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Flowers, chocolates, and fancy gifts only get your relationship so far. If you want your love to last, it’s the little things that really count.
Celebrate the familiar
Every couple goes through relationship ruts, especially if you’re stuck in the same old routine every single day. But familiarity is only boring if you don’t embrace those routines with your partner. “We have to make our daily lives fun and something that can be celebrated,” says Robert Weiss, LCSW, CSAT-S, a licensed clinical social worker in Long Beach, California. “The special events [like vacations or weddings] that heighten the enjoyment in our lives should not be the only things we enjoy.” For example, if you and your partner hate doing laundry, change your mindset to figure out how laundry enhances your relationship, whether it’s spending quality time together while you quietly fold or getting 10 minutes away from the kids to talk about your day. Make it your daily goal to find the patterns in your relationship that you both enjoy and focus on the connections these routines create instead of the actual task itself.
Unburden your partner from their day-to-day tasks
Many of us are so absorbed with our daily to-do lists that we’re oblivious to how stressed we are. If you notice your partner feeling overwhelmed, offer to help them without being asked. Sometimes it takes an outsider, like your significant other, to notice your burdens. “We’re so used to responsibility that we don’t think to ask how nice it would be if we didn’t have to do one small part of it,” says Weiss. “Doing something to unburden your partner says, ‘I see that you’re struggling, but I want to help.’” A simple task like offering to pick the kids up from sports practice or cleaning the dishes can show your loved one that they can count on you and have your unwavering support.Or try exercise to lighten the load of burdening stress on your health.
Do an activity that your partner likes
Compromise is essential in every relationship. Sometimes you must step into your partner’s world to do something that makes them happy despite how unappealing the activity seems to you. “If it comes from a place of genuinely wanting to make your partner happy then that’s good for the relationship because you’re giving,” says Joanne Davila, PhD, clinical psychology professor at Stony Brook University in New York. “It has the potential to create positive feelings of being valued, a sense of intimacy, and security in the relationship.” Start thinking of ways that you can be present with your partner, like planning a date around their favorite hobby or interests. Your hometown’s website or newspaper are great resources for finding movies, concerts, or festivals your partner may enjoy. Show your partner some love with these 40 romantic ideas.
Say “Thank You”
Imagine what your life would be like without your partner by making a list of the things you would have to do if they weren’t around to help you. If your list is extensive, it may be time to start thanking them for the things you may take for granted, like taking out the trash or cooking a scrumptious meal for you after work. “Thank you” is a magical phrase that gives your partner feelings of value and validation, two things we all look for in relationships. “This is something that they are taking the time to do for you every week so notice it, pay attention to it, and validate it,” says Weiss. “That’s way more romantic and intimate than flowers or candy.” Good morning and good night are just a few other key phrases you should tell your partner on a daily basis for a happier relationship.
Try different mediums of connection
Thanks to technology, couples have a plethora of ways to communicate with their loved one throughout the day. Yet there is one barrier to such accessible communication: our personalities. You and your partner are likely one of three people: camera shy on FaceTime, a terrible texter, or the one who dreads talking on the phone. The key is to find a happy medium (literally) that keeps you both connected when you’re not face-to-face. “If you’re unfulfilled in your connections when you’re apart, try a different medium,” says Weiss. “Find the medium that will make you both feel comfortable and connected.” For the terrible texter, set text alerts on your phone to remind you to check in with your partner throughout the day or shoot them an email at work to ask how their day is going. Breaking up or cancelling a date are two things you should never do over text.
Send a meme to your partner
Nothing strengthens your relationship more than sending your partner a little something to let them know you’re thinking of them, and memes, texts, selfies, and gifs are the modern-day love letter of the digital age. “Sending a selfie or some kind of message throughout the day that has nothing to do with business is a reminder that we’re tethered together, which allows us to feel more courageous, more grounded, and more able to deal with the world.” says Stan Tatkin, PsyD, MFT, developer of A Psychological Approach to Couple Therapy (PACT) in Calabasas California. Apps like Fatify let you create fun memes of yourself 300 pounds heavier or Snapchat has loads of fun filters where you can turn yourself into characters with a funny high-pitched voice, both surefire ways to put a smile on your partner’s face.
Plan out your pleasures
Instead of automatically sitting down to watch TV or leaving for a neighborhood walk, discuss it first. Ask each other questions like, “What do you want to watch?” or “Where is your favorite place to walk?” As Weiss says, “When you decide things together it becomes a shared enjoyment…and gives you time to rediscover each other.”
Play dress up
Couples tend to forget to put their sexy on once they reach a stage of comfort and familiarity. Eating Chinese food in sweats while binge watching Netflix doesn’t necessarily turn on the romance for everyone. Don’t be afraid to dress up for each other, just like you did when you first met. Throw on some sexy lingerie or get out a suit and tie for date night to reignite your passion. “Go shopping together and buy each other outfits,” says Kim Seltzer, therapist and matchmaker in Los Angeles, California. “It’s sexy and I find that couples get closer because they have fun and if their partner likes what they’re wearing they’ll be into it.” Use these scientifically proven tips to become instantly more attractive to your partner.
