Making love last has long been a topic of interest for everyone from causal daters to married couples and marriage psychologists. We know that over time couples can lose that initial spark that drew them together in the first place. Even the person that you couldn’t keep your hands off of in the beginning becomes less enticing over time.
“Losing the passionate spark” boils down to science. There’s a physiological response to a new relationship that makes you feel quite literally on Cloud 9. It has to do with a hormone found in your brain called Oxytocin, also known as the love hormone. In 2012 study, researchers found that Oxytocin spikes for at least six months of a new relationship. After that time, you’ll probably start to notice the honeymoon phase come to an end and your once-heightened feelings of attraction for your significant other will be replaced with a more ordinary, even-keel feeling. This new relationship reality shouldn’t put you into panic mode. Instead, you should focus on ways to continue to strengthen your bond and grow your relationship.
Back in 1986, one of the prominent studies on marriage was done called “The Early Years of Marriage Project.” The study analyzed couples through their early years of marriage and, as a result, researchers were able to identify what contributed to happiness in a marriage and what caused stress in a marriage.
Study researcher, Dr. Terri Orbuch, found that one of the most important keys to a happy marriage was how cared for each individual felt in the relationship. “Doing or saying small things frequently to make your partner feel special, cared for, and loved … is very predictive of staying together, being happy, and [preventing] divorce,” she says.
Putting Dr. Orbuch’s research into practice means that you can strengthen your bond by making the little things count.
Here are five small actions you can take to strengthen your relationship and the bond you have with your spouse:
1. Make coffee for your special someone.
Or translate this action into something that your partner would appreciate. If she doesn’t like coffee, make tea instead. Or, if tennis is his thing, make a point to watch a match with him each week. These small actions take cognitive effort and help you build a deeper connection with someone.
“Making a partnership is about making moments, not about creating a lifestyle,” says Psychologist Dr. Cooper Lawrence. “Small things are easier to do, and if you string them together over the course of a day, week, or lifetime, what you have is a much larger message that speaks to your feelings towards the other person.”
2. Porch sit.
In established relationships, so much of our communication happens over daily household tasks like doing the dishes or cooking dinner and it’s easy for that type of environment to dictate the type of conversation you have about daily minutia things such as paying bills or taking care of other life necessities. Although these conversations are important, they don’t contribute to a happier partnership. What does, however, is communication that allows each of you to get to know one another better.
Whether you use the chairs on your back porch, go to the park and sprawl out on a blanket, or sit on your couch with the TV off, the key is to find something to talk about that helps your partner understand your core being.
3. Create a bucket list together.
Comedian Aziz Ansari wrote a book called “Modern Romance” in which he uncovered some important discoveries about modern relationships. He found several studies which concur that when couples participate in activities that are novel and exciting, they show an increase in relationship quality.
You may not be ready to bungee jump with your special someone just yet, but listing out what the two of you would like to experience together in the future is a fun way to create a shared vision for the future and learn more about each other.
4. Celebrate the milestone moments.
We go through life mostly checking off things on our to do list, solving problems, and dealing with mundane affairs, Too often we don’t celebrate our milestone moments, both big and small. However, it’s our milestone moments that make us the happiest and that keep us excited to keep pursuing our goals, ambitions, and dreams.
You can get closer to your partner by celebrating his or her life moments. And it’s fun to think creatively about how to celebrate these milestones. Anything goes— balloons filling the living room, a celebratory dinner, or a weekend gateway. It all counts. What matters most is your thoughtfulness and helping your partner take some time to be proud of the important milestones in his or her life.
5. Use technology the right way.
While technology can distract people from engaging in face-to-face interactions, it can be a helpful tool that brings us closer too. For example, when your partner sees something funny, he can snap a photo and send it to you. You can also build upon your intimacy while you’re apart by sending flirty text messages or a, “I’m just thinking about you,” selfie.
What other small actions can you imagine that will help you get beyond the surface and into a more personal, deeper space with your partner? This is the key to strengthening your bond and increasing the happiness in your relationship.