Last week I celebrated my birthday (the reason I didn’t send the top 5 on Friday.) We had fun with my family (my boys decorated the cake and wished me a happy birthday countless times), with my husband (we danced till 3 in the morning) as well as with my girlfriends. Spending time with friends, most of whom I’ve known for years, made me reflect on what we can learn about relationships from our long-term friendships. If you also do these steps in your relationship with a man, you will strengthen and grow it. Here are my top 5 suggestions:

1. Say what you value in your relationship. I was deeply touched, not just by birthday wishes from my friends, but words of appreciation for our friendship and how much it means. Imagine how your relationship will get stronger if you regularly tell, text or write to your man how much you value the love you have together.

2. Invest in having a great time together. I cherish those moments. From yummy breakfasts to getting massages to drinking Rose at sunset, my girlfriends couldn’t give me a better present than their presence and creating quality time together. Ensure you make time for dating your guy; especially, when you move in (get married/have children/etc.) so you can bond over being and or doing something special together.

3. Give small things. Even though my friends knew about the consumption-free challenge (not buying things I don’t really need), they showed up with flowers, cards and small, thoughtful gifts. My heart is overflowing with gratitude because of this, and I’m excited about different ways to express my thanks by giving back. Make it a habit to give your man little gifts (a t-shirt with his fav band on it, his fav cologne in travel size) that will grow his appreciation for you exponentially.

4. Be generous with hugs and kisses. Most of my girlfriends are Russian, so we kiss each other with every “hello” and “goodbye.” But I’m also a hugger, so I frequently both kiss and hug my friends to express how much I appreciate and am happy to see them. If you want to have more affection in your relationship, make it a habit to touch your guy more often. For example, put your hand on his knee when you’re at the restaurant, touch his hair when you’re watching a movie, or hold his hand when you’re going for a walk. You’ll see that he’ll reciprocate by touching you more.

5. Do kind things for each other. One of my girlfriends brought me a vegan lunch and dessert from Chloe, a famous vegetarian restaurant in NYC. Another friend babysat my son while I went to a workshop on sensuality. Look for ways to do acts of kindness for your man. For instance, you can make him a fresh smoothie or juice in the morning, offer to drive one way to a weekend getaway, or prepare healthy snacks for a picnic.

These are the top 5 things that I enjoy in my friendships and cultivate in our 8-year relationship with my husband.

Please comment here to let me know about your friendships and how they inspire you in your love life.