You know what they say about a stable marriage that’s moving along with no major hurdles - ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.’ But maybe there's something missing in your relationship or it hasn't reached its full potential. Believe it or not, you can break out of the routine and recapture some of the magic.
According to the field of interpersonal neurobiology, the brain is constantly changing. And that has a lot to do with your daily interactions. All relationships, especially loving ones, alter brain circuits that shape memories and emotions. Think about when you first fell in love - the immediate attraction, flow of attachment hormones, constant interdependency.
This alchemy continues throughout life, and how we treat each other matters. In a loving relationship, we can change neural functions when we decide to be more mindful and compassionate. Holding hands is enough to reduce stress and minimize physical pain. So whether you want to release euphoria-inducing chemicals like dopamine and adrenaline or change the wiring in your brain, here are some ideas to consider:
Invest emotionally. Make time for each other just as you would for any valuable asset. Be satisfied with small changes as you keep romance alive. A gentle touch or quick hug releases oxytocin, a hormone that facilitates bonding. And when you're tense, an affectionate moment can help you feel relaxed, closer, more loved. Studies show that celebrating positive events predict greater relationship satisfaction than commiserating over negative ones.
Eliminate boredom. Although lightheartedness is often a first casualty of hectic family life, when the kids grow up you may feel a void and realize your marriage isn't exciting anymore. Talk to your partner, without judging or accusing, and come to the conversation with suggestions for change. Plan some adventures and discover new activities you both enjoy. Take on a physical challenge together and train to make it happen. Have fun, laugh and bring humor into your daily life - being playful can lead to greater intimacy.
Ask for what you need. No one’s a mind reader. Sometimes, out of frustration, couples stop talking. Recommit to understanding each other’s disappointment or resentment. Meet halfway and get more of what you want. If you invest in your own happiness, your partner won’t have to be a major source of your wellbeing. By taking action, you'll feel more confident and your relationship will reap the dividends.
Express gratitude. Compliments serve as positive reinforcement at the very times when you may be taking each other for granted. If you find yourself distancing, try to see your partner in a different light. Purposely look for qualities you love in each other. And when you’re thinking something positive, say it out loud. The efforts you both make will be returned in multiples.