After receiving some feedback from my previous post, I heard a few ask me one question that seemed present for their relationship at this time. In fact, it’s a question I am asked quite often. How do I keep the excitement in my relationship?
I’ll be honest, there isn’t a simple answer and it varies from one relationship to the next. However, I feel it starts with taking an honest look at the status of your relationship in the moment. Take inventory of the ways that your relationship has changed since the beginning. How has it evolved? We all know that feeling that we are chasing and of course, it does change over time as we become more comfortable, acquainted, and settled in our relationship. However, that doesn’t mean that “spark” should die out. Here are just a few things (and there are several more) that researchers have discovered contribute to relationship satisfaction and keeping that “spark” alive:
Self-disclosure (Hendrick, 1981) – Self disclosure is incredibly important and maintaining self-disclosure is imperative for long term relationship satisfaction. As Hendrick discovered, disclosing aspects of our personal selves with our partner allows us to feel an intimate, close connection. What are the things that you only share with your partner? Hopefully, you are able to name a few. I find that I am great at keeping a secret. However, if you ask me to refrain from sharing something with my partner, I find that it is incredibly hard for me to do! I appreciate self-disclosure and feeling as though I can share all aspects of myself with my partner (the good, bad, and yes, even the ugly) allows me to feel close to him.
Attitude similarity (Hendrick, 1981) – We have often heard conflictual messages regarding relationships and partner similarity. For example, you might hear people say “birds of a feather flock together” while at times you will also hear “opposites attract.” So, which is it? Well, according to Hendrick (1981), attitude similarity is predictive of relationship satisfaction. Decuyper (2011) looked even further and found that it is not how similar a couple is that predicts satisfaction but it is instead how the couple perceives their level of similarity. Interesting! So, look towards your partner and find ways in which you align. How are you similar with regards to goals, beliefs, attitudes, personality? Find ways that you share in your attitudes.
Sexual satisfaction – Couples that are able to connect intimately and have an open, honest dialogue about their sexual relationship have increased satisfaction and can actively work toward keeping their sexual relationship exciting. Open sexual communication has been closely linked to overall relationship satisfaction, particularly for males (Montesi, et al., 2010). Take time to think about what you are needing from your partner regarding your sexual relationship. Are you feeling fulfilled or is there something needing to be communicated?
Communication skills and resulting emotional intimacy (Alipour, 2020) – Okay. So this one is of no surprise if you have read any of my previous blog posts. Communication is central to a healthy, functional, and fulfilling relationship. If trying to keep your relationship exciting, communicate the ways in which you feel most connected and intimate. Share your memories of the times when you first met and how they made you feel. Talk about what aspects of your partner gets you most excited and flirtatious.
Similar perceptions on the division of housework and childrearing (Yogev, 1085) – Around the time relationship satisfaction starts to lower is also generally the same time that couples start being faced with difficult life tasks such as managing a home and raising children. Couples who have similar perceptions of how housework should be divided tend to feel better regarding their overall relationship satisfaction. However, this is not to say that couples who feel differently are doomed! This is just another opportunity to communicate. Talk with your partner about how chores and responsibilities should be divided and come to a mutual agreement. The more smoothly those responsibilities flow, the easier it is for you and your partner to get back to those “early day” feelings.
Travel and shared new experiences (Cai, Wang, & Zhang, 2019) – When you think back on the start of your relationship, everything you did as a couple was a new experience that the two of you were able to share. Over time, we all fall in to routine. Excitement at times requires a sense of newness and change. Cai and colleagues (2019) were able to study the effectiveness of leisure travel and found that is it associated with heightened relationship satisfaction. Although our current state of affairs might make it difficult to hop on a plane, what new activity might you and your partner do together? How can you both have a new experience together even if you are both such at home?