Keep the romance alive
With everything going on in the life of the average couple, it's easy to forget the small gestures that keep a relationship ticking. What most couples don't realize, though, is that it doesn't take much to help your partner feel more valued every day. "Stringing together these little things is an ongoing way to make change in your relationship," says Gail Saltz, MD, Health 's contributing psychology editor. The expert tricks here can fit easily into any routine—in minutes you'll be on your way to building a stronger connection and lasting bond over time.
Turn off your smartphone
If you're glued to Facebook during dinner, then it's time to unplug. A study published in Computers in Human Behavior looked at data from 1,160 married people and found a negative correlation between heavy social media use and relationship happiness. "When angry, some people may turn to texting to avoid saying something," Dr. Saltz says. "It's a way of creating distance." While it doesn't hurt to send a flirty or loving message, it does pay off to be more direct your partner when something is really eating at you.
Go to bed at the same time
Feel like you never have a free moment together? Hitting the sack at the same time will help. "Bedtime might be the only opportunity you're alone together all day," says Barton Goldsmith, PhD, author of The Happy Couple: How to Make Happiness a Habit One Little Loving Thing at a Time . Even if you're a night owl, you can always stay in bed until your partner drifts off. You should also make sure you're both getting a healthy amount of shut-eye. A study from the University of California, Berkeley looked at the sleep habits of more than 100 couples. Those who reported poor sleep were much more likely to argue their significant other the next day.
Brew a cup of coffee for your partner
Grand gestures aren't the only way to express your love. Something as simple as brewing your partner a cup of coffee in the morning helps improve your relationship, says Terri Orbuch, PhD, a marriage researcher and author of 5 Simple Steps to Take Your Marriage From Good to Great . Orbuch has studied 373 couples for more than 28 years through the University of Michigan's Survey Research Center, and her research shows that frequent small acts of kindness are a predictor of happiness in a relationship. "People may feel taken for granted," Orbuch says. By doing these small tasks on a regular basis, you'll help your partner feel noticed.
Bring up a funny moment from your past
Sometimes the best memories are the funny ones. In Motivation and Emotion study,
couples that remembered laughing together —like the time
a grocery store clerk did something funny in the checkout line—reported greater
relationship satisfaction than those who remembered experiences that were positive,
but not necessarily when they'd laughed. "Laughter reminiscence packs an additional
punch because people relive the moment by laughing again," says study author
Doris Bazzini, PhD, a psychologist at Appalachian State University in Boone,
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Work up a sweat
It's no secret that getting buff helps you out in the bedroom by boosting your endurance, strength, and flexibility—but a sweat session also has more immediate effects. "Endorphins from exercise give you an adrenaline rush that boosts arousal," Orbuch says. Activities that get your heart rate up, like hiking, running, or biking, are guaranteed to have a positive effect on desire. "Any kind of arousal rush can be transferred to your partner and add passion to your relationship," Orbuch says.
Dance before dinnertime
Couples who frequently try new things together have higher-quality relationships, according to research published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology . And we're not necessarily talking extreme activities like skydiving or traveling to an exotic corner of the world (though those work too)—the activities simply should be new to the two of you, and can last for as little as 7 minutes, researchers say. Dinnertime is one moment it's easy to try something new. Turn on some catchy music while you're cooking and start dancing together, Orbuch suggests. Or you could try a new a cooking technique—homemade sushi, anyone?