Marriage, or any long-term relationship, is kind of like the ultimate team sport, right? It’s not just you anymore, it’s you and yours building your shared life, and you guys both have to have the same objectives in mind or you’ll very quickly end up playing a losing game. There are many things that strong, healthy relationships have in common, but one of the most essential is maintaining a strong connection with each other.
If you’re in need of a little connectivity boost, consider these 10 ways to build and maintain connection in a relationship.
Couples that play together, stay together! Not only does research suggest that a playful relationship yields higher self-reports of relationship satisfaction and feelings of closeness, but being playful has several other great side-effects, like relieving stress. Being playful can be as simple as rehashing some old inside jokes and goofing off with each other as you set the table for dinner, or as structured as setting up a regular game night for yourselves. Purposeful play is a simple (and fun!) way to connect with your person.
KNOW YOUR LOVE’S LOVE LANGUAGE
Are you familiar with the Love Language concept? Learning how your person best gives and receives love is an excellent way to maintain connection in a relationship.
If your significant other’s primary love language is Words of Affirmation, for example, and yours is Acts of Service, then they might not always feel as loved as you might hope when you show your love through thoughtful gestures like pouring their morning coffee, but verbalizing your love for them with some thoughtful statements can go a long way towards keeping those feelings of connection strong between you two.
MAKE TIME FOR DATE NIGHT
Regular date nights are a crucial way to stay connected to your person. The good news is that this doesn’t require extravagant plans or fancy, formal dinners because the most important piece of a good date night is intentional attention; this is what maintains connection in a relationship.
Yes, there is some evidence that more exciting, novel date night ideas “enhance closeness,” to a greater degree than standard dinner & a movie type of dates, but the most important element of a good date night is the purposeful coming together and enjoying each other’s company. The best date night will be one that fits who you both are as a couple; there are a ton of great date night ideas out there to choose from if you need inspiration!
Conflict is normal in any long-term, committed relationship, and it doesn’t have to mean disconnection if you use some fair-fighting guidelines. Work through conflict together (remember, you’re on the same team!) by keeping the focus on the specific conflict at hand and avoiding any personal attacks that might shut down open communication.
For some couples, emailing or texting can be helpful because it can slow down the emotionally charged, rapid-fire back and forth and give each person more time to figure out how to express their grievances with thoughtful and measured responses instead of Big Emotion heat-of-the-moment drama. From a Big Emotion dramatic person, trust me, it can really help!
MIND THE MOMENTS
It can be easy to get swept up in big gestures and major life events like anniversaries and the birth of a new child, but it is in the moments in between that connection in a relationship is strengthened or weakened. It’s the little things, like picking up a favorite snack on the way home as a surprise treat or sending a sweet text mid-day just to let your person know they’re on your mind.
It’s making a concerted effort to get the socks in the hamper, not just beside the hamper, or to pay closer attention to how often you really do say that one particular phrase that for some reason, irks the heck out of your partner! We build our best selves, our best lives, and our best relationships one moment at a time, so we have to mind these moments wisely.
The only constant in life is change; just as the world around us changes, people change as they grow older and move through life, and so will the relationships that people are in. Strong partnerships move forward together, growing both individually and as a couple, shifting and evolving.
You and your significant other should celebrate as you both become your best selves. You can even take workshops, courses, boot camps, etc., together if you’re both interested in the same things but whatever you do, don’t disparage their desire to better themselves. Growth is a good thing! Healthy and happy couples applaud each other’s growth journeys and stay connected through their support for each other.
UP THE ANTE ON AFFECTION
It’s easy to fall into a rut where we are doing the same song and dance every day with our physical affection. Maybe it’s a quick kiss every morning on your way out the door to work, then a quick peck on the cheek when you both return, but as these actions become automatic, they lose a little of their original oomph, right?
A little extra physical affection can go a long way, with couples who touch each other often reporting higher relationship satisfaction than couples who don’t. Go out of your way to find little moments to physically express your love; even just a quick back rub or hug is enough to release the so-called love hormone oxytocin and boost feelings of connectivity, so get those happy hormones flowing already!
SPICE THINGS UP
Putting deliberate effort towards freshening things up in a long-term relationship can yield major results. As comforting as it is to have the security of a committed partnership where you know you can always count on your person being there for you, it also has the potential to grow a little too predictable, a little too structured, a little too boring, even!
Spice up your marriage by sharing something new, whether it’s crossing some bucket-list type stuff off the list together or introducing some novelty experiences in the bedroom; sharing new experiences is a great way to maintain connection in a relationship.
HIT THE ROAD (OR THE SKIES) TOGETHER
Traveling together is an amazing way to stay connected to your spouse! Not only does it put you two in a scenario where it’s quite literally “the two of you against the world,” but you’re also sharing new experiences and actively building new memories together, two very vital keys to a healthy, happy long-term relationship.
It’s great to be reminded of what a great team you make and adventuring together is a perfect prompt to go into team mode. Plus, couples that travel together tend to have better sex lives… that’s not a bad side-effect, either!
PRACTICE PREVENTATIVE MAINTENANCE
Just as you’ve got to change the oil and rotate the tires on your car regularly to keep it in tip-top shape, you’ve also got to tend to your marriage regularly, too. Touch base often with your partner with a relationship check-in to make sure there aren’t any potential problems simmering under the surface.
Attending couples therapy and marriage retreats are also great ways to maintain the health and strength of your union. You don’t have to wait until the wheels come off to look a little closer at the connection and partnership you have with your spouse.
There are many shifts that will happen over the course of a marriage, but as long as you and yours put in the work—the very, very meaningful work—of staying connected to each other, you can weather almost any storm… together.