With summer in full swing, not only is it the perfect time to still squeeze in a summer vacation, but it’s also the perfect time to take care of matters of the heart and reassess your relationship. After all, sometimes your romantic relationship could use some freshening up and tender loving care. And, if you’re not in a long-term relationship, you’re not off the hook! If you’re casually dating and/or online dating and using apps like Tinder, this applies to you, too.
For instance, you can start to swipe smarter and be more judicious in not only people you match with, but also dates that you accept. Even though it may seem there are an endless number of matches out there, you don’t have an endless amount of time to talk to and meet with them all, particularly if your end goal is seeking a relationship with just one of them.
To help you reassess your relationship, no matter what stage of the relationship you happen to be in right now, I AM & CO spoke to experts for ideas.
1. Talk To Each Other
Any couple can be an expert in small talk, but when’s the last time you had a deeper conversation with your partner? “Small talk is a relationship killer,” says Justin Lavelle, Chief Communications Director for BeenVerified, the online background check platform. “Questions that can be answered with only one word should be used as little as possible, and certainly not used when greeting your partner after a long day of work.” Instead, he suggests asking open-ended questions, such as, “What happened today at work?” versus “How was your day?”
Plus, Lavelle says to try to incorporate something you heard your partner talk about last time you two had a work-related conversation. “Not only will you show that you are an active listener, but you may also learn something new about your significant other, something that keeps relationships fresh.” He also advises that couples share their emotional ups and downs with each other. “Don’t shut your partner out of your daily emotions,” he says.
Speaking of communication, in addition to talking to each other at the end of the day, Lavelle says it’s good to stay in touch throughout the day, too, to remind your significant other you’re thinking about them. “Connect throughout the day — do not wait until after work to talk with your partner,” he says. “You can keep it simple with an ‘I love you’ or ‘I miss you’ message.”
Alisha Powell, PhD, LCSW, therapist, social worker, and teacher, agrees about the importance of maintaining good communication with your partner. “Take some time each day — even if it’s for five minutes — to check in about how the day is going,” she says. To up your communication game even more, Powell also suggests checking in with each other to see how your relationship is doing overall. “Go on a date and have a ‘state of the relationship’ discussion,” she says. “Talk about future goals and aspirations, as well as how you plan to grow individually and as a couple.”
2. Surprise Your Partner
Everyone likes surprises, right? Plus, they’re a great way to keep things exciting in your relationship. Rabbi Shlomo Slatkin, a licensed clinical professional counselor, a Certified Imago Relationship Therapist, and founder of The Marriage Restoration Project, agrees. “Surprises are a great way to liven up a relationship and interrupt the monotony,” he says. “It is often the unexpected, not the actual action, that can reinfuse the passion and anticipation we so often crave.” He says these surprises can be something as simple as surprising your significant other at work and taking them out for a cup of coffee. Similarly, a guy friend of mine would do this for his girlfriend — she wouldn’t be able to leave work, but he’d surprise her and drop off her favorite latte. Yes, I know — Awwwwww.
Lavelle also says you can surprise your partner with doing things such as cleaning the kitchen or taking care of items that are usually on your significant other’s to-do list. For example, if your partner is the main carpooler in the house, give him or her a break by taking the kids and their teammates for an afternoon or evening,” he says. “Generally, care for the other person. This isn’t just the few obligatory ‘hello’s and ‘I love you’s that most couples share — this is a real concern for the other’s well-being. You want to make their life easier, happier, and more fulfilled.”
3. Show — And Speak — Your Appreciation
Although actions speak louder than words, complimentary words are nice to hear, too. “Once couples start sharing what is good about each other on a regular basis, they begin to shift their attention to what’s right about their relationship and begin to see more and more good,” says Rabbi Slatkin. “Taking a few minutes every day to share what you appreciate and why will do wonders for you relationship — resentment dissipates and like/love intensifies.”
Rabbi Slatkin also has couples do a flooding exercise, wherein you flood your partner with positive energy and enthusiasm. “They encircle their partner and profess their admiration,” he says. “The admiring partner shares three physical characteristics, three behaviors, and three qualities they like about their partner. They face their partner, who is sitting down, share one item, encircle their partner, and continue the process until they are finished.” With each successive comment, they raise their voice and excitement level, he says, finishing by shouting out a global affirmation of why they love their partner so much. “This exercise really changes the energy in the room and within the relationship, and allows the partner on the receiving end to truly feel cherished,” Rabbi Slatkin says. I don’t know about you, but I definitely think it sounds like it’s worth a try.
