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September 17, 2022 — 9:32 AM
Whether you’ve been together for two months or 20 years, coming up with date ideas and ways to nurture your connection can feel a little tricky. Let’s be real: There are only so many times that dinner and a movie can hit the spot.
“We are a species that loves variety when it comes to romance,” couples’ counselor Deborah Fox, LCSW, wrote previously for mbg. “When it comes to planning a date night, what’s most important is to do something different. We need routine to feel secure, and we need novelty to make us feel alive.”
So, here, we’ve gathered a long list of bonding activities you can use to improve your relationship and a bunch of fun date ideas.
Things to do to improve your relationship:
1. Learn each other’s love languages.
Therapist Kiana Shelton, LCSW, suggests taking time to do a love languages quiz together. “Many often say that they want their partner to show up in the relationship like they do,” she says. “However, when it comes to how we show love, what better way to show your partner they are truly seen than to love them in their true love language?”
2. Have a nightly sharing routine.
Another tip courtesy of Shelton is to set aside time every night to reflect on the day together. She recommends using the acronym GLAD to help guide your conversation:
- Grateful: Name one thing you each are grateful for.
- Learned: Name one thing you each learned today.
- Accomplished: Name one thing you each accomplished.
- Delight: Name one thing that made you each smile today.
This is a handy way to end the day in reflection and learn a little more about what your partner has been going through.
Great relationships start with great sleep.*
Couples’ therapist Katie Wenger, LCSW, suggests having a shared journal where you can candidly share your thoughts and feelings with your partner. Sometimes it’s easier to write things down than to say them out loud. By journaling together, you’ll get a deeper insight into your partner’s mind, which can help to bring you closer.
It sounds odd, but doing an activity with a fear factor makes people feel closer, as it can trigger oxytocin, the bonding hormone, after we “survive” a scary or exhilarating activity. It’s even more helpful when you and your partner are on the same team. Try an escape room or haunted house to get the blood pumping and feel safer with your love, says Tiffany N. Lindley, M.S., LPC-S, CCATP, NCC.
Creativity is another way to nurture bonding in a relationship, according to Lindley Going through the steps of planning and executing a project is a way for couples to practice communication and conflict resolution while building trust and collaboration. If you live together, building something that is useful and represents you both can be a reminder of the commitment and friendship that bind you together. Some examples are furniture, a collaborative art piece, or even a garden, she suggests.
6. Make a playlist together.
Music can be such a source of bonding for couples, so lean into this by sitting down to make a playlist together. Include all your favorites from your time together and play it when you’re taking drives together or puttering around the house together. It’s sure to engender all sorts of warm feelings inside.
Going on vacation together gives you the chance to create new memories as well as work on how to handle being in an unfamiliar space together. A successful holiday will give your relationship a massive confidence boost! “Many things could happen while you and your partner are in a new place: getting lost, having to compromise on things like food, sleep, and more,” says certified sex therapist Aliyah Moore, Ph.D. “So, if you both can navigate these difficulties without a squabble, your relationship is sure to last.”
OK, hear us out! Laundry can be romantic if you’re intentional about it, according to counselor Kresence Campbell, M.A., LPC, NCC. “Laundry can pile up and become a daunting task. When completing it together, it gives couples time to talk without distraction,” she explains. “It can also help to increase the feeling of being able to rely on your partner and knowing they will show up for you.”
The couples that go to the gym together win together! Or something like that. Being physically active as a pair not only helps you to stick more easily to your training goals, but it’s also a great way to strengthen your bond as you can encourage each other and support each other through those last few situps or laps of the pool.
“Make an aspirational dream map for yourself and then share it with your partner. Then design an integrated aspirational dream map as a couple,” suggests marriage and family therapist Dena DiNardo, LMFT.
What exactly is a dream map? DiNardo says it’s a map that includes short-term goals (like what you hope for tomorrow, next week, and this month), medium-length goals (the next six months to a year), and long-term goals (dreams for the next five, 10, or even 15 years).
