We’ve now been stuck at home for two years, and our dates have become quite stale. If you’re anything like us, your evenings have revolved around Netflix and the occasional bake-off. Throw in an intermittent Zoom with friends, and you’ve just about summed up life since COVID kicked off. Which is why the sound of your partner chewing may be the final straw. Or maybe it’s the sight of him as he dozes, snoring, while you’re trying to simply focus on your book but can’t because he sounds like a freaking bulldozer. It’s time to figure out how to fall in love with him all over again — and vice versa, and thankfully, we found scientifically proven ways to do this without even leaving the house. Try a date doing these four things, and you may soon be planning a Zoom vow renewal rather than cueing up another Netflix binge-watching session.
If you share a story about a time in your past when you felt happy and carefree, you can build a deeper, intimate connection with your partner. A study found that waxing nostalgic about your romantic relationship in the short term positively correlates to satisfaction with your current relationship. Make sure, however, not to constantly reminisce about the “good old days,” as this may indicate dissatisfaction.
Do this: Go through your old photo albums with your partner, talking about your shared experiences when you just started dating. Or, drive to a spot that reminds you of a happy memory from your past, bonding your partner to your joyful memory, says Damona Hoffman, a relationship expert, the official dating expert of OkCupid and The Drew Barrymore Show, and host of the Dates & Mates podcast.
Multiple studies show the importance of really looking your partner in the eye. In one study, strangers who looked into each other’s eyes for just two minutes experienced feelings of love, says Nikki Nolet, a relationship and sex therapist in San Diego. The longer you stare at a face, the more you’ll be attracted to it, another study found. And yet another study says that if someone looks you in the eye, you’re more likely to trust them — which is key to building a relationship.
Do this: While looking at each other in the eyes, take turns telling each other one thing you notice or appreciate about them to build on the emotional connectivity, Nolet says. These can be smaller attributes, such as appreciating that the other person does the laundry — or larger, more meaningful ones.
Research supports the importance of partners being responsive and attuned to each other’s needs, says Ernesto Lira de la Rosa, a psychologist and media adviser for the Hope for Depression Research Foundation. The study found that men and women who say their partners are mindful and responsive reported less conflict and had increased relationship satisfaction.
Do this: To increase mindfulness and responsiveness, take time during your date to connect with each other by answering the following questions (provided by the Gottman Institute):
- What is the best part of being together?
- Does anything keep you awake at night that you haven’t shared with me?
- Is there something that you’ve dreamed of doing but haven’t done yet? What has prevented you from doing this?
- Why do you love me? And when did you feel most loved by me?
- What is the best and worst memory of your childhood?
A 2020 study by researchers at Binghamton University finds that the more couples hug, hold hands or simply cuddle, the more they’re satisfied with their relationship. This includes couples who tend to avoid touch in general. Another study found that hugging increases positive feelings and reduces negative ones when you’re having relationship issues. In that study, researchers asked participants about their mood, whether they experienced conflict and if they received a hug that day. The days they received a hug were associated with fewer negative feelings and more positive feelings when it came to their relationships — regardless of their gender, age, race and overall mood.
Do this: Note that this study doesn’t link hugging and touching to sex. So, make an effort to hug your partner and massage your partner in a loving but nonsexual way.