Do you really have to scale K2 together or survive a reality show to spice up your relationship? Well…. maybe not K2.
You may agree with the feelings one man made very clear to me: “Listen, between the weather, the finances, the kids and the unexpected aggravation, we’ve had about enough excitement as we can stand. We’ll settle for boring.”
OK – but what if we were to make a distinction between what is emotionally stressful, problematic and even traumatic and what is exciting. What if we defined exciting as something that is novel, arousing, and enjoyable?
Many couples find a way to cope with and even grow in the aftermath of challenging situations and traumatic events. Often couples value the predictable, familiar and pleasant activities but actually want and need more.
They feel bored or fear they are boring. They long for or feel guilty about wanting to feel that old spark. What they often overlook is the value of invigorating themselves and their relationship – of adding some excitement.
How Do You Put Excitement Back into a Relationship?
Researchers have found that despite the number of years a couple is together, shared participation in novel and arousing activities enhances relationship quality and satisfaction.
In one study middle aged couples rated a list of activities as exciting vs. highly pleasant. Couples were then divided into three groups. One group was instructed to spend 1.5 hours per week doing an activity from the “exciting activities” list (Choices included attending musical concerts, plays and lectures, skiing, hiking and going dancing). A second group was instructed to spend the same amount of time choosing activities from the “pleasant activities” list (Choices included visiting friends, attending a movie, attending church and eating out). A third group filled out all relationship satisfaction questionnaires but engaged in no required activities.
There was a significantly greater increase in the relationship satisfaction scores of the couples doing the exciting activities group as compared to those doing pleasant activities or the non-activity group.
Given the relatively small amount of time couples actually participated in these activities ( 1.5 hours per week), it is worth considering that the mutual choosing, the planning and the anticipation of sharing what you expect to be an exciting activity is an important part of the positive impact.
Other studies supporting the value of shared exciting activities hint that competition and finding a way to work together at a physical challenge are worth thinking about. In one of these studies one group of couples had to physically move across a gym mat and over a small barrier with one hand and one ankle connected with Velcro while carrying a pillow – all in less than one minute (sounds like a lot of fun). Another group of couples had to make their way over gym mats while passing a ball to the experimenter’s slow beeping cue.
Even though both groups of couples were spending time involved in a physical task together, it was the first group that was racing together against time that showed the greater increase in relationship satisfaction scores.
So if you are looking to reduce boredom and add some excitement:
Plan to do something different – Helen Fisher, author of Why We Love: The Nature and Chemistry of Romantic Love tells us that what is novel or out of the ordinary has been found to change neurochemistry and actually stimulate hormones related to sexual desire, excitement and desire. The night in the hotel, the decision to camp-out, that mini cruise, the spur of the moment concert tickets are worth considering.
Challenge yourselves – Run the fund raiser you have spoken about, take the dance lessons, buy the pet, sign-up for the cooking class, or become volunteers together. Challenges inevitably give couples a lot of interesting quality time as they share, plan and problem solve together. It changes how they feel physically and emotionally because it takes them together out of routine. It’s different than dealing with jobs or kids.
Compete– Don’t be afraid to go for the gold – whether it’s playing bridge, running in a race together, entering a bake-off, or starting a small business. Being a team in competition invites cooperation and gets adrenaline going. It invites the “us against the world” feeling which is a real relationship boost. You can’t lose – you always come away with memories and a great story.
Draw upon each other’s life dreams– As a couple you have the benefit of each other’s life dreams as a reservoir of exciting activities to share. Such dreams when realized can often be transforming life experiences for both.
- “Sal always wanted to go to Albuquerque to ride in the hot air balloons – Wow, we did it!”
- “Jane has wanted to see China her whole life – We actually went.”
- “Mike always said we should rent a houseboat for a week- Can you believe I loved it?”
“The word ‘romance,’ according to the dictionary, means excitement, adventure, and something extremely real. Romance should last a lifetime.” Billy Graham