Falling in love is easy. You’re flooded with euphoric hormones and the bond between you and the other person feels stronger than anything you’ve ever experienced. Your connection feels deep and bullet-proof. Everything clicks into place.

Now, staying in love? That’s a different story. Many people talk about how their relationship became “boring,” or one day, they woke up, looked at their partner, and saw a stranger. The connection that once existed without even trying faded into the background.

Lucky for you, that doesn’t have to be your relationship.

Maybe you’ve been feeling a bit of distance between yourself and your partner and worry about that becoming permanent. Well, that doesn’t have to be the case. Not all relationships lose their sparkle, and there’s plenty you can do to strengthen your connection.

If anything, more time can mean a deeper understanding of one another. A deeper connection.

So how can you do that?

Well, let’s talk about a few ways, some of which you can start today.

1: Try a new activity together.

Imagine doing the same routine, over and over, and expecting it to bring newfound excitement to your life. Sure, routines can be invaluable to some people for feeling grounded, but shaking things up can do wonders for your relationship.

I say this from personal experience, too. At the beginning of quarantine, my boyfriend and I started taking online dance classes. We learned how to salsa and a bit of hip hop. And though our lack of rhythm made things slightly embarrassing, dancing taught us a lot about ourselves and how we are as a couple. Plus, we shared plenty of laughs.

Novelty is key to relationship satisfaction long-term. A 2004 study found that couples who tried new activities together felt more connected to their partners after. Figure out something you’ve both been wanting to try and give it a go!

2. Learn more about each other’s childhood.

Relationship researcher, John Gottman, has been studying couples for decades and found that relationships benefit from understanding each other’s “inner worlds.” This includes finding out more about their life before they met you.

While that might sound intimidating since you both have decades of memories stored up, I challenge you to let that idea excite you. You can never fully know your partner; there’s always something new to learn. And it’s the people who don’t ever stop exploring that part of their relationship that end up being the happiest.

Gottman’s website includes a few questions that can help you begin this journey with your partner (perhaps over a glass of wine and homemade dinner?). They include:

  • Who was your best friend in childhood?
  • What was your favorite vacation?
  • What kind of books do you most like to read?
  • Do you have a secret ambition? What is it?

3. Ask thought-provoking questions (and make a date night out of it).

Following the same theme as the tip above, questions really can be a fun way to deepen the bond between you and your partner. They don’t have to be only specific to understanding your partner’s past; knowing what they think and feel today matters, too.

I want you to try this: plan a date night with your favorite snacks or a custom-made charcuterie board. Grab some beer or wine you’ve been dying to try. And settle in for a night of going back and forth, asking each other questions that you’d never have thought to ask.

Two great resources for this are The New York Times “36 Questions to Fall in Love” and the We’re Not Really Strangers card pack. My boyfriend and I have done both of these questions (though not all of the WNRS pack because there’s a lot), and it was such a great time.

4. Talk about your love languages.

You’ve probably heard of love languages, but do you know which one(s) is your partner’s? There are tons of quizzes you can do online to figure this out. You can even do them together, even if you’re 90% sure you know your love language.

Once you know each other’s love language, take things a step further and ask your partner how you can meet that need. Take me, for example. My love language is Words of Affirmation. My boyfriend and I have talked about how important it is for me to hear loving words from him every day.

But your needs probably look different. By knowing how your partner feels most loved and ways you can fulfill that, you can begin a journey of deepening the bond between you.

5. Practice more empathy and less problem-solving.

Something that I love about my relationship is the balance my boyfriend and me bring to the table. I’m very emotion-driven, and he’s more analytical. But this became an issue when I would come to him with something I was struggling with, and he’d immediately start looking for a solution. The catcher was: most times, I just wanted to vent.

I didn’t blame him for acting this way because many people think the only way to help is by solving someone’s issue. But when it comes to a relationship, that behavior skips over the understanding and feelings part. We lack empathy without even meaning to.

So a great skill to practice that will deepen your bond is empathy. Ask your partner questions about how a situation makes them feel. Try to understand what they’re going through. And don’t forget that the best question you can ever ask is, “how can I help you with that?”

The key to building the connection in your relationship isn’t anything drastic or expensive. You can do a lot with a bit of talking, trying new things, and leaning in your feelings.

Kirstie Taylor