Psychology of Social Connection

8 Ways to Create a Stronger Relationship

October 24th, 2020 · 1 Comment

*Camerin*

  1. Go to a workout class together. If you like to be active and get your sweat on, invite your significant other to come with you! This an amazing chance to show your partner how hard you’ve been working and what they’ve been missing this whole time. Not only will it be a fun activity; studies show that after doing an arousing activity with each other, couples felt more satisfied and in love with their significant other (Aron et al., 2000). I know I’ve been dying to get my boyfriend to an OrangeTheory fitness class with me.  Now that I know he’ll fall more in love with me after the class – I NEED to try it. Back to the point – who cares if you’re not a Soul Cycle or Barry’s Bootcamp guru – get moving with your partner and they’ll love you more than ever! I recommend trying an Instagram TV workout – it’s free and it can be done in the comfort of your home. Get up and get active!

      2. Write letters to each other. I know that it can be hard to write someone a letter. You might feel like you’re being sappy and maybe the idea of sharing your actual feelings about someone makes you cringe. However, studies show that people who feel more appreciated by their partners are more appreciative of them regularly (Gordon et al., 2012). Gordon et al. (2012) demonstrates how important it is to practice gratitude towards your partner, sharing findings that support how beneficial it is for maintaining a healthy, intimate bond. Now, I’m not telling you to do this every week, but setting a goal to do this once a year for Thanksgiving or a birthday can greatly improve your relationship. The person you love, deserves to know how much you appreciate them. It will make them feel good and lead to relationship benefits. There’s nothing wrong with telling someone you’re grateful for them – don’t be afraid

       3. Go on a double date. Maybe double dating doesn’t appeal to you. If you haven’t been on an orchestrated double date before, don’t feel bad. I haven’t either! But, I’m telling you, you have to go plan one right after you’re done reading this post because hanging out with other friends and couples can lead to benefits to your own relationship. You might be thinking, “I already feel like me and my partner don’t get enough alone time. Why would I purposely invite another couple and take away from our time together?!” Well!!! Studies show that couples felt closer to their partners after having an interaction with another couple (Slatcher, 2010). If you haven’t gone on a double date before, I challenge you to go on a date with another couple. The feeling of excitement that you had on your first date with your partner may be recreated when you go on a double date with another couple (Slatcher, 2010). While you might be hesitant, a double date can make you feel excited and closer to your partner than before. Try that new sushi restaurant, go bowling, take a morning walk, or maybe even carve pumpkins – with another couple, of course!

 

 

*Christi*

        4. Use “we-talk”. Words like “we” and “us” can be very powerful in showing interdependence on a romantic partner, emphasizing how they affect your thoughts and feelings, and highlighting a transition from being self-oriented to relationship oriented. Studies show couples who use more “we” and “us” are more likely to have healthy, positive relationship behaviors like being supportive during stressful times. Moreover, individuals in the “we” talk couples reported higher scores for mental and physical health and relationship satisfaction (Karen et al., 2019). In relationships, you are only part of the whole – show that you are thinking of your partner, and tell them with the power of “we”!

         5. Hug! (Or other stuff). Physical affection is super important in a relationship – not just sex. Holding hands, hugging, or just a warm touch can affect release hormones like oxytocin, which calms us and reduces stress. In an experiment where married couples had more physical contact, they exhibited lower blood pressure and positive effects on several stress sensitive systems (Holt-Lunstad et al., 2008). Physical affection can also improve your mood and increase the likelihood of more physical activity (Burleson et al. 2007). I know the whole PDA thing can be a lot, so just wait until you are in private and give your partner a kiss or hug. As it gets colder, don’t be afraid to grab a snuggly blanket and cuddle – matching pjs optional, kind of. 

         6. Give compliments. We all like getting compliments – being told we look nice, we are good at something, etc. But, in romantic relationships, compliments should be about both physical and non-physical qualities – telling someone they are pretty or sexy or have beautiful eyes is not enough. Meltzer and McNulty found that physical compliments and valuation was only associated with positive relationship satisfaction when it was paired with compliments about non-physical qualities, like interests, personality, or intelligence. Emphasizing what you like about your partner and going beyond the superficial, physical level can show a deeper understanding of their character (Meltzer and McNulty, 2014). Next time your partner does something nice, tell them how caring and kind they are. When they help you finish your annoying chem pset, compliment their brain. 

