What makes a happy relationship?
It is not enough to “not fight” or stay out of the negative, It is vitally important to also intentionally build in the positive. When I ask couples what makes their relationship work, the replies I get are pretty standard:
love, loyalty, trust, connection.
All great and very important qualities in any relationship. However, there is one aspect of the relationship that is frequently overlooked - that is, having fun. An exciting, new, shared experience that fosters feelings of “we-ness," and romance.
Unfortunately, many couples forget how rewarding and necessary fun is in their relationship. They may feel like there is no time for fun or fun is something for the kids, However, doing things that are fun, especially engaging in new, enjoyable activities is one of the best ways for couples to increase feelings of love and connection.
Think about when you first started dating. You felt butterflies and excitement when you saw each other. What helped build those feelings up? The two of you sharing experiences together for the first time. It felt as if the world was yours to discover as a new team. However, as time went on, you fell into a routine and somewhere along the line doing new things and having fun got deprioritized. As a result, those feelings of excitement and newness faded.
But, they don’t have to.
Even if you are a long-term couple, you can intentionally bring those feelings back into your relationship and relive the excitement of falling in love. How? Trying something new together!
Why doing something new together works
Feelings of Newness and Excitement Make Us Feel In Love
If you speak with people who have had affairs, they will tell you what made it so thrilling was the feeling of newness. That feeling of excitement is extremely rewarding and often gets overlooked in long-term relationships.
Trying a fun, new activity with your partner can bring back that feeling of exhilaration in a very powerful way. Doing something new together puts you back in that “getting to know each other” phase and lets you discover new parts of yourself and your partner. Couples that feel in love over the long-term are couples that make a habit of learning new things about each other. Sharing a new experience is a great platform for such learning to happen.
Fun Cushions Us from Stress
When you intentionally focus on positive interactions in your relationship you are setting an overall positive tone between you and your partner. Your relationship becomes a pleasant place to be. During hard or stressful times you know your relationship is "good" and the stressor is just something temporary you can work through.
How do you create that kind of positive environment?
By setting up different types of positive interactions;
- date nights
- expressing appreciation
- scheduling times to connect
- updating your love maps.
- planning and having a fun, new experience
The new experience creates something to look forward to and reminds you that stressors don’t define your relationship.
Sharing in New Experiences Helps Us Learn About Each other
Doing something new together takes you and your partner though a learning curve together. Whether you're taking a cooking class, going to a museum, or trying a Zumba class, you are in it and experiencing it for the first time together. You get to see and share vulnerable parts of yourselves that may not come out so often in daily life.
When you’ve been with your partner for awhile you may start to put them in a box and think “he always does this this way and that that way, I know how he’ll react.” However, your assumptions may often be incorrect. (Yes, it's true). Going through the learning curve together can break your partner out of that box you put him in. It can bring in an element of surprise and an opportunity to deepen your connection by learning about each others' reactions in a new situation.
Teamwork Makes the Dream Work
Doing something new and crossing items off your bucket list actually makes your relationship good at making your dreams come true. When you work together to prioritize the thing you dream of doing, the adventures you dream of having, and then do them together, that is the ultimate act of teamwork. You are communicating to each other that your dreams are important and you want to work together to achieve them. What gives you a deeper sense of love than that?
So, here is your “homework” for the week: sit down with your partner, think of a bucket list item you can do in the next two weeks (think of something simple and accessible, like taking a cooking class together), set a time for it, put it on the calendar, book it, get excited, and then go do it!
Let us know how it went in the comment below!
Marina Voron, MA, LMFT is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, Co-Founder, and Clinical Director of Nassau Wellness. Marina believes all couples have the power to form a loving and lasting relationship given the right tools. Marina specializes in couples therapy, sex therapy, emotional affairs, anxiety, and communication issues. Read more...