4. Set Boundaries Regarding Technology
Lately, I see more and more couples out at dinner together, but they’re not really together — instead, they’re each glued to their phones. Of course, this begs the question: Why are they even out together? To my point, a recent survey from cybersecurity company Kaspersky Lab found that 55 percent of couples have argued about device overuse. In addition, 33 percent have argued because one of them has viewed something on a device which the other didn’t want to share.
Lavelle, too, believes ditching phones during in-person conversations with your partner is essential. “Nothing says ‘I don’t care about what you have to say’ more than someone with his or her nose pressed against a phone screen while disregarding the person sitting in front of him or her,” he says. “Doing so causes you to come off as disrespectful and uninterested — so, avoid glancing at who just texted you when your partner is in the middle of telling you a story.”
Daniel Sher, clinical psychologist and sex educator at NaughtyNorth.ca, a Canadian-based sex shop, is also an advocate of you and your partner spending less time on your phones and more time with each other. “If you’re both just checking your phones instead of really being together, spend some time at the end of each workday to connect,” she says. “A simple rundown of each other’s day, or committing to having a phone-free dinner together every night, could do the trick.”
Lavelle also suggests designating a set amount of electronic-free quality time right before bed. In fact, if you need help doing this, a husband and wife team even created Bagby, a sleeping bag for your phone, so you place your phone in its “sleeping bag” and, hence, don’t have it within your reach. Personally, I love this idea, as I think many people’s phone addictions are spiraling out of control.
5. Go On Actual Dates
How often do you find that you and your significant other stay home, order in, and watch TV versus go out on dates anymore? Well, planning and going on dates is a surefire way to revamp your relationship. One way to do so is by revisiting a place where you used to go on dates. “Revisiting a physical place where you have fond memories is another way to return back to the time where you once felt the spark in your relationship,” says Rabbi Slatkin. “By returning to that place and remembering those positive experiences, you can actually relive what happened in your mind and in your heart.”
Another relationship-revamping date idea is to take a class together. “Learning something new is a great way to liven up a relationship,” says Rabbi Slatkin. “When the brain learns something new, it not only creates new neural pathways, but it also brings about more joy and excitement. Additionally, it provides a fresh new experience that you can share together.”
6. Show Affection
Going back to actions speaking louder than words, to stay more connected, make sure your physical affection doesn’t fall by the wayside. “Hold hands and kiss,” says Lavelle. “Couples that still hold hands are truly happy.” He also says to remember the feeling that you’ve gotten from holding hands in the past, especially in the early stages of dating. “It was a threshold moment, and truly happy couples still feel that; it is apparent by this simple gesture.”
Just the other day, I spoke to a couple who’s been married for 55 years and are now in their early 80s. I spent the day with them, and I’d see them holding hands every moment they had. It was not only adorable, but I’m sure it’s also part of the glue that holds them together.
Powell, too, feels that showing affection is important to keep your relationship fresh. “Increase physical intimacy in your relationship,” she says. “Find new ways to connect emotionally by connecting physically. For instance, a six-second kiss before leaving for the day or a two-minute hug can work wonders. Also, don’t be afraid to be creative and try something new.”
7. Travel With Your Partner
Traveling is another way to make your relationship stronger. “Traveling is a great way to recharge your relationship,” says Rabbi Slatkin. “Take a break from your surroundings and experience the possibility that you can live in a completely new reality. Plus, you’ll create a sense of adventure and excitement in your relationship by visiting new places together.” Whether you go on a road trip to a nearby city or jet to Europe, getting away together is key.
8. Be Accountable To Your Commitments To Each Other
Nothing’s worse than people bailing on plans, and the same goes for your partner. When you make plans with each other, stick to them! We’re all busy, but it’s true: We make time for things/people that are important to us. Sher agrees. “Hold each other to your commitments,” she says. “It’s easy to let good habits fade away, but really make an effort to keep it at. If you feel like you’re making all the effort to keep the relationship fresh, it’s time for another relationship assessment.” (Hint: See Powell’s advice in #1!)
So, there you have it — some simple ways you can revamp and reassess your relationship so that you and your partner can finish out the summer more connected than ever. Of course, you can probably think of even more ways to refresh your relationship, too, but hopefully, the above will at least get you started.
On that note, what are additional ways you can reassess your relationship? We’d love to hear your thoughts! Feel free to comment below!