Relationship Hacks: 19 Unconventional but Proven Tricks to Try

Nothing Easy


I hate to break it to you,1Actually, I don’t. but there is no magical relationship hack that will make everything amazing and transform your partner into an apologetic, empathetic, generous, and perfect prince or princess.

That’s a good thing. Anything easy isn’t rewarding.

And that’s probably why your relationship in the dumps and you’re reading this right now. You got lazy and complacent.

So get proactive. Try one or two (or all eighteen) of the following relationship hacks—nine that have worked wonders for Kim and me and ten unique others we found online.

None are easy and none will immediately turn the love levels back up to full blast, but they can work if you put in the time and effort. Some are even kind of fun.

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Engagement ring blog post cover image of Kim and Chris cheersing at a wine farm in Plettenberg Bay
Giving your partner too much to drink is a high risk, high reward relationship hack. We don’t recommend it here.

9 Relationship Hacks that Work For Us

Try these at your own risk. We’re not paying for your divorce lawyers if they don’t work for you.

1. Daily Gratefuls

If I could only tell you to try one relationship hack, it’d be this one.

Here’s how you do it:

Say one new thing you’re grateful of the other for every day. Anything. Even stupid things like, “I’m grateful you trimmed your nose hairs,” are allowed. The trick, and the challenge, is to come up with something new, every day, forever.

I know I said there is no magic cure, but in Kim and my case daily gratefuls came close. Like the penicillin of rotten relationships, it magically cured the festering resentment that led to major blow-ups between us.

Read our story for more info and give it a shot. You and your partner will probably be grateful for it.

2. Productive (Even Pleasurable) Penalties

Being nagged is the worst, even if you deserve it. So Kim and I have a rule that when either of us does something that deserves punishment, like forgetting our daily grateful, we have to give the other a 10-minute massage. It’s a much more productive, and pleasurable, penalty than nagging.

Speaking of nagging, if you’re a frequent victim or perpetrator, consider the WART technique (wait, agree, remind, thank) as more relationship-friendly alternative.

3. Brutal Honesty

Kim and I call out each other’s nasty back pimples, ugly outfits, and stinky breath. We share our frustrations with the other as soon as they come up. And we argue all the time.

Like the first time you wax your legs, this brutal honesty stung initially. But since Kim and I started early and keep doing it before things get too hairy it doesn’t hurt much anymore.

And it’s for the best in the long run. Neither of us wants to be stuck with a useless, pimply-backed, poorly-dressed, dragon-breathed, pushover after all.

4. Obligatory Monthly Date Nights

Once a month, I have to take Kim out.

These date nights generally consist of some combination of restaurant, bar, or show in a different part of town. I propose some ideas (generally ones she had previously incepted in me) and if Kim doesn’t like them, she “suggests” others that we do instead.

Date nights are Kim’s way of forcing me to not be so cheap and are a small token of appreciation for all the cooking Kim does the rest of the month. And they keep us from falling into a boring routine.

5. Conversation Starters

These 36 questions sparked so much conversation between Kim and me that it took us three evenings to get through them.

To keep the conversation fresh, we bought these TABLETOPICS on Amazon. You could find similar conversation starters for free online, but having the physical cards make us do it and keep our noses out of screens while doing so.

Kim and Chris playing beach volleyball
Trying to learn how to play beach volleyball in Cape Town has been good for our relationship.

6. Learn New Things Together

Whether it be working on our Spanish in Medellin or Valencia, getting into beach volleyball in Cape Town, or photography lessons in Vancouver, Kim and I always look for something to learn together.

It gives us something to talk about, a common goal to work towards, and introduces us to new people.

Massages are next on our list. [Update: Done!]

7. Fast

One of the underrated benefits of fasting is that it has kicked our addiction to food.

That means we never feel unbearably hungry anymore. And never being hungry means never being hangry, which is obviously good for relationships.

Maybe it’ll keep us skinnier and sexier for longer, too.

8. Hire a Cleaner

Paying someone to clean our place once a week to save on bickering about whose turn it is to clean the toilet is a fantastic investment.

(On a related note, me peeing sitting down has eliminated the toilet seat debate, which is a relationship hack in its own right. And Kim returned the favor by learning to waste less toilet paper.)

9. Blog

Working on this website forces us to revisit the great times we’ve had together and incentivizes us to do cool new things.

