelings without blame. It’s not negative feelings that bring relationships down; it’s expressing your feelings in destructive ways that destroy your connections with others. Everyone experiences disappointments and frustrations, and you need to learn to express your needs and emotions without directing blame at your spouse. A hard day at the office does not need to become a hard night at home.

5. Start small. Begin to do the little things that nurture your relationship. A thoughtful card. A small gift. Bringing your spouse a cup of coffee. These little tasks may seem insignificant, but they are all deposits in your relationship bank. The little things matter; they show you care on a consistent basis.

6. Forgive quickly. Learn to let go of the past. Don’t hold onto last year’s or even yesterday’s arguments. The sooner you let go, the sooner you can constructively build a stronger connection with your partner.

7. Share positive parts of your day. It is tempting to dump all of your complaints and frustrations onto your unsuspecting loved ones at the end of the day, seeking empathy and support. They often can and will give that to you, but try first sharing one or two positive experiences from your day before you vent. The positive recounts will not only improve your perspective on your negative experiences, they will also uplift the mood around you.

8. Accept imperfections in your partner. Do you hold onto unrealistic expectations for your spouse? They should never be in a bad mood. They should fulfill our every need. They should be perfect parents and successful in everything that they do. This is not only unfair; it also blocks you from seeing the very real, human goodness within your spouse. No one is perfect, so don’t expect perfection from others.

9. Place your relationship within a spiritual framework. Remind yourself of the higher values that help you prioritize and commit fully to your relationship. Ideally, your relationships should be infused with shared, spiritual values and embedded within a community that supports those values. Make room in your relationship for the depth and meaning that transcends your individual goals.

10. Compliment your spouse. Praise your partner frequently with compliments that authentically express why you admire what they are doing, saying or wearing (and hold back the criticism). The more you build up your partner, the stronger the foundation of your relationship will become.