The art of coupling sure is a mystery! And yes, marriages are a pledge designed to last a lifetime—a happily ever after. However, when the honeymoon headiness gives way and the curtain drops, marriage often culminates into nothing but a gentle tango between two human beings trying to keep a steady rhythm.
While couples may vow to stick it out through thick and thin, martial promises fail to address the bigger, simpler things that can untie the knot and disturb the rhythm—complacency, irritation, feeling ‘out of touch’, scared to open up, or worse—feeling like you are in a platonic friendship. Although the romance angle might take a nosedive over the years, your relationship certainly doesn't have to! Lifestyle coach and author of 'WHOLE: 11 Universal Truths For an Inspired Life', Pamela Puja Kirpalani shares a few scientifically-backed tips that will help you and your partner connect on a more authentic, loving note, for the long-haul.
Soft on the Person, Firm on the Issue
While being in a constant state of anger or irritation with your partner may seem like a definitive deal-breaker, a recent study suggests that such feelings indicate being healthily engaged with one another. That said, there is a limit, of course. Indeed, things get a bit more serious if you regularly engage in expressing contempt or resentment for your partner.
Dr John Gottman, an expert on ‘coupling’ states that the best predictor of marital divorce is when one or both partners show contempt in the relationship. Contempt, the opposite of respect, is often communicated though negative judgment, criticism, or sarcasm regarding the worth and personality of an individual. Instead, if you find yourself arguing, the best technique to use is to separate the person from the issue (the behaviour). The idea is not to get personal by attacking the individual, but to focus on the issue at hand, instead. Think on the lines of what both of you can do to solve the issue!
The Touch of Love
Just a mere touch says, "I want to connect with you more. I value you. And I value us."
Touch is the most primitive form of communication and since birth we are wired to react to it. Science indicates that just the physical act of a kind and warm touch lowers one’s blood pressure and releases significant levels of oxytocin in the body (also known as the 'love hormone'). Marriage experts, Dr Charles and Dr Elizabeth Schmitz state, “To touch someone you love is to acknowledge their presence and to communicate your desire for them.” Some even go so far as to say that consistent touch ‘outranks sex’ in characteristics of a successful marriage!
An article has stated that our societies are dangerously becoming touch-deprived—suffering from a shortage of tactile stimulation. There's even a term for it- 'touch hunger’. The problem in relationships is that we often hold back—afraid of rejection—waiting for our partner to initiate contact. The key is for you to initiate contact first, especially if it’s been a long time since you have shared some intimacy. How? Start small. Grab his hand while walking through the supermarket; rub his hair playfully while he’s watching a show; eyes locked, lightly hold his shoulder before he leaves for the day; or even a quick back rub to say good night!
Interrupt the routine you both follow on a day-to-day basis, in order to add some spice into your relationship. The changes may be small, but enough to be 'different' and exciting. Switch roles—if he likes to take charge of booking holidays, insist that you do it for a change. Alternatively, play hooky from work—pretend you’re both tourists, and go visit the latest art display or become sports junkies for the day, or even go for a hike at the nearest nature spot! Rewarding experiences flood your brain with dopamine—a ‘feel-good’ chemical—and according to research if your partner is present, the feeling becomes linked to them.
Keep the Kindness Button On
Don’t forget that small loving gestures towards your partner, such as, “I’m thinking of you” or “I love you”, have immense power. You may choose to surprise your partner at work with their favourite food, fill up their gas tank, slip in a small love note into their car dashboard, or even sketch out a simple message out of the blue reading 'thank you'. These account for small but powerful ways of expressing affection and appreciation. In fact, research shows that the combination of a few small gestures such as these is much more effective than a few grand or expensive gestures every few years (And hey, that’s good news for all our wallets!)
Have Them Know They are On Your Priority List
With our fast-paced, frantic lives, there is a high probability that we take our partner’s presence for granted. Hence, we might fall victim to the 'get in where you fit in' mentality, when it comes to spending time with our partners. But the key is to demonstrate to your partner that he/she is important enough for you to ‘make the time’ and therefore is a priority in your life.
This could mean scheduling a date night every Friday on your Google calendar, praying together as a weekly ritual, or even just simply scheduling a 10 minute session to share your day with one another. As we get caught up in our own lives, we often tend to forget that any form of a shared experience is a vital contributor to bonding. In fact, even laughing together or having inside jokes strengthen ties between couples, and according social psychologist, Doris Bazzini, PhD, "When people laugh at the same thing, they validate each other's opinions."
The more experiences you share together as a couple—positive or negative—further deepens your bond.