The “blog life” isn’t for everyone, but maybe you can incorporate the good parts, like the journaling and planning, into your regular life to help your relationship.

10. (BONUS) Give Chris Foot Massages Every Time You Watch TV

You hear that, Kim?

Sometimes it helps to watch other couples and steal their ideas.

10 Unique Relationship Hacks From Others

The most intriguing relationship hacks we found from books, blog posts, podcasts, and conversations with friends.

If you have a good one to share, leave us a comment below.

1. Close Your Eyes and Role Play

The Speak to Me in French episode from the Where Should We Begin? podcast has two relationship hacks in one:

  1. Close your eyes to talk with your partner. You’ll feel what they’re saying differently.
  2. Take on a different personality. For example, in the episode, a religious American becomes bad-boy Frenchman, Jean-Claude. Doing so, you can approach your relationship from a completely different perspective.

2. Once-a-Week Nag-a-thons “Relationship Reviews”

From our friend Alice of Pivot Six:

Whenever your partner gets on your nerves, rather than nag them about it then and there which can bring down their mood, write it down. And have them do the same.

Then, at a scheduled weekly time, go over these annoyances together (if you still find them worthy of bringing up).

3. Write an Angry Letter But Don’t Send It

Closely related to the previous relationship hack. As per this New York Times op-ed, it worked for Abraham Lincoln, and it’ll work for you, too.

4. Conspire With the Beauty Salon

From NedHardy.com:

If your partner always goes to the same beauty salon, pay them to call you and give you a heads up when your partner goes in so you can compliment them on it.

5. Take Turns Initiating Sex

From Good Housekeeping:

For fellow basketball players, it’s like the possession arrow of sex. Instead of jump balls, more jumping each others’ balls.

6. Scare the Crap Out of Each Other

From Women’s Health:

Doing something that scares both of you—bungee-jumping, zip-lining, traveling to “scary” countries, fasting (as mentioned above), robbing a bank—create excitement and bonding experiences.

7. Talk in Each Other’s “Love Languages”

From The 5 Love Languages, by Gary Chapman:

Figure out which of the 5 “love languages” your partner wants from you and use it. Simple, yet effective. That’s why the book’s the top-selling relationship book of all time.

Those who want to get the gist of it without having to read a book of cheesy “filling your emotional love bucket” type writing can read our Fluff-Free 5 Love Languages Summary.

8. Celebrate Daily Victories

From a New York Times list of love hacks:

Partners who enthusiastically share something good that happened to each other during the day—e.g., “Got a phone call from my best friend in Venezuela,” or “I did my first chin-up today”—feel more pleasure from their victories and feel closer together.

9. Come up with a Mission

From Donald Miller’s Building a StoryBrand podcast episode #178:

Come up with a more inspiring mission for your relationship, “Try to get along ’til death do us part.”

The mission should have a challenge, something bad that’ll happen if you fail, and something good that’ll happen if you succeed.

For example, Miller and his wife’s mission is, “People are tired and hurting and we want to restore them.” In their first year of marriage, they had over 200 guests over to their house for a good time, to bring some levity to their lives, and work towards their mission.

[PS: It’s corny, but I now have a personal mission statement, too. And it’s surprisingly motivating and helpful.]

10. Make Complicated Decisions Over Email

From Emily Oster in her book, Expecting Better:2“Expecting” as in pregnancy, not expecting better from your partner. Don’t get excited.

When you and your partner have an important decision to make and don’t want emotion to cloud your judgement, figure it out over email. It forces you to collect your thoughts and give you time to reflect rather than overreact to your partners’.

Plus, when it turns out you were right, you can refer back to the email and say, “See. I told you so.” 3I hope you know I’m joking. If not, please read my Neanderthal’s guide to How (Not) to Win and Argument.

The Final Hack

As a last resort when none of these relationship hacks deliver, consider this:

Dump ’em.

Some relationships can’t be resuscitated. So if all your emergency CPR doesn’t revive it, leave the corpse to rot and find someone else to breathe on.

Keep Hacking Away at that Relationship

Which of these relationship hacks are you willing to try? Or do you have any unique relationship hacks of your own? Let us know in the comments.

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Chris and Kim

Kim and Chris started The Unconventional Route in 2018 to share their adventures fighting complacency to win at life. Today, over 150,000 people a month visit the site and thousands more explore a dose of uncomplacent ideas with them every 10 days in their free newsletter, Consider This.

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