Love is a work in progress. Whether you have met the perfect partner during the second act of your life or happily navigating an everlasting marriage, keeping your relationship alive requires continuous time and effort.
In fact, although we’ve all heard that the pillars of love are built on mutual respect, love, and friendship between equals, most of the time everyday life puts our relationship to the test making us feel resentful or disappointed towards ourselves and our partner.
The secret to strengthening our bond, however, doesn’t rely on avoiding conflicts but on appreciating your partner’s good qualities and the positive aspects of your connection.
For all of us, the person we love most in the world, the one who can send us soaring joyfully into space, is also the person who can send us crashing back to earth – says clinical psychologist Sue Johnson, author of ‘Hold Me Tight: Your Guide to the Most Successful Approach to Building Loving Relationships’. All it takes is a slight turning away of the head or a flippant, careless remark. There is no closeness without this sensitivity. If our connection with our mate is safe and strong, we can deal with these moments of sensitivity. Indeed, we can use them to bring our partners even closer. But when we don’t feel safe and connected, these moments are like a spark in a tinder forest. They set fire to the whole relationship.
So, what can we do to keep our relationship strong and alive? Working on the following seven steps may be the answer.
#Day 1: Revisit the beginning
Kick off the challenge by recreating intimacy from before you lost the spark. Sometimes to reignite the passion, it helps to revisit the beginning: it could be playing a song that evokes your early years together, calling each other by using those fun and lovely nicknames or revisiting the places where the butterflies started. How did you use to spend quality time together?
#Day 2: Make space for gratitude
Instead of being focused on what’s wrong with your relationship, try to keep track of the big and little things both of you do or say that make you feel loved and connected. Let your partner know how much you appreciate him or her, and be generous with compliments and expressions of affection. The expression of loving thoughts nourishes your relationship by helping you both remember what it is you treasure about each other. Also, by giving your partner and relationship more credit, you may realize that your bond is stronger than you think.
You can show gratitude and appreciation by cooking dinner, making coffee in the morning, or just giving a kiss goodbye. Also, when it comes to romance, don’t underestimate the power of saying “thank you.”
#Day 3: Celebrate each other’s goals
The genuineness and frequency of active positive responses are essential to the development of healthy relationships.
“Celebrating triumphs in life, from small, seemingly trivial ones to those that are more significant, strengthens the bond between two people. Being genuinely enthusiastic in responding to a partner’s good fortune can have a positive impact on them“, explains Linda Bloom, L.C.S.W., and Charlie Bloom, M.S.W., the authors of ‘Secrets of Great Marriages: Real Truths from Real Couples About Lasting Love‘.
You can reward your spouse with a card, a little present or simply a big hug reminding him or her how proud you are of their achievements.
#Day 4: Read to each other
It can’t be a coincidence that some of the most romantic scenes in films have involved couples reading together. From Carrie and Big in Sex & City cuddled in bed reading love letters to one another to Oliver and Jenny curled up on the couch in Love Story, romcoms are plenty of these moments. The truth is reading to each other is not just a way to enjoy each other company: it has the power to bring partners closer together, giving them something to talk about.
A bonding experience you need to try regularly if you want to stay close emotionally, mentally and spiritually.
#Day 5: Hold hands more often
Physical touch is one of the five love languages developed by relationship expert Dr Gary Chapman. People with this love language feel loved (and often express their love) through physical touch with their partner. Hand holding is a simple, readily available way to show your partner that you love and value them. Find as many opportunities as you can to do that with your partner: sitting at the breakfast table, heading out the door or watching television. By simply holding each other’s hands or making time for cuddling, you may experience “release” from tense emotions and – you never know- that may lead to sexual prelude, too.
#Day 6: Take a class together
Try selecting activities that both partners are unfamiliar with, as this will ensure you’re on the same page. Any activity that deviates from routine allows you to expand the ways that you think about yourself and your relationship.
Learning new things together strengthens bonds because it is at those moments we can show our vulnerability to one another – says Dr Hisla Bates, M.D., a psychiatrist based in New York City to Psichology Today-. When we are learning a new task, neither party is an expert, and mishaps and failures are bound to happen. In those vulnerable moments when we fail, the other party can show support. They can work together to find a solution, and working together helps deepen the connection.
#Day 7: Plan a date night
Dress up, go out, getaway without the kids, celebrate anniversaries and remember why you first fell in love. Most of the time, especially if couples have children, date nights are not a priority. However, having time set aside to focus solely on your relationship is key to successful partnering. It could be a night away somewhere romantic, a visit to an art gallery or even outdoor activities including walks or hikes.
And as you fall in love again, make sure to take care of yourself. When you’re in a relationship for so long, it can be hard to remember where your partner ends and you begin. The sure-fire way of rekindling the passion in your relationship is by fuelling yourself first.