“Ask each other questions about why certain goals are there, what they mean to each other, what values they represent,” DiNardo adds. “Ask for and offer feedback to each other about how you can be supportive to each other in reaching these goals.”
11. Ask each other deep questions.
“Asking meaningful questions to each other is a great bonding activity that couples can do together,” says Moore. The opportunity here is that partners can tell each other how they feel about certain things while being respectful to each other and without taking it personally. This helps you both to compromise easily and understand each other better.
12. Rekindle your intimacy.
It’s all too easy for intimacy to fall by the wayside after a while together. Make sure that you make time not just for sex but for those small kisses, touches, and hugs that help to bring you together. Couples who stay connected in these ways might have an easier time bridging other kinds of distances when they come up. “These activities help rediscover closeness as a couple and give new meaning to your relationship,” says Moore, adding, “Do not think [too] much [about] if your body has changed or aged. You can explore each other through intimate physical connections. Even scheduling sex can do wonders in bringing you and your partner closer.”
13. Try a sexual meditation.
A sexual meditation is a meditation practice that focuses on sensuality and connection with your partner. By opening up to each other and being present and focused, you can radically grow your intimacy, suggests Tara Suwinyattichaiporn, Ph.D. Check out mbg’s guides to tantric sex and orgasmic meditation.
14. Relationship trivia night.
Another suggestion from Suwinyattichaiporn is to create 10 questions and multiple-choice answers about yourself and host a trivia night about each other. This can foster a great connection and be fun for both partners. You might even learn something new about them!
(mbg also has this convenient couples’ quiz to test how well you know each other.)
15. Write an appreciation list.
Write down a list of 10 things you admire and appreciate about your partner. This is a great way for you to remember why you love each other and all the things that attracted you together in the first place. Reading the lists to each other afterward can be beautifully romantic and strengthen your bond.
“Select three pictures from an earlier point in your life, before you met your partner, and share as much as you can about that time of your life, what the picture represents, who took it, where you were, what you do and don’t remember about it, and how you feel looking at it now,” says DiNardo.
Make a deal with your partner to designate time away from all devices together. “Taking time away to spend with each other, uninterrupted by notifications about things that don’t really matter, can help you connect and get closer,” says couples’ therapist Kyle Zrenchik, Ph.D., ACS, LMFT, of the ALLIN Therapy Clinic in Minneapolis. “Long, rich, good conversations can really help couples fall more deeply in love.”
Make the most of nighttime’s intimate and romantic vibe by stargazing together. Sit on the back deck or spread out a blanket on the grass. “Finding a place where the stars are visible can be a great way to slow down, shut off, catch a shooting star/comet, and connect in the silence,” says Zrenchik.
- Have a romantic picnic in the park.
- Have a two-person book club.
- Cook a meal together.
- Go skinny dipping.
- Get a couple’s massage.
- Meet up in a bar and pretend to be strangers.
- Plan a day trip—and actually do it!
- Take a hike in nature.
- Take a ceramics class together.
- Go to a wine-tasting event.
- Get your auras read together.
- Take an interesting workshop together.
- Go foraging for edible plants or fruit.
- Be tourists in your own city.
- Go to a concert.
- Go camping for a night or two.
- Write each other love letters and then read them aloud to each other.
- Have a beach day together.
- Create a treasure hunt for each other.
- Go on a double date with another couple.
- Go to an art museum.
- Take a couple’s yoga class.
- Take a long drive and talk.
- Learn shibari, a form of Japanese rope bondage, and tie each other up.
- Get an astrology reading to map your compatibility.
- Go to a petting zoo.
- Take a tantra class together.
“Doing something different, however commonplace the activity itself may seem, can lift up your spirits and put some energy back into your relationship,” Fox tells mbg.
Once we are lucky enough to find a partner, we need to be mindful about really giving them our attention and intimacy, even when life tries to get in the way. Date nights, bonding activities, and specially carved out time to connect can do wonders for the health of a relationship, no matter how long you’ve been together.