Our lives are jam-packed with responsibilities—between jugging the demands of work, family, and friends, it can seem almost impossible to make time to engage in hobbies or to spend quality time with loved ones. Often times, we take our closest relationships for granted and put them on the back burner while we attend to seemingly more important tasks. This decision is not without consequences, though, as research shows that the quality of close personal relationships decreases when partners neglect to have fun together. As a couples’ therapist, I often ask my clients “How do you have fun together?” and watch as they struggle to recall the last date night they had, and witness how difficult it can be to plan to engage in an activity together. Making time to nurture your relationship and share your interests with your partner can set you on the path to reconnecting and having fun together again. Here are some ideas to get your creative juices flowing when it comes to reconnecting with your partner.
Watch TV together. We are in the age of binge-watching shows on Netflix and a study published in 2017 showed that couples who made a date to watch TV together reported happier relationships. Researchers say that this is because couples that have a shared social world are more likely to hold similar identities, which promotes feelings of intimacy and love. By sharing the experience of watching a show together, partners are exposed to each other’s inner thoughts and feelings about a variety of topics. You can enhance the experience and reap the relational benefits by asking your partner’s opinion about interesting plot points, characters, or situations, and by sharing your own!
Spend time with shared friends. Research spanning back to the 90s shows that couples who share a friend group are more likely to stay together. Couples with shared friends report greater intimacy, optimism, commitment, and satisfaction with their relationship. When thinking back to how you and your partner first got together, there are likely some shared interests or hobbies that you can identify that sparked your connection. It’s likely that your closest friends share some of those same pastimes as well, so visiting with them can remind couples about their common interests and rekindle those feelings of affection.
Engage in pillow talk. The afterglow of sex is a great time to capitalize on your feelings of physical intimacy to cultivate deeper emotional intimacy with your partner. New findings on couples’ post-sex behaviors show that individuals who experience an orgasm during sexual contact are more likely to open up to their partner and share private thoughts afterwards. This disclosure of feelings and the expression of emotion at a time when partners are feeling connected can contribute to even stronger feelings of closeness because it indicates that partners feel a sense of safety with one another.