This Labor Day, let us be reminded that love takes work. Here are 10 simple things you can — and should — do regularly to keep a long-term relationship or marriage happy and satisfying:
1. Do something new together.
Sign up for a continuing education class. Try a new sport. Go see a concert or a play if you don’t usually. You might have the same partner, but your dates can be brand new!
2. Talk and really listen.
You may think you’ve heard all of each other’s stories. But there are always a few hidden gems. Plus, people change over time. Hear who they are becoming.
3. Touch each other.
And we don’t mean sexually (though you’ve got to keep doing that too — see #4). Hug, hold hands, peck each other on the cheek, nose cuddle.
4. Get new sex toys.
It’s an easy way to shake up a sexual routine that’s gotten a bit predictable.
5. Support your partner’s dreams.
When your loved one expresses interest in something new, or in rekindling an old passion, by all means encourage them! Be wowed by them — it will ignite new energies in them, which can only positively affect your relationship.
6. Keep a gratitude journal.
Every night before bed, right down five things you were grateful for that day — and be sure your partner appears regularly in your lists! For example, you might be grateful for the hot coffee they brought you, or for their beautiful blue eyes, or for what a great parent they were that day.
7. Fight fair.
Use “I feel” language rather than “you do this” insults. Bite your tongue before you say anything mean. Try to see their side of things. Compromise. Accept apologies.
8. Be thoughtful.
Speaking of hot coffee, bring your partner one. Surprise them with flowers. Give them a neck rub when they’re stuck at their desk. Book an unexpected night away, even if it’s in a local motel just five miles away.
9. Make eye contact and hold it.
Eye contact is necessary for connection and intimacy. Look at your partner when they speak to you. And when you’re in bed, whether just lying there or getting busy, stare into each other’s eyes and don’t look away. It might feel uncomfortable at first, but you just might break past it and achieve a transcendent feeling of unity.
10. Write love notes, letters, lists.
We do these things when we’re first falling in love, but once we’ve been together for a decade or more, the inspiration to emote just doesn’t come as spontaneously. Force yourself to do it. Put a post-it in their work bag on a random day with an expression of endearment, write down all the things you love about them for their birthday, find a poem that captures how you feel about them and put it under their pillow.