What’s the secret of a happy relationship? There’s the ‘big stuff’ like commitment and communication, but there are also very simple rituals that can build your bond and even rekindle romance and intimacy.
While these rituals can’t save a relationship that has serious problems—no amount of hand-holding can fix the pain caused by chronic cheating—it can get couples back into the groove. As they say, marriage is the art of falling in love with the same person over and over again. These can help.
1. Go to bed at the same time.
Like many couples, you’re probably so busy that you work or do errands late into the night. Even after going home, you do household chores, tuck the kids into bed, or bring home files from the office. You’re technically ‘together’ under the same roof, but you’re doing different things.
One way to fix this is to agree to go to bed at the same time. This gives you at least a few minutes to talk, cuddle, or lie quietly side by side. The skin-to-skin contact may also just inspire you to do a little more than that, wink wink.
2. Share a hobby or interest.
We’re not saying that you should do everything together—people are unique, and having your own hobbies and group of friends is important too (everyone needs space!). But do try to have at least one common interest. It can be as simple as playing tennis every Saturday, watching plays at the local theater, or sharing a common love for horror films.
3. Hold hands while walking
Many couples fall into the habit of one person walking ahead, while the other lags behind with the kids. But there’s a certain sweetness in holding hands, or at least keeping the same pace so you can lean over and comment about something you’ve seen, or just quietly lean towards each other, enjoying each other’s company and presence.
4. Say one nice thing a day.
It’s easy to focus on the things your partner does wrong. ‘You forgot to fill the gas tank again!’ or ‘Why is it so hard to put your dirty clothes in the hamper?’
Try actively looking for what your partner does right. ‘Thank you for putting the kids to bed tonight, I appreciated it.’ Or, ‘You look great in that shirt. It brings out the color in your eyes.’
The compliments will make your partner happy (and may inspire him to give you compliments, too). But more importantly it helps you appreciate him more, every day and in every way—and that will keep your love alive.
5. Mind your manners!
Sometimes we treat strangers or friends better than we treat our partners! We’d never forget to say please, thank you, or good morning/evening to others—so let’s give him the same courtesy. Little phrases like ‘Have a good day at work!’ or even better, ‘I love you!’ can really help boost his spirits and help him feel good about himself and you.
And do this even when you’re annoyed at your partner or in a bad mood. You may not be feeling sweet, but you can still say ‘Good night’ or ‘Enjoy your day at the office.’ It sends the message that even if you disagree, your relationship is stronger and more important than any small thing that you’re fighting about.
6. Check in on each other during the day
Even on a crazy, busy day you can still call or send a text message. ‘How are you?’ or ‘Miss you!’ or ‘How’s your day going?’ It’s sweet, and it also gives you an idea of what’s happening to your partner—and understand his mood and needs when he gets home. For example, if he tells you that his boss just yelled at him or he’s freaking out over deadlines, then you won’t take it personally if he isn’t talkative during dinner.
7. Give little ‘gifts.’.
Don’t wait until your anniversary, birthday or Valentine’s Day to give your partner special tokens. It’s nice to get something ‘just because I love you.’ It doesn’t have to be an expensive gift. Leave a card in his brief case, bake his favorite cookies, or buy a book that you know that he’ll like and surprise him when you know he’s having a bad day.
8. Make time for dates.
This can be hard when you’ve got young kids or are both busy at work, but find a way or make a way. Have breakfast together, send naughty messages to each other — just some date ideas for busy couples. The most crucial thing, however, is for you to treat this “meeting” as you would any other: honor the appointment, and when a boss or a relative tries to steal that time, simply say: “I have to meet an important partner.” Which is actually true.