Unless you're still in the honeymoon phase, it's not always easy to feel strongly connected to your partner. Life gets in the way, work keeps you really busy, and before you know it, you haven't had a tender moment with them in a while. It happens to the best of us — yes, I'm sure that even Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie have to contend with it. Luckily, psychiatrist Mark Goulston conducted studies several years ago to see what kinds of habits are commonly seen in happy couples. It's different for everyone, but there are definitely some little things you can do more on a daily basis proven to help keep yourself and your SO madly in love.
It's the smallest gestures that close the distance between ourselves and the people we love. While the big signals, like surprising them with a trip to the spa or concert tickets, can bring some life and love back into a relationship, we could afford to pay attention to the everyday intimacies. When those start to add up, we will quickly reach a new level of happiness, which can lead us to express ourselves in other physical ways. (Cheers for more sex!) But seriously, it doesn't take much to remember how much you love your partner, and you only need to put in a little bit of effort.
Here are 11 hacks to use to feel instantly closer to your SO.
1. Put Away Electronics At Dinner
It's sad to see two people on a date who are just staring at their iPhones — no talking, no flirting. Don't be those people. We all deserve a break from our electronics, especially when we're out to dinner with someone we love. The second you put down your phone is when your partner feels more appreciated; after all, studies have proven that an individual who is always on their cell seems untrustworthy and less empathetic. You don't want your SO to think you're either of those things.
2. Start A New Workout Together
Couples who sweat together are proven to stay together, so find a new exercise regimen that excites the both of you. It could be joining a local Crossfit or trying stand-up paddle boarding for the first time. Whatever it is, studies show that getting your heart rates up alongside one another will increase romantic feelings, make you happier, and strengthen your emotional bond. Plus, think about the hot post-workout tryst you could potentially have. It's great foreplay.
3. Make Out More
You probably don't kiss as often as you did at the beginning of your relationship, back when everything was so new and exciting. Well, lips are 200 times more sensitive than fingertips, so don't skimp out on the makeout sessions. When you lock lips with the one you love, a burst of adrenaline hits you in the brain and tension is reduced; it's essentially the fastest way to feel emotionally closer to your partner.
4. Read The Same Book
One way to jolt the creative juices and help you feel more connected with your sweetheart is to have both of you pick up the same book and read it independently. You can come back together and have heaps of interesting stuff to talk about, and you could even find new, sexy intellectual facets of each other you had never seen before. This kind of intellectual stimulation often leads to a stronger physical bond as well — nothing like snuggling together on the couch with your Kindles.
5. Cuddle Every Day
Snuggling just makes everything better. Studies show that cuddling for just 15 minutes floods your body and brain with positive effects — including a boatload of oxytocin, a natural hormone that helps you trust people more. Intimate cuddling automatically makes you feel more affectionate as well; suddenly you forget all about your partner's annoying habits.
6. Recount Embarrassing Moments
Did you slip and fall on your way into the conference room this morning at work? Tell your SO about it. Chatting about these silly little things will help you reach a level of vulnerability together. It will also most likely result in you laughing — and we all know that long-term relationships always include lots of giggling.
7. Write Notes To One Another
Nope, I don't mean texting. Get out a pen and paper and physically write down a nice letter to your partner. It's romantic in an old-school sort of way, but it conveys affection in a way you can't grasp with a Facebook message. A professor at Kent State University conducted a study of letter writing, and discovered that exchanging letters leads to a spike in overall happiness and satisfaction. The participants were able to reach a level of emotion that wasn't available to them through simple conversation. Even better? Surprise your boo by leaving a note for them to find in their lunch, or leave a love letter on their pillow on a night you'll be out late.
8. Cook Together
Neither of you have to be professional chefs to get down and dirty in the kitchen. Just look up a recipe online that seems yummy and give it a shot. Cooking or baking with your SO can teach you how to work as a team, and you learn how to split up responsibilities. A UCLA research team in the early 2000s found out that couples who share household duties are more likely to stay together forever.
9. Do Fun Things Without Them
Spending every waking second together, lounging on the couch with not much to do, is never a good thing. Invest in your own hobbies for yourself and have a list of things for you two to do together. The journal Psychological Science published a study in 2009 proving that couples who are bored are the most unhappy ones. These people experienced greater emotional distance because they weren't keeping themselves occupied.
10. Go Outside Together
A little green therapy — officially known as "ecotherapy" — can do wonders for your relationship. Research shows that people who spend time in nature regularly ward off depressive feelings and feel more in touch with the people around them. If you have a free afternoon, go to the beach or take a walk in the park. Being in the sunshine will make you happier to be together.
11. Compliment Each Other Regularly
Tell them that shirt looks good on them. Remind them that they've got beautiful eyes. When compliments are regularly interjected, they can stimulate communication and spark, which is always obviously a good thing.
These little exercises are handed out in couples therapy, and are worth checking out even if you're not having issues.
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