To hear happy couples tell it, the formula that keeps a relationship thriving often involves listening to your partner more, doing nice things for them, and showing them you support and appreciate them. While these rituals are, of course, important and worthwhile, there are other (less discussed) things that can also keep your relationship healthy.
Below, you’ll find 9 not-so-obvious yet thoroughly effective ways to keep your connection strong.
Spend More Time Apart
QT together is vital, as is QT apart, which helps to keep things fresh. By spending at least a few days or evenings a week away from each other, you’re guaranteeing that you’ll have new and different things to talk about when you’re together, which prevents your dynamic from growing stale,” says Paige Berger, dating expert with WhatsYourPrice.com. She adds that taking regular space will also help you be more patient with each other—i.e. you’re less likely to have a short fuse because the things that irritate you about each other won’t constantly grate on you when you allow for some breathing room.
Laugh at Unexpected Situations
A couple that can laugh together is far likelier stay together, says Heidi McBain, a professional counselor for women. “Things that keep you laughing and having fun are so important to the relationship as a whole,” she says. “See a comedy show, watch a funny movie, share silly memes, and goof around together.” The ability to lighten up will keep your relationship balanced, since serious moments and challenges are inevitable.
Get More Sleep—Together
A recent study found that couples who slept fewer than seven hours a night were more likely to have hostile, negative arguments. More sleep can also lead to more sex, says Chris Brantner, Certified Sleep Science Coach at SleepZoo.com. “If you want to increase your libido, get a full 7-8 hours of sleep. Lack of sleep throws your hormones out of whack and decreases testosterone, which is crucial for both male and female sex drive. It’s also worth noting that for the healthiest relationship, you should go to bed when your partner goes to bed. Research shows that couples whose sleep patterns are mismatched report more conflict, less time in shared activities, and less sex than those who go to bed together,” says Brantner.
Set Goals Together
Setting goals together and helping each other achieve them will build a healthy relationship, says Sarah E. Clark, a licensed therapist and relationship expert. “Whether they’re long term financial or personal development goals, or short-term projects that you work together to complete, the process of supporting one another to meet your goals will help you build a strong foundation.” (Plus, it’ll make you feel awesome and give you something to celebrate.)
Get Uncomfortable Together
Intimate relationships are all about vulnerability. “If you want a healthy relationship with open communication, you need to be brave enough to let yourself be vulnerable,” says Clark. “This includes telling your partner about things that matter to you, saying how you feel, and trying things together that are outside your comfort zone.” Opening up about something painful in the past or revealing something that you’ve never told anyone before can be huge for relationship development because it builds trust.
Have Exercise Dates
Getting moving with your partner can create an opportunity to serve as the other’s supporter. “You’re working as a team toward parallel goals of health and fitness,” says Justin Lavelle, chief communications officer and relationship writer for Beenverified.com. “Plus, watching your partner work hard and break a sweat can create feelings of admiration and attraction in you for the other.”
Start New Traditions and Routines
Perhaps it’s an activity you’ve both wanted to try, a skill you’re interested in learning, or a destination you both want to visit. Whatever it is, invest time in creating new traditions and routines for the two of you. Traditions help establish your shared values, interests, and priorities; setting new routines shows that you’re both interested in creating a future in which you carry them out together.
Do Chores Together (Seriously)
Teaming up on chores, boring as it might seem, creates the feeling that you’re functioning as a team. “For example, you can choose to do laundry or dishes together,” says Lavelle. “Whatever the task may be, the goal is to come together as partners and get it done.” Even better, the chore is way less lame when done together, and will create a sense of equality in your dynamic—you’re both pitching in.
Surprise Them With Little Things
Every so often, instead of rushing out the door in the morning, leave them a love note or slap a sweet post-it on the door. Pop by their office with coffee or fake a meeting. Surprise them with something sweet or kinky. These little gestures are like relationship extra credit—they keep the spark alive and your partner on their toes.