Even happy couples can benefit from paying a little extra attention to each other. “If you don’t tend relationships, they wither and die. You’re either green and growing or you’re ripe and rotting. It’s really that simple,” Barton Goldsmith, psychotherapist and relationship counselor, tells Life Reimagined.
So even if you feel your bond with your sweetie is strong, Goldsmith has advice. “Really good research shows that couples who do new things together have more successful relationships.” Investing just a few minutes a day to focus on the two of you can significantly lessen any negative energy that you may feel. Here are Goldsmith’s easy and quick hacks to get (and stay) closer to the one you love.
The un-plan. Pick one weekend morning to go somewhere that’s new to both of you. “Just get in the car, flip a coin and pick a direction to drive,” explains Goldsmith. “Then when you find something that looks interesting, stop and check it out. Have lunch and keep going if you like, but try to take a different route home.” It’s all about breaking routine and creating a new experience together.
“Just get in the car, flip a coin and pick a direction to drive. It’s all about breaking routine and creating a new experience together.”
Backward hug. Stand back-to-back and hold hands. Feel your partner from this new perspective. “Talk about what sensations you have and what emotions come up,” says Goldsmith. “Just a few minutes is enough to get to know another side of your partner.” Yes, it’s weird, Goldsmith admits, but it’s also fun. “It’s going to make you giggle and squirm a little, and when you’re squirming holding hands, back-to-back, butt-to-butt, it’s a little bit sexy and a little bit funny—just a little game that only couples can play together. It’s going to last a few minutes, that’s it. And who knows what’s going to happen afterward, maybe nothing, maybe a lot.”
Surprise, surprise! Tell your partner to mark the calendar for a specific weekend months in advance, but don’t say why. “Anticipation is the best part of a surprise,” says Goldsmith. “Make reservations at a B&B, even if it’s only for one night.” Wondering for months what the surprise might be adds to the enjoyment. But there is a caveat. Choose something your partner will actually enjoy, not something you’ve been dying to do. (Don’t be like my friend who told his wife he was taking her to dinner and a show for their anniversary. She was all dressed up as they pulled up to a stadium—the “show” was the traveling RV extravaganza, and “dinner” was at the hot dog stand.) “If you’re not sure, check with a friend or relative,” says Goldsmith.
Your future times two. Sit facing each other, holding hands. With eyes closed, picture your future together for three or four minutes, then open your eyes and share what each of you saw. Now repeat the exercise using your partner’s images and share where that took you. “This can offer amazing insights to what you both want for yourselves and each other,” says Goldsmith.
What if you want different futures? Don’t panic, says Goldsmith. “Better you figure it out now than 10 years from now. You’ve got to know you’re on the same page, and if you’re not, you need to make adjustments.” If you are off-track with your partner, “it may scare you initially,” says Goldsmith. “The only thing scarier would be to let your lives go on when you’re both looking at different directions.”
Magic touch. Whenever and wherever you pass each other in the house, always extend a hand and touch each other, says Goldsmith. “It can be a fun high-five or a sensual hand on the small of your back as you slide by your lover in the hallway. It will enhance your emotional intimacy and inspire greater physical closeness.”
Torch song. This one might require a little more than 10 minutes, but it’s guaranteed to get you a standing ovation. “Write your partner a song and sing it to her. Don’t worry that you’re not the American Idol. It’s your action that will make it a number one hit for her,” says Goldsmith. Can’t sing? Write a poem. Writer’s block? Find an existing poem or a beautiful quote. Really, anything creative that you make—a drawing, a floral arrangement—will please your partner. And don’t forget the importance of handwritten love notes, says Goldsmith. “Texts are great, emails, but that handwritten note you find in your pocket, it doesn’t get any better than that.”