While your connection with your partner is a serious thing, you don’t have to go about it in a serious way. Being playful and silly with each other is powerful. So is engaging in exciting activities together.
According to research, sharing novel, highly exciting experiences with each other can dramatically improve your relationship. “The novelty gets the brain’s reward chemicals of dopamine and norepinephrine flowing, repeating the factors present in the early stages of falling in love and bonding,” said Susan Lager, LICSW, a psychotherapist specializing in couples work at her private practice The Couples Center PLLC, in Portsmouth, N.H.
She also stressed the importance of activities that focus on sharing and teamwork, along with “open, expansive conversations,” which can become a significant source of connection.
Below are seven fun ideas for connecting with your partner on a regular basis. Some are super simple, and others take a bit more effort.
Certified Imago Relationship therapist Lena Aburdene Derhally, MS, LPC, suggested couples cook together, because it lets you work as a team. You might make a meal at home, while playing your favorite music. Or you might participate in a cooking class.
Take turns creating mystery dates.
Lager suggested each partner serve as the “Fun Captain,” planning a mystery date for next week or month. When you’re the “Fun Captain,” pay attention to your partner’s ideas about intriguing activities and places, and incorporate those preferences into your date, she said.
For instance, maybe your spouse mentioned that they’d like to explore a new seaside town. So you find a great place to eat lunch, a pretty park to explore and an art gallery you know they’ll love.
Also, be sure to take care of things, such as reservations, tickets or scheduling a babysitter, if needed, she said. This way your partner doesn’t have to do any “work.” Keep your agenda a secret, only telling your partner what they might want to wear, she said.
“Through these experiences you’ll exercise your empathy muscles as you imagine and plan activities both of you will enjoy.”
Consider the arts.
Derhally suggested taking a dance class together, such as ballroom or salsa. Take an improv comedy class, or go to a murder mystery dinner, she said. Other ideas include taking classes on painting, pottery-making or photography.
Try the “jar exercise.”
Lager, also a self-help author and BlogTalk Radio host, created this exercise to help couples focus on novelty and surprise. Basically, each partner has their own jar of different activities.
To create your jar, write down on a small piece of paper a new, seasonal activity you’d enjoy doing. “It might be kayaking on a new river in the summer, or a winter hike in an unfamiliar woodland area.” Fold your paper, and place it inside your own jar. Then take turns picking mystery activities from each other’s jar.
You also can use this exercise for physical touch, “another important source of connection,” Lager said. “The key thing here would be for each to honor the other’s fantasy regarding what type of touch in what physical context would feel safe and fun.”
Throw a PJ party.
This tip is from Robyn D’Angelo, a licensed marriage and family therapist and The Happy Couple Expert, who helps people all over the globe create epic relationships that last. Buy some of your favorite treats. Put on your favorite tunes. And don’t discuss how much or how little either of you will be wearing to your PJ party, she said. “[Y]ou just might be pleasantly surprised.”
“Curiosity allows you to learn new things about each other—your respective desires, memories and dreams,” Lager said. “Having a partner witness your inner world in this way enhances intimacy and connection.”
She encourages couples to ask each other open-ended questions once a week—in a private, peaceful space, without their digital devices. Make sure that your questions don’t focus on problems or chores. “Envision these conversations as a two person, ongoing journey of intimate exploration, not one of solution-focused issues.”
Lager shared these sample questions:
- What TV shows, books or movies do you enjoy? Why?
- What dreams do you have for your life?
- What do you enjoy most about your friends and family?
- What’s on your bucket list?
- What brings you meaning and joy?
- What made you laugh the most this week?
- What’s your naughtiest fantasy?
- What famous person would you like to have dinner with? Why?
Use technology for creative ideas.
Technology can often chip away at your bond. But you can use websites and apps to strengthen your connection—rather than tearing you apart as one partner checks email, and the other texts about something they’ll only forget minutes later.
D’Angelo suggested using the app Karaoke Anywhere at home, on a road trip or in your hotel room. It’s certainly a fun way to serenade your partner.
You might remember the game MASH, which stood for Mansion, Apartment, Shack, House. As she explained, “This game was like palm reading and tarot cards for kids: You found out where you’d live, which crush of yours you’d marry, the kind of car you drove and how many kids you’d have. Today, it’s a silly game you can play online with your partner.
There are so many fun, fascinating ways you can cultivate your connection with your partner. Use this list as a jump start to come up with other creative ideas together. And remember that while all relationships take work, that “work” can often include having a great time.