11 Science-Backed Ways To Form A Closer Bond With Your Partner
Even if you already feel connected, there are always things you can do to form a closer bond with your partner. These might include fun ways to get to know each other better, as well as ways to maintain a connection with someone you've been with long-term. Because it really can take work.
"To remain bonded and connected, there must be energy generated to ensure this is an active priority," therapist Dr. Dana C. Avey, LMFT BC-TMH ADS, tells Bustle. "One cannot expect to feel an intense bond and connection with someone continually over the years if they do not put forth the necessary effort to make it so and do so consistently."
Luckily, that's where science can come to the rescue with a few research-backed tips and tricks to stay connected. As Dr. Avey says, "If we want our bonds to exist over time, we cannot allow days and weeks to pass by without connecting with our partners through some simple bonding mechanisms, such as hugging, touch, and eye contact."
Things like these, as well as a few of the tips listed below, have been shown to help keep a connection alive. Read on for the best science-backed ways to form a closer bond with your partner, in case you want to give 'em a try.
1. Hang Out With Other Couples
If you'd like to feel closer to your partner, it may be as easy as going on a double date. "Studies show that spending time with another couple can make the two of you feel closer to each other," relationship expert Amy North, tells Bustle. And this is especially true if the conversation is good.
As North says, "Researchers found that this effect was heightened when couples engaged in deeper personal conversations compared to simply small talk." So make sure you go beyond the small talk, and make an effort to openly share your thoughts.
2. Do Something New & Exciting
Another surefire way to bond with your partner is by doing something new as a couple, North says, especially if it's daring, exciting, or scary.
Research has found that couples who shared in novel and arousing activities experienced greater relationship quality, North says, so get out there, go on an adventure, and try new things that get your blood pumping.
3. Set Common Goals
To feel closer to your partner, it'll be important to establish and then work towards common goals. This is based on research by famed relationship expert Dr. John Gottman, couples therapist Sarah Epstein, MFT tells Bustle, which showed the benefits of planning ahead.
"Even if those dreams involve individual achievements or goals, they bond a couple together by creating a joint blueprint," Epstein says. "Shared dreams are the things a couple talks about they're when asked, 'what do you see in your future?' Sitting down and talking about those dreams, forming those dreams together, and then moving toward them will only draw you together."
4. Create Rituals Together
Similarly, "couples can form closer bonds by creating rituals of connection through things like doing chores together, having set times to talk, or just having something special you do as a couple when you get home," licensed psychotherapist Shirin Peykar, LMFT, tells Bustle.
If you don't already, make an effort to develop a few rituals and routines like these, which will all help "create an intentional emotional connection," Peykar says. "It also gives [you something to look] forward to each day."
5. Go To Couples Therapy
It might sound daunting, but going to couples therapy is a great way to learn more about each other while also forming a closer bond. And this is especially true if you hit up a counselor who specializes in emotionally-focused couples therapy.
"Emotionally-focused couples therapy is a therapy that is designed to improve strengthening bonds and attachments in couples," psychotherapist Kevon Owen, MS, LPC, tells Bustle. "The way that it works is by attending to emotions and beliefs that insert distance in the couple."
For example, you two might have issues you aren't discussing, or engrained habits you aren't even aware of. And yet, by introducing a therapist into the mix, you'll learn how to work past these problems — and feel much closer as a result.
6. Learn How To Listen
Perhaps one of the best things you can do for each other is to learn how to truly listen. "Listening intently, openly, and non-defensively when your partner is upset about something and then validating their pain strengthens the bonds between you and your partner," Esptein says.
It also helps to go into these types of conversations without the goal of "fixing" anything, but instead asking what you can do to help. "When you can do that — be there, listen, validate, and ask what they need — you [...] send the message that you're in this together," Esptein says.
7. Have Sex
If you're both in the mood, taking the time to be more intimate — including have sex — might be just what your relationship needs.
"Sex can be a powerful source of connection," North says. "It brings couples together in a way that few other things can." This was shown in one study that looked at whether frequent sex strengthened a couple's satisfaction in their relationship.
"The researchers concluded that sexual activity created a sort of 'afterglow' that lasted for about two days," North says. "The study found that these same couples reported higher relationship satisfaction four-to-six months later."
8. Hug For Six Seconds
It may sound oddly specific, but studies have shown that hugging for as little as six seconds can make you feel close. "The emphasis is on the actual hug lasting six seconds, as there are studies indicating that if a hugging embrace is maintained for at least six seconds, it is enough time for oxytocin in the brain to be released," Dr. Avey tells Bustle.
Of course, you can hug for longer if you'd like. But make sure it isn't just a quick side hug. "This matters because oxytocin is the bonding hormone," Dr. Avey says. "A more brief embrace just doesn’t quite cut it."
9. Hold Hands
Of course, sex and hugging aren't the only ways to form a closer bond, if you're not feeling it. "The use of touch, in general, is also beneficial as a form of connecting and bonding," Dr. Avey says. "Studies show us that brains are activated when being touched, and many positive emotions can be communicated in this way." Sex and hugging count, but you can also think along the lines of hand holding, kissing, sitting next to each other on the couch, and so on.
10. Gaze Into Each Other's Eyes
It can feel a bit strange if you aren't used to doing it. But making an effort to gaze into each other's eyes can have all sorts of benefits.
As Dr. Avey says, consciously making eye contact when speaking with one another can help increase your bond as a partner. "Studies demonstrate that people believe others to be more sincere when consistent eye contact is made, and sincerity goes a long way when trying to express oneself and improve one’s bonding experience," she says.
11. Have Five Positive Encounters
If you get into an argument, or have an off day where you just aren't seeing see eye-to-eye, it'll be important to balance it out with happier moments as a way to stay close.
"It has been established that for every negative encounter had, at least five positive encounters are needed to offset the effect," Dr. Avey says. This is another relationship tip from Dr. John Gottman known as the "magic ratio."
You don't have to keep an actual tally, Dr. Avey says, but you can practice being more mindful and focusing on creating positive interactions throughout the day.
Thanks to science, there are all sorts of proven ways to form a closer bond with your partner. And often all it takes are a few simple tricks like these.