By Jenna Birch
A romantic getaway isn't the only way to reignite the spark in your marriage. Likewise, there are options beyond running to a marriage therapist if you're disagreeing about key issues. Certain everyday habits can bring you and your spouse closer, though you might not think of these on your own. Here are eight surprising tips to bolster your marriage that are too easy not to take. Photo by Getty Images.
1. With sex, aim for quantity over quality. When spouses don't get busy regularly, they can lose physical connection. Clinical sexologist and marriage therapist Kat Van Kirk, DHS, author of The Married Sex Solution, suggests "removing the expectation of having long, technical lovemaking sessions." Whether it's a quickie in the shower or making out like teenagers before bed, "10 focused minutes can build more intimate moments than many couples have experienced in years," she says. What's more, "this can turn into longer lovemaking sessions."
2. Write about your fights. In a study from Northwestern University in Evanston, IL, couples who wrote for seven minutes three times a year about previous marital conflicts from a third-party perspective reported greater relationship satisfaction than those who didn't. Researchers believe it's because the writing group was able to glean new insights about the disagreements or better understand their spouses after they'd reflected about them on their own. Next time you argue with your man, try writing down the details from a neutral standpoint. You might notice something you missed in the heat of the moment.
3. Hug for 2 minutes and kiss for 30 seconds each day. "Often, kisses and hugs become mechanical and quick," says marriage and family therapist Kim Blackham. The problem: Those hurried pecks and embraces don't offer the same feel-good benefits longer stretches of physical intimacy do. "Oxytocin, a chemical our bodies release when we touch one another, emotionally connects people," says Blackham. No need to set a timer, says Blackham, but do extend your hugs and kisses longer than you normally would; you'll feel a new sense of connection.
4. Take a walk together. If you're trying to decide how you two should handle your daughter's poor report card, hit the pavement. Not only will the fresh air clear your minds but also "the very act of walking in the same direction can help you two feel as though you're on the same team and want the same result," explains Blackham. Physically heading to one place makes you more likely to be mentally in sync; it's like you're standing together instead of confronting each other.
5. Match up your boozing levels. Couples who drink together stay together? Yes, according to a study from the University at Buffalo Research Institute on Addictions in Buffalo, NY. Heavy drinker/light drinker pairs had a divorce rate of 50%, whereas spouses who enjoyed alcohol in equal amounts were just 30% likely to divorce. So a disparity in drinking habits is a better predictor of divorce than the drinking itself, probably because they're less likely to fight about their differences. That's not to say you both should get wasted nightly if that's what one of you wants to do, but it's not necessarily a bad idea to grab a glass of wine (or pop a brewski) when your spouse unwinds with a beer.
6. Sit next to each other at restaurant tables. You may be inclined to take a seat across from your partner, but "it's a more aggressive stance," says Blackham. After all, it's how you and a prospective employer sit during an interview. Next time you're out, try grabbing a booth or putting separate chairs at a table side by side. Instead of playing footsie under the table, your man can slide an arm around you or touch your knee, while you can whisper in his ear. "It's a friendlier and much more intimate position," Blackham adds.
7. Jot down your guy's sweet deeds. Maybe he filled up your gas tank without you mentioning it was getting low, or brought you flowers for no good reason. Once a day for a week, secretly write down something your man did that touched you. "Many times, especially in long-term relationships, the little things our partners do for us get overlooked, which eventually leads to husbands feeling resentful," says relationship expert and licensed psychotherapist Christina Steinorth-Powell. Keeping a list helps you feel grateful for the daily blessings of marriage, and sharing that list at the end of the week with your spouse makes him feel appreciated.
8. Schedule rom-com date nights. You always knew there was a practical purpose to watching Harry and Sally fight; now science confirms it. According to a study from the University of Rochester in Rochester, NY, taking in movies about relationships together, and then discussing them, is just as effective at reducing divorce rates as learning about conflict management and compassion. But surprise! Watching and talking about flicks is better at limiting how much marriage therapy time couples need than formal relationship skill training. It could be because those kinds of films deal with universal couple conflicts and provide an excuse to talk about those issues.