Next time you and your forever love are dining in a nice restaurant with a warm, romantic ambiance, look around at other couples. Are they staring into each other’s eyes and engaged in quiet, intense conversation? Are they holding hands, smiling and laughing a lot? Or are they both staring dully into their cell phones and doomscrolling or texting with someone else?
If the latter, hopefully it’s just a temporary situation and they will find their way back into each other’s lives in an important and all-encompassing way, not just once in a while, when they feel romantic or in need of friendship and support.
Couples who are most happy and successful share as many different interests as possible. They pay attention to each other and, instead of taking each other for granted, celebrate each other regularly. Doesn’t need to be a big blowout party every day, but just a loving smile or a touch or a hug. Or a kiss.
“It’s easy to take your partner for granted, especially when you’ve been together for a while,” observes an article on the Families for Life website. “While the initial flames of young love may have cooled, keep the embers burning with lasting intensity. Strengthen your relationship with ways to make your significant other feel special.”
What’s a good starting point? Really just being courteous and kind, taking care of yourself and your partner, and paying attention to what’s important to them, whether it’s their work, their favorite music/books/movies, their hobbies, or their family and friends will go a long way.
“Being the best you can be for your partner and for yourself is one of the most rewarding parts of coupledom,” says award-winning therapist Barton Goldsmith, Ph.D. in his Psychology Today article about couples’ behavior. “It’s not very complicated; just remember to put your best self forward and behave the way you would like your partner to behave. That makes it safe for both of you to come from the heart—that is how great relationships are made.”
Work is not the right word, but it does require commitment and awareness of finding those best ways to reaffirm your love and affection for your partner.
“Great relationships don’t just happen,” confirm Linda and Charlie Bloom, a long-time couple themselves and co-authors of the article “Why You and Your Partner Need to Celebrate Each Other” in Psychology Today. “They occur when we give our time, attention, and care to another. One of the great benefits of romantic partnerships is support when difficult circumstances befall us. A partner can be there in our time of need, be sympathetic, and provide a shoulder to cry on. Such sincere support softens upsetting blows and helps us get through challenging times.”
Actually, the subtitle of their article says it all: “Every enthusiastic response is a vital deposit in your bank of good will.”
Sometimes, if you do hit a low point, where you find yourself saying hurtful things to your partner and then suddenly you’re the ones communicating with your cell phones not your dinner partner, there are ways to readjust your mindset. Researchers have found that sometimes it’s easy to blurt out a criticism of our loved ones. However, they have also learned that individuals who tend toward those critical comments can change their focus to be more positive and supportive.
In fact, those same scientists believe “we can retrain our brains” to focus on the positive things we see and reinforce that in our relationships, according to another couple, Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott, in their article “Why Celebrating Your Spouse Is Important: Part 1,” on symbis.com: “You can literally change your hardwiring in your brain to be more upbeat and celebratory. It begins with noticing something positive and then saying something positive to reinforce what you saw.”
Let’s look at some very specific, simple but surprisingly impactful ways you can demonstrate how important your partner is and celebrate that love and friendship in special little ways. Of course, you can always treat them to a wonderful evening out at the previously mentioned romantic dining spot. You can take them to a movie or a concert or an art museum. You can spend a delightfully intimate getaway weekend in a charming bed & breakfast, somewhere close to home or in an exotic locale.
February, obviously, offers its own built-in Cornucopia of Romantic Extravaganza Opportunities for Valentine’s Day. But loving couples should think about fun and meaningful things they can do to celebrate their partner year-round – every day, if possible, or frequently.
Megan Negendank, a licensed psychotherapist, compiled a superb list for the Love Heal Grow website that features suggested options: 50+ Ways to Celebrate Your Love All Year Long. The article provides a comprehensive list that ranges from simple gestures like holding hands or having a picnic in the park to more affectionate and amorous activities like taking a bath together or giving each other a massage that you can share anytime.
“Make out like you used to” is always sound advice, too, that leads to even deeper dives for rookie romantics or long-time lovers.
Returning to the Bloom’s “Karma Savings and Loan” concept, they point out that partners need to make regular contributions to their account, especially by supporting and celebrating their partner’s professional – gaining a promotion – or personal accomplishments – finishing well in a marathon. Genuine, enthusiastic and frequent positive responses, compliments and statements of appreciation, they advise, are essential to the development of healthy relationships.
The interest on that account will grow through the accumulation of positive emotional interchanges, the Blooms relate, that will result in abundant feelings of commitment, satisfaction, intimacy, trust, and appreciation.
“When difficulties come along, we have a large account from which we can draw,” they conclude. “When we celebrate each other’s accomplishments, we thrive. We are more likely to be securely bonded to each other, satisfied with our relationship, and enjoy greater love and happiness.”