By Margarita Tartakovsky, M.S.
~ 3 min read
On Valentines Day most couples make fancy dinner reservations, buy lovey-dovey cards and express their appreciation for each other. But what happens on February 15th? One day a year doesn’t make a romantic relationship.
Plus, there are plenty of ways to keep the passion alive all year, which helps to genuinely strengthen your relationship. Below, three experts share their tips for year-round romance.
1. Show your appreciation every day. “From morning until night, couples have the opportunity to offer words of affirmation, appreciation and adoration to one another as well as the chance to offer nonverbal cues as well,” according to psychotherapist Jeffrey Sumber, MA. Nonverbal cues are anything from a wink to a kiss to a smile. Every day Sumber asks himself a question that’s valuable for everyone to ponder: What can I do to celebrate my partner today?
2. Surprise your partner. Small surprises also make the everyday special, according to Barton Goldsmith, Ph.D., a psychotherapist and author of Emotional Fitness for Couples. He suggested leaving a love note on the fridge, in the shower or in your partner’s pocket; leaving a loving or sexy voicemail; or sending a card to work. Sumber recommended breakfast in bed, flowers or even a singing telegram at work.
3. Carve out time to be together. “At the beginning of a relationship, the excitement and anxiety of connecting with a new partner makes time together a top priority,” said psychologist Ryan Howes, Ph.D. “When that urgency goes away and we start to feel comfortable, time for the relationship becomes a lower priority.” And, of course, it becomes especially tough to find spontaneous pockets of time when you’re working, taking care of a family and already feeling exhausted.
But as Howes said, “if we don’t make time to feed the relationship, it withers.” Schedule a time each week for just the two of you — with few exceptions. See a movie or dine out. Or do something more low-key like talking, listening, cooking or just lying on the couch together. “The idea is to make each other a priority,” Sumber said.
4. Devise your dream getaway. Together, look at brochures or websites and discuss what a great getaway would look like. “Even if you don’t have the time or money right now, the process may be just what you need to inspire yourselves,” Goldsmith said.
5. Take turns planning dates. This way one partner isn’t doing all the planning and organizing. “It also allows us to think about what our partner might really desire that we may not be doing often enough,” Sumber said.
6. Mix things up. Routines are par for the course in a long-term relationship. But you can easily break them! “Doing new things together releases oxytocin in the brain, which is one of the chemicals that makes us feel all atwitter when a relationship is fresh,” Goldsmith said. Enjoy a trip together, try out new restaurants or take a day off to be with each other, Howes said. In other words, “Zig where you usually zag once in a while,” he said.
7. Take a class together. This also is a great way to bust out of a relationship rut. “Learning something new together will make you both feel more connected and help you discover parts of your relationship that may have been hidden,” Goldsmith said. Try a cooking class or a sports lesson such as golf or tennis. Goldsmith even suggested taking a CPR class.
8. Pick activities that are unusual for you. Out-of-the-ordinary activities also shake up ruts and routines. Feast your eyes on the full moon or throw a costume or theme party, Goldsmith said.
9. Spend 30 minutes a day just talking. According to Howes, this helps couples maintain a deeper connection. Consider asking your partner about his or her day or even his or her greatest fear, he said. Discuss what you want from your relationship and what you appreciate about each other.
Ask them anything you’re curious about, Howes said. “There are probably a few hundred facts about your partner that you are unaware of,” Goldsmith said. Talk to them about their favorite things, dreams and passions.
10. Do chores. When you think romance, the last thing that pops into your head is mopping, washing the dishes and scrubbing the toilet. But many people feel loved and cared for when their partners help out around the house, Howes said.
11. Remember what first sparked your love. Doing so helps you appreciate where you are now as a couple, Goldsmith said. If it’s possible, he suggested going back to the place you met and reliving your first date.
12. Give up a grudge. Resentment kills romance, Howes said. A grudge builds a wall between partners, he said. “Make forgiveness a regular part of the relationship by expressing how you feel, trying to understand what happened, asking for assurance it won’t happen again and then letting go by deciding not to hold the misdeed over your partner’s head,” he said.
13. Have a lazy weekend together. Pick a day to just do nothing with your partner, Goldsmith said. “Spend a day as human beings rather than human-doings.” These lazy days will feel revitalizing and bring you closer.
14. Do more things together. These don’t have to be grand gestures. Just going to bed and waking up together and eating together can go a long way, Goldsmith said.
15. Be intimate. “Intimacy is not negotiable in a healthy, long-term partnership,” Sumber said. “Touch is one of the most nurturing forces in the universe,” Goldsmith said. If you’re iffy on your partner touching you, it’s important to explore what’s going on and work on it, he said.
Communication also builds intimacy, according to Sumber. “Intimacy is all about connection, openness, and vulnerability, so fostering healthy, consistent communication is the bridge to regular intimacy,” Sumber said. This means hearing and listening to your partner and truly wanting to understand what they’re saying.
For more blogs like this one, visit http://www.psychcentral.com. Margarita Tartakovsky, M.S., is an Associate Editor at Psych Central. She also explores self-image issues on her own blog Weightless and creativity on her blog Make a Mess: Everyday Creativity.