9 research-backed tips to bring back excitement into your relationships.
Updated: May 27, 2021
Been together for a while and need some ideas to reignite the fire? And no, it doesn't include a pretend ha-douken.
My wife and I just celebrated our two year wedding anniversary.
Congrats to us! I took her out for a teppanyaki lunch at Shima, and in the evening we headed to the River Safari to adore the Giant Pandas and Manatees. The little Red Pandas were so darn bloody cute. Watching them chitter about snacking on leaves made my hardened old heart melt just a little.
Celebration day asides, in a short span of two years, we've seen many days where we would fall into routine. She would go do her favourite thing in the world (watch television), while I would be out playing basketball and the like. Still, we try our best to do many exciting things together and keep the spark of being a relatively newly wedded couple glowing.
While thinking about this article, I can't imagine what our marriage would look like twenty or thirty years down the road. Would we fall into the trap of staleness and boredom with each other? Will we run out of new and exciting things to do together?
Are your relationships getting stale?
The beauty of a new relationship. It's so novel and exciting to get to know a completely new human being. There is so much to learn about the other person - what does he or she like to do, what kind of music do they listen to, what books to they read, what kind of activities gives them the thrill.
After some time though, the novelty of a relationship will inevitably wear off. It might seem like there's not much else to know about the other person, or maybe curiousity about each other has even tapered off.
It's expected of all things good in life - our brains adapt to pleasant and novel things. The things that make us excited in the past now make us feel bored and unfulfilled. The same thing would happen if my wife and I started going to the River Safari every weekend. Even the Red Pandas might become a little meh.
"No I won't!"
However, if that describes you and your partner, it can feel like you're stuck in a bit of a rut. You probably don't need any research to tell you this, but marital satisfaction usually declines after just the early years of marriage.
Bringing back the excitement through novel activities.
Psychologist Arthur Aron and colleagues (2000) found that doing exciting activities together can bring back a source of newness and excitement. Spending time doing activities outside of your routine can make your relationships feel more satisfying again.
Trying out new things promotes a sense of self-expansion. You discover new experiences otherwise hidden in plain sight. You discover new strengths and new challenges that you've never been tested on before.
All these promote many positive emotions, and when you do them together with a partner, you actually subconsciously link those positive emotions with the other person. The relationship becomes exhilarating again, especially when you try out new activities that require patience, cooperation and connection with each other.
Start compiling a list of exciting activities to do together. Here are 9 tips.
Arthur Aron and colleague's marital research suggests that you and your partner should spend at least one and half hours each week doing exciting and novel activities. From the 10 tips below, try and think of at least five to ten new activities that you both can engage in.
Choose challenging ones, as it adds interest and the progressive momentum to stay engaged with the activity.
1) Explore new hobbies, sports and activities together.
Start by thinking about some new activities you can do together. What are some potentially interesting sports, hobbies, classes that you can do together? How about learning to dance or picking up the guitar? Maybe you do the chords while your partner strums? No, that's a terrible idea. Just get one guitar and take turns playing.
My wife and I have gotten into the new hobby of stand-up paddleboarding. We head out to Sentosa on Sundays and just spend time out in the ocean. It's beautiful! Besides this, we've been playing a few board games at home while doing some jig-saw puzzles together.
2) Go out on an adventure.
When was the last time you went out, explored and got lost together? Why not start exploring a new neighbourhood. Yes, I know Singapore is small but are you sure you've exhausted every single neighbourhood in the country?
My wife and I recently fell in love with the east side (we stay central-north). We've spend many wonderful weekends just wandering around Katong. We've even took our dogs there for a walkabout.
You could try going out together and having a little game of noticing curious things in the environment. Walk around a neighbourhood and pick out a funny house sign, statue or weird-looking tree that piques your curiousity. Maybe even go out for a swim in the ocean together; or try hiking or biking around the many reservoirs or park connectors in Singapore.
3) Spice things up with some spontaneity.
When I first started dating my wife, I was all about being spontaneous. One of our first dates was when I brought her out for a surprise picnic at botanic gardens, all inclusive of premium snacks (salted-egg fish skin) and a bottle of cabernet sauvignon.
Nowadays, the most spontaneous thing I've done lately is to order something other than the usual hawker or zichar food on Deliveroo. Oh man, I'm in trouble.
I've got to learn this too, but try surprising your partner and be unpredictable at times. Surprise them by picking them up for work, or take them for dinner at a restaurant they've been talking about. There's no end to the number of ideas you can come up with.
If you cherish your relationship, spend a bit of time coming up with different surprise ideas.
4) Relive the good old memories.
Remember the times when you and your partner would just meet up without a specific plan and simply enjoy hanging out? What were some of the things you both did when you first started dating? How long has it been since you relived them?
When I first started dating my wife, I took her to Sentosa. A lot. So much so that before I met her parents, they gave me the monicker "Sentosa Boy". We would just head to Sentosa, enjoy walking around and exploring, occasionally splurge on the luge or cable car.
It's high time we revisited this again.
My wife and I on the Sentosa Cable car in one of our early dates.
5) Be romantic again.
Guys, when was the last time you bought your wife or partner flowers? Were they only for a special occasion? Why not surprise them and bring flowers home for no reason.
Ladies, the onus isn't just on the guys too. You can be romantic as well. Buy them a little present or surprise them by taking your partner to his favourite restaurant, or even put on his favourite movie to netflix and chill together.
Cook each other a meal, prepare a candlelight dinner. Heck, there are so many ideas out there, you don't need to hear this from a boring psychologist!
6) Be passionate physically.
Ooh now this is getting saucy, but when talking about relighting the fire it's not an area we can skip.
I'll spare you any examples from our personal lives, but some examples from the positive psychology research institute which formed the basis of this article suggests exploring various kissing techniques. Have you tried the Australian? These researchers even suggest making love three night in a row in three different places!
7) Simply be intimate.
What are the simple things you can do together to bring together closeness? For example, you could try having a shower together, giving each other a foot or head massage, or spending time cuddling in bed for a while each morning.
Intimacy doesn't always have to physical either. Think along the lines of reading a book together, telling each other stories about what happened during your day, cooking a meal together.
Reserve some time outside of your busy schedules to practice intimacy.
8) Try out some role-playing.
Here's another one from the same research institute that I can't help but find cringe-worthy. However, research is research and if the results point to a good thing, we should try to pay attention.
One of the less cringe-y examples I can think of is to simply pretend you're on your first date. Meet each other at an intimate setting like a dim-lit bar. Ask each other to share something about themselves that you or your other half might not know about.
I'm sure you can think of a few even after all these years!
Heck if you want to, go all out! Pretend you are James Bond and a Bond girl; a boss and an employee; two strangers at a bar; or even Phua Chu Kang and Dolly?
9) Draw up a gameplan together.
This last one is simple. Except for the surprise bits, which you should keep to yourself of course, list down all the activities you and your partner have come up with. Take the time to brainstorm together and jot them down.
Go so far as to set aside a specific date and time and place for each, and make sure you do them!
Remember, this is all from research! And research says stepping out of your routines and practicing these new and novel activities together will help you bring back some excitement and quality time into your relationships!
Hope you enjoyed this simple Positive Psychology idea for your relationships. If you like this, please do share it around. Till the next time, Hernping.