When we first begin a new relationship, it’s effortless to prioritize seeing and spending time with our significant other (SO). As time goes by, however, the stresses and responsibilities of the daily grind seem to pile up, and we increasingly devote our attention to other, love-hate relationships in our lives, like work, filing taxes, and other adult things, and it can feel like the great love that existed between you and your SO all but fades away.
Being an adult in a long-term relationship doesn’t mean that you have to be an adult in a long-term relationship that has lost its spark, though. Here are 5 ways to increase intimacy and stay in love, proven by psychologists and research experiments.
This sounds like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised how easy it is for a couple to get into the routine of having only necessary, “small talk” conversations around work events, family obligations, and house chores. Psychologists and marriage and family therapists have found that couples who make it a ritual of spending a few minutes chatting before bed report increased feelings of happiness with their relationship (for more, read this great article). Having conversations around your individual interests, goals, and even fears can help you to retain that feeling of intimacy and connectedness between each other.
2. Miss each other
Though this may seem counterintuitive, giving one another space is an important component of happy relationships. Missing each other helps you to remember why your SO is so important and meaningful to you, ensuring that you won’t take him or her for granted. At the same time, giving yourself time to engage in your personal interests and hobbies allows you to share new perspectives and experiences with your SO. For more on how much time you should spend with your SO, read this article from Psychology Today. Distance truly does make the heart grow fonder!
3. Play together
Boredom is fatal to relationships, so keep things new and exciting to maintain a strong and healthy relationship. In a psychological study in which couples were assigned either boring or interesting activities to complete together, couples who finished stimulating tasks (such as doing an obstacle course) reported feeling happier in their relationships than those who did the boring activities. Trying new and unfamiliar things releases endorphins and adrenaline, hormones that influence happiness and excitement, in the body, helping your brain to identify your SO as a key source of those positive emotions.
4. Support each other’s goals
Feeling supported improves our well-being, sense of self-worth and belonging, and feelings of security. You can show your SO that you support them by listening to (not just hearing) them, asking them questions about what’s going on in their lives, and remembering to say “I love you.” It’s important for people to feel that their hopes and dreams, big or small, are acknowledged and that they are capable of achieving them – and our SOs are no different. Especially when the going gets rough, knowing that your loved ones are there for you helps you stay the course and stay strong.
5. Stay physical
Touch is an incredibly effective and meaningful part of relationships. Did you know that hugging and cuddling have a greater impact on a relationship than sex? In a recent study, adults who regularly received hugs showed lower levels of stress and risk of contracting colds, and calmer, happier moods. This is likely due to the large amounts of oxytocin, serotonin, and dopamine (feel-good hormones) the brain releases throughout the body when we hug each other. So don’t forget to hug – it helps generate the feeling that your SO is there to help you in the face of adversity.
Tl;dr: the single most important element of a happy, enduring relationship is connectedness, through honest and open communication, shared experiences (even the individual ones – see #2 above), and mutual support. Do you already stay connected with your partner in these 5 ways? If you do, keep it going, and if not, try them out and see if you feel closer to your SO!
Keep on Lovin’,