Marriage is hard work. It may even be the hardest work a lot of us have ever done. Nobody ever tells you that tying the knot also means agreeing to the never-ending work of tending to this relationship.
Sounds fun, right? Well, it actually can be, if you know what things to do as a couple that can deepen your connection and intimacy.
Part of being married or being in a long-term committed relationship is embracing the idea that, in order to grow as a couple, you’ll both have to put in some work. That work may be having difficult conversations and confronting challenges, but it can also be creating opportunities for fun, adventure and even greater intimacy in marriage.
It takes energy to tend to each other just as it takes energy to move through disagreements, but it’s important to think about what things you can do as a couple to keep your marriage exciting and interesting.
How do you show each other appreciation? This is work, too, and it can be easily pushed aside when your lives get busy. You accept the status quo because other things — like work or family stressors — demand your immediate attention.
But when this happens, the potential to neglect your relationship and cause disconnection grows.
Of course, you know that you can also drift apart from your partner when you have a disagreement, or you feel upset or annoyed with them. When you’re upset with a partner, you often seem to discover even more annoying things about them that you never noticed before.
On top of the issue you’ve been arguing about, all of a sudden you’re aware of how they never put their shoes away, how loudly they chew or breathe, or how long they take in the shower. The small things start to add up and, before we know it, it’s all we can focus on.
A lot of people are going through a difficult time in their marriage or relationship. And while they lead busy lives, they do love each other and want to find ways to reconnect and enjoy being together again.
Here are 3 things to do as a couple that will bring you closer together and improve the intimacy your marriage:
1. Look through old photos together.
Looking through pictures of old vacations or fun moments and talking through your favorite parts together is an easy way to reconnect. By sharing funny stories and loving memories together, you’ll evoke love and affection.
Even if you take a moment to just think about a fun time you had with your partner in your own mind, you might notice a smile on your face. This can be a quick way to generate warmth for your partner.
2. Appreciate each other daily.
Keep a daily appreciation list of your partner (and have your partner keep one of you!) and read it to yourself every night before bed for one week. It can list anything they did that made you happy or helped you, from unloading the dishwasher, to making dinner, to asking questions about your day, to texting to check in.
Anything you can think of, write it down. Notice that the list is getting longer each day. Maybe “unloading the dishwasher” appears a few times during the week, but isn’t that nice? Sometimes you don’t notice the small gestures your partner does to take care of you. Writing it down, even if you’re noting the same thing several times, can help with appreciation.
After a week of doing this exercise, you can sit down and share your lists with each other. It can feel nice to tell your partner all the good things you noticed about them over the week, and of course it feels nice to hear your awesomeness in return.
Some couples enjoy this exercise so much that they take the 30-day challenge and keep their lists for a month. By the end of it, they find it easier to notice how much their partner does for them, and the little annoyances that were once taking up a lot of brain space no longer loom so large.
3. Tell each other your love story.
Talk about how you remember meeting each other, recount your first dates, discuss when you noticed each other for the first time, and talk about when you realized you felt supported by them. Just like in the photo exercise, talking about positive memories can create togetherness. Sometimes couples will set aside time to do this during dinner or before bed.
The more you talk about and think about fond memories, the easier it is for more positive feelings to show up.
It’s often easier to focus on how annoying your partner is rather than on why you love them. It’s human nature to focus on the negative. These exercises can help you focus your attention on the positive aspects of your partner.
Just as those negative thoughts and feelings reinforce each other, the more you focus on how nice your partner is, the more you rekindle your love for them. These things to do as a couple might not resolve some hard issues you two are working on, but it can help you move through challenging times with more ease.
In order to sustain intimacy in marriage, it needs constant tending to, like a fire. You have to keep your eye on it to keep it going. So no matter what issues you’re going through, it can help to take time to reflect, focus on some positives, keep track of each other’s successes, and reconnect.