If anyone on this planet has got your back, it's your partner. But sometimes packed schedules and the monotony of life can get in the way, leaving you feeling a little less connected than you once were. If that seems to be the case in your relationship, it's high time you take things into your own hands, and do what you can to improve the bond with your SO.
This little bit of extra effort is a requirement in relationships — especially if you've been together for awhile. "Most people don't realize it, but long-term relationships go through stages. After the romance has worn off (romance makes connection intense and effortless) partners will naturally start to drift apart a little," relationship expert Elly Taylor tells Bustle. "This is healthy for them so they can continue their own personal development, but it means that in order to maintain a rewarding relationship, couples need to start being more intentional about staying bonded."
To stick yourselves back together, you might try to make date night a thing again, instead of going through the motions of getting up, going to work, and passing out in bed. Or you might take a trip, eat dinner together, or simply verbalize your appreciation for each other a little more often. Read on for a few more easy tips, so you can reignite that all-important bond with your partner.
1. Get To Cuddling
Cuddling with your partner releases a hormone called oxytocin, which is literally made for bonding. So the more often you can snuggle up in bed, the better. "One study found that a longer duration touch (over 20 seconds) resulted in the release of oxytocin," says relationship expert and counselor David Bennett. Handholding, hugging, and kissing works, too.
2. "Flood" Your Brain With Positive Memories
If you want to retrain your brain to appreciate your partner, try what's known as "positive memory flooding." This can be done once a week, and all it requires is sitting down and sharing three happy memories from your relationship.
"Our brain is wired to focus on the negative, so it's natural for the couple to forget about the good times that they've shared together," relationship and sex therapist Karolina Pasko tells Bustle. "The more you train your brain to recall the positives, the easier it will become each time."
3. Cook Dinner Together
As you carefully chop vegetables and figure out how to keep everything from burning, you'll be learning how to work together. And you'll be bonding. "Cooking builds connection and teamwork between partners," says therapist Kimberly Hershenson, LMSW. "Cooking also helps us feel accomplished, which is nurturing." And hey, there's the added bonus of great food when you're done — even if it's just spaghetti.
4. Try Your Hand At Dancing
If you've yet to experience the spectacle that is a public dance lesson, who better to go with you for the first time than your beloved partner? As Hershenson tells me, being physically close to one another in this type of class can add spice to your relationship. But if you can get through it together, while keeping it light and fun, you'll definitely leave feeling as bonded as ever.
5. Stare Into Each Other's Eyes
As Beverly Hills-based psychotherapist Dr. Fran Walfish tells me, eye contact is where it's at if you want to bond with your partner. With our busy lives, we hardly slow down to acknowledge each other, much less look at each other. So make a point, whenever possible, of climbing into bed, staring into each other's eyes, and chatting about your day.
6. Reconnect After A Long Day
Sometimes, bonding is as easy as remembering to say hi "hi" and giving each other a hug after a long day. "It helps when [couples] reconnect physically with eye contact, a smile (even if it's a tired one), a hug or a kiss, before they start to debrief their days," says Taylor. It only takes a second, but it can make a huge difference.
7. Sign Up For Couples Coaching
If you feel like an expert needs to be called in, do a search online for "couples coaches" in your area and sign up. "Therapy deals with the past, but coaching works with the future," life coach Dr. Ty Belknap tells Bustle. "One way to feel closer than ever with your partner is to work toward a shared future. The first step always seems to be the hardest, though, doesn’t it? So get help from a couples coach."
8. Get Out of Town
Trips are obviously great while they're happening and you're navigating a whirlwind adventure together. But did you know the benefits can last even after you return home? "Besides providing much needed time away, it returns you refreshed and invigorated and hopeful that you can establish new patterns that avoid you from getting sucked back into the humdrum of everyday living," says Rabbi Shlomo Slatkin, MS, LCPC. "You need not travel across the ocean. Even a short overnight trip will do the job."
9. Learn Something New
This might include taking a class, going to that aforementioned dance lesson, or simply listening to a podcast together. As Slatkin says, "When the brain learns something new, it not only creates new neural pathways, it also brings about more joy and excitement. Now, do it together with your spouse ... and the positive energy is compounded. It also provides a fresh new experience that you can share together."
10. Overcome A Fear
Are you afraid of dogs, or heights, or elevators? If so, ask your partner if they'd like to join you in overcoming your fear. "Allowing them to see your vulnerability and provide support and encouragement while you face a fear can help you connect on a deeper level," says relationship expert Weena Cullins, LCMFT. "Visit a local animal shelter together or hold hands on a ferris wheel ride. It can definitely deepen the bond."
11. Share A Tiny Secret
Do you have a little secret that you'd like to share? Or something relatively benign you'd like to get off your chest? If so, go ahead and spill it. As Cullins says, "Sharing something with your partner that you won’t allow anyone else to know can make both of you feel more connected to each other."
12. Exercise Together
Nothing will bond you faster than slowly jogging up a never-ending hill, or surviving a spin class together. But any form of exercise will do. "Consider going for a walk ... in the morning or after work with your partner. You can spend this time preparing for the day ahead or talking about how your day unfolded," says psychic and spiritual counselor Davida Rappaport. "You can even discuss any future plans you both may be considering."
13. Share Your Chores
Rappaport also suggests doing chores together. So start dusting, walk the dog together, or wash dishes after dinner. You'll get things done faster, but the added bonus here is you can start to appreciate how much you both do, and hopefully no longer take each other for granted.
Keeping that bond alive does take a little work — and may even require doing a few chores, or running up a hill together — but I promise, it's totally worth it.
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