Give a compliment
Don’t forget the importance of a genuine compliment. Nothing makes you feel better than when your partner compliments your hair, outfit, or even your eyes. A compliment goes a long way. “I think that couples take each other for granted sometimes,” says Seltzer. “Praise them.”
Laughing has all kinds of health benefits, from easing stress to boosting your mood, and you can add “healthy relationship building” to the list, too. Research has shown that most people look for a good sense of humor in their ideal mate. But a study from the University of Kansas suggests that relationship satisfaction is strongly related to a shared sense of humor more than dating the funny guy or gal. “It’s not that any style or a sense of humor is any better or worse. What matters is that you both see [the same type of] humor as hysterical,” said study author, Jeffrey Hall, PhD, in a news release. “If you share a sense of what’s funny, it affirms you and affirms your relationship through laughter.” Go see an improv comedy show or do something silly that makes you both laugh; it will ignite passion and help you grow closer.
Throw a staycation
There’s no need to splurge on a fancy bed and breakfast for a weekend getaway when you and your partner can create the same ambience at home for less. Collaborate to give your home a luxury hotel vibe by putting fresh linens on the bed, placing chocolates on the pillows, throwing rose petals in the tub, and cooking an indulgent candle-lit dinner together. “People form the deepest bonds when they’re engaged in a task so it’s easier to know someone or love someone if you’re both working on a project together,” says Weiss. Add more luxury to the rest of your home using these nine simple upgrades.
Make a surprise jar
Write down activities that you’d like to do together on little pieces of paper, then fold them up and place them in a jar. Each day or every weekend, alternate who gets to pick an activity out of the surprise jar. “The element of surprise creates a spark,” says Seltzer. “It’s great because you both get to write down things that are meaningful and do them together.” Little surprises like a homemade breakfast in bed or taking the day off from work for a surprise date are other great ways to create excitement in your relationship and spend quality time together.
Gaze into each other’s eyes
Sit down with your partner for five minutes to gaze intently into each other’s eyes and notice the details in each other’s faces. It sounds super uncomfortable but ancient Buddhists and Hindus believed that the eyes were a way to connect to the soul. “You’re staying present by gazing and looking at each detail of the face,” says Tatkin. “It should move into something called quiet love, a sense of just being and being with someone.” Sticking by your loved one’s side when they’re sick in bed is another nonverbal act of love.
Never underestimate the power of “pillow talk”
Pillow talk is an opportunity to snuggle up in bed and talk without outside distractions like phones or TV; reminisce about your childhood or recollect old memories of experiences you’ve had together. The only rule: business talk is off limits (problems at work and with your kids included). “I’ve known my wife since junior high and we still have so much to talk about,” says Tatkin. (Find out what your post-sex pillow talk means for your relationship.)
Work out together
Exercising together does not mean one of you lifts weights while the other runs on the treadmill. To build a sense of trust and teamwork, use each other for your workout. Collaborative sports like indoor rock climbing, kayaking, and dancing are great to boost relationship strength. “Using each other as partners reinforces that you are in this together,” says Tatkin. “You both are a team, a duo that is constantly getting better at being that collaborative system that can handle the world alone and together.”
Play a round of ping-pong
Repetitive motions like volleying a ping-pong ball is a great trick to get people to open up because the trance-like, rhythmic motion helps reduce anxiety and interrupts the parts of your brain that obsess over issues. “Volleying in ping-pong keeps your emotions in check and regulates each other’s nervous systems, which allows you to talk about difficult matters,” says Tatkin. “If the game is to keep the volley going rhythmically, it keeps you from getting overheated or too excited from the conversation.” Even a game of catch could get your partner talking.
Do something out of the ordinary
Novelty is the key to spicing up any relationship; think things like visiting a vineyard for the very first time or checking out the new museum in town. “Research shows that when couples do a novel activity together, it can immediately give them a bump in satisfaction, in feelings, and in intimacy,” says Davila. When you both outwardly express your joy in trying these new activities, it helps amplify both of your emotions, which releases dopamine, the happy chemical, in your brain. Try these other 14 perfect date ideas to add a dose of fun to your relationship (plus, they’re free).
Dedicate fifteen minutes of your time to breaking out the photo albums or scrolling through your Instagram profile to reminisce about the happy memories with your partner, like your first date or the time you met each other’s families. “A positive reminiscence conversation are something I don’t believe people stop and think to do,” says Davila. It’s important to remind each other why you’re together and look back on all the fun memories you’ve made. (Related content: Here’s how science can make your memories last forever.)
Plan something fun together
Vacations, an elaborate date night, or a barbecue with friends are all fun activities that you and your partner can enjoy planning. “It gives couples something to look forward to and reminds people of good times,” says Davila. “It’s easy to forget that the relationship needs attention with the day to day stresses of life, so planning something fun can help you get back into that good place.” Try these tricks to score an affordable vacation.
Originally published on the Reader’s Digest website.