You love your partner. But even if your relationship is strong, marriage can, at times, feel a little stale.
A simple routine-tweak can liven things up, says William J. Doherty, Ph.D., professor of family social science at the University of Minnesota in St. Paul and founder of the Doherty Relationship Institute.
Creating stress-free time to connect on a regular basis is vital to the inner workings of a healthy relationship, Doherty says. “The happiest couples have found a way to fit rituals into their lives—even if they have children,” he explains. (Want to pick up some healthier habits? Sign up to get healthy living tips, relationship advice and more delivered straight to your inbox!)
Here’s how to squeeze one of these rituals into your day, as well as two more secrets to keep your marriage fresh:
1. Think small
Don’t change what you’re already doing. Just do it together, Doherty suggests. Maybe you could have coffee together in the morning, or go for an early evening walk. Commit to making it a standing date, he says. Even 15 minutes of talking in bed together before you turn out the light can make a difference, he adds. Also—and this may go without saying—agree to not disagree during this time. Don’t try to solve family problems, discuss finances, or figure out who’s driving to soccer practice. “Things like that kill couple rituals,” he says. The goal: Relax and connect.
2. Schedule a sex nightSex is supposed to be spontaneous, which makes scheduling it seem anything but romantic. But smart long-term couples know that’s hogwash. By making a regular date to do it, you’ll be able to plan for sex and build excitement, experts say. With all your other obligations, you can’t rely on spontaneity. Like Valentine’s Day or your partner’s birthday, commit to a weekly or bi-weekly “sex night.”
3. Don’t freak out over fights
If you’re not fighting, you’re not trying—or so the saying goes. And research suggests that’s true. As long as you’re keeping your arguments civil and on-topic—that means no name-calling, or “you always do this” language—arguments are probably a sign you both still care.