Relationships take work during the best of times, and the pandemic has created a unique set of challenges- and opportunities for many couples. It doesn’t matter if your relationship has flourished or suffered in the past few years, every partnership can benefit from a tune-up.
We have gathered 5 relationship exercises, based on science that can help couples strengthen their bond. The study was conducted by the University of Southampton and had a qualitative exploration of how relationships changed in the early COVID-19 pandemic. Here are the results as to how you can indulge in small exercises to strengthen your relationships.
You can practice these things at your own pace.
Keep track of all the positive things
Identify five things that your partner does on a regular basis to show love. Keep track of the big and small things both of you say or do. Include things such as a small compliment, or grand gestures such as buying flowers, cooking dinner, or cleaning up. Studies have shown that in successful relationships, the positive interactions outnumber the negative moments by at least five to one. A study showed that couples with the highest score on the generosity scale were far more likely to report that they were “happy in their marriages.”
Experience physical touch
The science of touch explains that touch signals safety, and trust. A basic warm touch can calm cardiovascular stress. This activates the body’s vagus nerve and triggers the “love hormone”, oxytocin. The essential idea of holding hands is about experiencing intimacy and being vulnerable in front of each other. Spend a few minutes talking to your partner about the things causing stress and anxiety in your life. Hold your partner’s hand when you speak about it. A study by James A. Coan showed that a woman holding her husband’s hand had a calming effect that was similar to the effect of a pain-relieving drug. Hold hands as much as possible, and profess your love.
Read to each other
Everybody loves stories. Take time to find your favourite stories and read them to each other. It could be a poem, an excerpt, from a magazine or a favourite story. You will be surprised by how much fun it is to have someone read you and to read to someone you love. Don’t just listen to the story, try to understand the emotion behind it. The joy of storytelling comes back to life, and this time via someone who is so dear to you. You can always speak about this piece and this gives way for conversations as well. Research has shown that people grow closer to each other when we reveal something about ourselves to them. Studies have also shown that a relationship benefits when couples experience new things together.
Share your perfect day
Think about your perfect day and share it with your partner over a meal. Talk about all the things in detail and about your likes and dislikes. If possible, try to plan a version of each other’s perfect days that you can experience together. Research shows that when you exchange close details about yourself, you forge a deeper connection with your partner.
Practice gratitude together
Write down three things about your partner for which you are grateful. Take a moment to read about what you wrote about each other. Talk about these feelings of gratitude and how they make you feel more connected to each other. Science says that showing gratitude on a daily basis is a common mindfulness practice proven to boost happiness, help us get better sleep and even reduce illness. One study called gratitude a “booster shot” for romantic relationships. The more you practice gratitude towards your partner, the more connected you feel.
Relationships aren’t easy to maintain. It’s all about the time, effort and emotion behind it. Learn to give it some time and space in order to grow. Cultivate your relationship and don’t forget to spread the love.