11 Surprising Experiences Couples Should Have To Strengthen Their Relationship
Whether you two just started dating, or have been together for years, there are always experiences to be had that can strengthen your bond as a couple. These can be positive things, such as creating a nurturing morning routine or going on a trip together. But some bonding experiences can also have a stressful undertone, such as dealing with money issues or navigating a big argument. And that's OK.
Depending on how you deal with them, even so-called negative experiences can still help you grow as a couple. "What determines if the experience will strengthen or weaken the relationship depends on how each person in the couple engages with their own emotional experience in that moment," licensed professional counselor Julie Williamson tells Bustle. It's all in how you view the moment, how you communicate, and what you glean from the experience that can either bring you together — or drive you apart.
"Working through these experiences together, particularly difficult ones, shows the strength and resiliency of your relationship, as well as areas that may need improvement, be that communication skills, or learning what your partner needs during challenging times," Williamson says.
Here are a few surprising experiences that can bring a couple together, strengthen their relationship, and teach them new things about each other, according to experts.
1. Moving To A New City
While simply moving in together can provide a wide range relationship-building moments, nothing bonds a couple together quite like moving to an entirely new city.
"By making a fresh start, they can leave their past behind them," Davida Rappaport, a psychic and spiritual counselor, tells Bustle. "Change always brings forth a fresh energy, and the excitement of starting over in a new place where very few people know them can be a challenge, but also provides an opportunity to cheer one another on."
You can lean on each other as you search for apartments, make new friends, or go out hunting for jobs. The excitement of doing it all together can be quite intimate, and definitely a bonding experience.
2. Talking About Finances
Many couples have money problems, and it can certainly create some tension in the relationship. But it also provides the opportunity to talk finances, and get on the same page as far as your goals for the future.
"When couples experience money issues, this is often one of the problems that might pull apart a weak relationship," Rappaport says. "However, if a couple is savvy enough to realize that they want to be in their relationship for the long haul, money issues can really strengthen their bond. They can jointly assess their finances and create a budget." And in doing so, learn how to stick together and compromise.
3. Creating A Scheduled Date Night
While it might feel entirely unsexy to schedule a date night, making this a part of your weekly or monthly routine can bring you closer together.
"Sometimes couples get too busy with work, obligations, or hobbies that they forget to spend time together to reinforce their love and passion, so it doesn’t wane," Rappaport says. "Planning a special date night — even if it is just a movie, getting out, and making it a special evening — can do wonders to keep them close and keep the passion and chemistry flowing."
4. Traveling Abroad Together
If it's in the cards, traveling abroad as a couple can prove to be quite the bonding experience — especially if neither of you speak the country's language. "This will either bring you closer together or polarize you, as you’ll likely be forced to work together to get where you’re going, order food at a restaurant, see the sights, etc.," Heidi McBain, MA, a licensed marriage and family therapist, tells Bustle.
Of course, even smaller weekend trips out of town can strengthen a relationship, too. It's all about having new experiences, dealing with stress, getting lost — all things that come with stepping outside your usual routines. It all adds up to bring you closer together.
As McBain says, "It’s important to have lots of different life experiences together because these experiences will enhance who you are both personally and as a couple. Plus, they create a shared history, which is often where the stories we share with our family and friends come from."
5. Releasing Some Adrenaline
It may sound strange, but doing something together that releases adrenaline can help you feel closer. Think along the lines of risky endeavors such as skydiving, hiking, parasailing, etc., Susan Golicic, PhD, relationship coach and co-founder of Uninhibited Wellness, tells Bustle. "If adrenaline is boosted and you do this together, sharing in that 'rush' and/or helping each other build up courage to get through it and supporting each other in it can help bring a couple together," she says. Just remember to be safe.
6. Cooking A Meal Together
For the less adventurous, homey activities can do the trick, too. "The simple act of cooking together, spending that time working together in the kitchen, learning to cooperate with each other, then sharing the results while talking at the table are acts of bonding," psychotherapist Tina B. Tessina, LMFT, PhD, tells Bustle.
7. Spending A Day Without Technology
If you and your partner have gotten into the habit of ignoring each other in favor of texting friends or perusing social media, it might help to spend some uninterrupted quality time.
To do so, simply turn off your phones and enjoy a moment together, such as walking around town or getting lunch and actually talking. "Experiences that bring a couple closer together are the ones that involve presence," therapist Katie Ziskind, LMFT tells Bustle. "Moments where both people are present and show up in mind body and spirit for one another are strengthening."
8. Sharing A Morning Routine
It's common for couples to zoom through their morning routines, and ignore each other as they head off to work. And sometimes, that's what you need to do to get where you're going on time.
But if you have a moment, it might be nice to slow down and create a sweet ritual in the early hours. As Rappaport says, this can include sharing the bathroom mirror as you get ready, or sitting down to a cup of coffee. If it makes you feel closer together, it just might be worth it.
9. Having A Big Argument
While you don't want to stir up an argument just for the sake of "bonding," if you happen to find yourselves embroiled in a disagreement, you can find a way to make it a relationship-strengthening experience.
For one, you might learn how to argue in a healthier and more effective way. "When a couple argues, they learn what they can say or do that will push their partner’s buttons," Rappaport says. "To argue effectively couples should learn to avoid pushing buttons or resorting to comparisons and name-calling. This helps them create a stronger bond with one another."
10. Going Through A Disappointment
Life is full of disappointments, but they don't have to be so bad if you and your partner help each other through them. As Rappaport says, "Being able to share the bumps in the road with someone who will listen, comfort, and even have your back can reinforce a couple’s love for one another and help make their relationship stronger."
11. Celebrating An Anniversary
It's so easy to forget about anniversaries, and even easier to let small accomplishments slip by uncelebrated. But if you really want to keep your relationship strong, you and your partner should make a big deal out of these moments as often as possible.
"When a couple takes the time to celebrate small events such as birthdays, the anniversary of their first kiss, the day they decided they wanted to be together, etc., it helps bond them," Rappaport says. "Remembering the special moments [...] helps a couple focus on each other and what makes their lives together special. If they can take the time to do this, one day won't run into the next and it will also alleviate boredom, and help keep their romance alive."
Whether you're sipping coffee in the morning, talking about bills, or jumping out of an airplane, there are all sorts of surprising ways to strengthen your relationship. All it takes is a little effort.