When you're putting in long hours or otherwise under a lot of pressure at work, it can be difficult to find the time or energy to connect with your partner in a meaningful way.

At first, it might seem like the occasional canceled dinner or forgotten promise is no big deal (especially if your partner is understanding). But over time, these small failures to prioritize your relationship can add up to major problems.

If you want to remain part of a happy couple , then you have to commit to your relationship--regardless of whether your work days feel like a never ending series of to-dos . Here are five strategies for maintaining a healthy relationship even when you're swamped with work.

Put dates on the calendar--and don't cancel

If your relationship is truly a priority, then you have to prioritize it on your schedule. While it may not seem romantic to pencil dates on the calendar, this is the most effective way to ensure you and your partner enjoy quality time together on a regular basis.

Once you've scheduled your dates, make a point of avoiding the classic "Netflix and sweatpants" rut and do new things together instead. For example, you might try a new exercise class, experiment with new cooking techniques or recipes, pick up a new hobby, or simply take turns asking each other questions that you don't know the answer to. Research consistently finds couples who experiment with new activities enjoy better relationships, so make it a point to keep things fresh.

When you're together, be present

It doesn't count as quality time if you're checking your phone all through dinner. If you've made a point of scheduling time with your partner, then respect that time by being present. Make your partner your focus for the whole time that you're together, and you'll enjoy much greater intimacy (and reduce the risk of your partner feeling disrespected or resentful).

Make time for communication

Even if you consistently make time for each other, your intimacy with your partner can still erode if you never scratch below the surface. While it can be tough to find the energy to have serious conversations after a long day at work, dig deep and make it happen.

It's especially important to communicate to your partner how you're feeling about your work schedule--and vice versa. Give each other space to air feelings, talk about what is and isn't working in the relationship, express personal needs, and brainstorm strategies to make sure you both continue to have your needs met regardless of what's going on at work.

Try to maintain the same sleep schedule

Sure, catching some ZZZs side by side might not breed any inside jokes or wild stories to bond over the next day. But maintaining the same sleep schedule can still foster intimacy. That's because physical closeness is a key part of most relationships. There's no substitute for pressing the snooze button and enjoying a spoon fest in the morning, so try to hit the sheets together on most nights of the week.

Don't forget the details

Birthdays, anniversaries, quirky rituals, saying "thank you" when your partner takes out the trash--it's easy to take these things for granted when you're feeling overworked.

Nevertheless, the details matter . Small gestures such as remembering important dates, bringing home takeout from your partner's favorite restaurant, responding to your partner's calls or texts, asking about your partner's day, and so on demonstrate to your SO that you're invested in noticing and valuing what makes them (and your relationship) unique.

Maintaining an intimate relationship and a demanding career is no cakewalk. But by committing to these strategies as a foundation for a healthier relationship, you'll help ensure your partner continues to feel valued and your relationship doesn't erode simply because of entropy. Bottom line? Small, consistent habits can make a world of difference.

Published on: Apr 1, 2018