 

 

*Patrick*

          7. Be a good listener. There’s a difference between hearing and listening. All too often your partner may complain that they do not feel heard. Heck, you might not feel heard either! But hearing happens naturally without a choice. What everyone really wants is someone to make the conscious effort of listening to what we say, internalizing our words, and taking on our perspective. A major hallmark of poor relationships is low cognitive and affective empathy. Luckily, research shows that we can work on this (Ramezani et al, 2020). Putting yourself in your partner’s shoes can go a long way in helping you understand what your partner may want or need and, more importantly, why? Everyone has heard the trope of the jerk boyfriend and crazy girlfriend, but rarely do people act without a motive, so instead of hearing something and jumping to conclusions, ask open questions to learn why your partner feels a certain way. Give them a chance to feel listened to.

         8. Stay in the moment. Regardless of whether you and your partner prefer to bar hop or stay at home for a little soirée, chances are your phones are coming with you. You look forward to this event and spending some quality time together, but little did you know that you were bringing the rest of the world with you. I often find myself in a room full of others, but they are only there in person because their spirit is with that guy they have not seen since high school on Facebook. There is reason to believe that the number of social media accounts you keep up with and your level of technological addiction is negatively affecting your relationships (Abbasi, 2019). The next time you’re with your partner and find yourself staring at a screen, consider refocusing your attention onto the people around you in lieu of the people hundreds of miles away. And if you find yourself relegated to second place by a circuit board, consider gently reminding your partner that the people that matter most are right there with him or her in that moment.

 

 

References

Abbasi, Irum Saeed. “Social media and committed relationships: What factors make our romantic relationship vulnerable?.” Social Science Computer Review 37.3 (2019): 425-434.

Aron, A., Norman, C. C., Aron, E. N., McKenna, C., & Heyman, R. E. (2000). Couples’ shared 

participation in novel and arousing activities and experienced relationship quality. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 78(2), 273–284.

Burleson, M.H., Trevathan, W.R. & Todd, M. (2007). In the Mood for Love or Vice Versa? Exploring the Relations Among Sexual Activity, Physical Affection, Affect, and Stress in the Daily Lives of Mid-Aged Women. Arch Sex Behav 36, 357–368 Gordon, A. M., Impett, E. A., Kogan, A., Oveis, C., & Keltner, D. (2012). To have and to hold: 

gratitude promotes relationship maintenance in intimate bonds. Journal of Personality 

and Social Psychology, 103(2), 257–274.

Holt-Lunstad, J., Birmingham, W. A., & Light, K. C. (2008) Influence of a “Warm Touch” Support Enhancement Intervention Among Married Couples on Ambulatory Blood Pressure, Oxytocin, Alpha Amylase, and Cortisol. Psychosomatic Medicine, 70(9), 976-985

Karan, A., Rosenthal, R., & Robbins, M. L. (2019). Meta-analytic evidence that we-talk predicts relationship and personal functioning in romantic couples. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 36(9), 2624–2651. https://doi.org/10.1177/0265407518795336

Meltzer, A. L., & McNulty, J. K. (2014). “Tell me I’m sexy…and otherwise valuable:” Body Valuation and Relationship Satisfaction. Personal Relationships, 21(1), 68–87. https://doi.org/10.1111/pere.12018

Ramezani, A., Ghamari, M., Jafari, A., & Aghdam, G. F. (2020). The Effectiveness of a ToM Training Program in Promoting Empathy Between Married Couples. Journal of Couple & Relationship Therapy, 19(1), 1-25.

Slatcher, R. B. (2010). When Harry and Sally met Dick and Jane: Creating closeness between 

couples. Personal Relationships, 17(2), 279–297.

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1 response so far ↓

  • Rachel // Oct 26th 2020 at 11:35 pm

    Hey Camerin, Christi, & Patrick –

    I loved y’all’s post! I thought you all did a great job with how you structured this to include so much of the content we discussed, and in a fun way too 🙂 I really liked being able to see both the studies we’ve already learned about and new ones ~in action~.

    The double date point especially stuck out to me – it makes sense that engaging in a self-disclosure activity with another couple as the couples did in this study would lead to feelings of closeness between the couples, but it was interesting that this interaction also led to more feelings of closeness within the couples too. This definitely seems to be even more evidence behind how much context can affect a relationship as well.

    This is also a side note, but I’m so curious how love languages could play out in these studies – for example, would people who identify their love language as being physical touch be more responsive to the findings of the Holt-Lunstad et al. (2008) study? Or similarly would those who identify their love language as words of affirmation be more affected by the gratitude exercise in Gordon et al. (2012)?

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