1. Exchange “This Is Why I Love You” lists.
There’s no better way to remember exactly why you love someone than to sit down and write out a list of all the reasons why they deserve your undying affection. Healthy relationships require just as much thought and attention as any professional project, so brainstorm like crazy. When you put pen to paper for a love themed mind dump, the beauty is that there are no wrong answers. Plus, the process of conjuring all your partner’s wonderful traits and then reviewing their list about why you’re so awesome will leave you both exuding positivity. You’re bound to end up feeling pretty damn good about the world overall, and your relationship specifically.
2. Take turns asking each other a series of revealing questions.
How well do you really know your partner? Do you know what their most embarrassing memory is? What their greatest fear is? What their biggest hope for the future is? What inspired them to choose their career? What childhood memory they most cherish? No matter how long you’ve been dating, there are probably several basic pieces of information that have slipped through the cracks over the years. Sitting down with a list of questions with the express purpose of discovering (or rediscovering) your partner will thrust you both back to that intimate place that marks most lustful, romantic beginnings. If you don’t feel like drafting your own questions, you can always use this questionnaire designed by scientists to accelerate intimacy between strangers.
3. Bury a time capsule.
When you create a time capsule representing your relationship, it encourages you to think about what makes your bond so unique and worthy of commemorating. Conceivably, the container you’ll bury and recover a decade or so later will be relatively small, so you’ll have to discuss which items make the cut, and which don’t. As you debate whether to enclose a pack of matches from the bar where you met or a cigarette to symbolize how one of you quit smoking thanks to the other, you’ll feel closer than ever. And as you bury the capsule alongside each other at whatever meaningful sight you decide on, you’ll naturally start pondering the next ten years in each other’s loving company.
4. Plant something.
You don’t need a backyard big enough to accommodate a vegetable garden to exercise your green thumbs. A single rectangular planter is sufficient. With just a few seeds, you can revel in the process of nurturing actual life and watching something grow day to day. Parenting plants is a surprisingly joyous activity, and unlike actual children, flora are peaceful and obedient. If you go the herb route, you also get to tap your mini garden for fresh basil, mint and other goodies whenever you cook.
5. Reenact a memorable date.
Most long-term couples cherish the memory of their first date or some other evening out when they first realized just how strong their bond was. The very mention of a certain restaurant or mishap or joke probably has the power to make you both recall why you’re still together. By recreating one of these nights, you can relive each precious moment while simultaneously making new memories together. Time well spent.
6. Read a book together.
Reading is generally thought of as a solitary activity, so when you make it a joint venture, it automatically feels special. Peruse the shelves together at a book store or online and select a title that appeals to you both. Then take turns reading out loud to each other for half an hour a night before nodding off, or invest in a splitter and listen to a book on tape with two sets of headphones. Sitting on the couch to binge watch Netflix with your significant other is far more passive than diving into a book, which promises fulfillment in an entirely new way.
7. Disconnect electronically.
Constant distraction is the downfall of so many relationships in the digital age. Unless you’re saving lives by picking up the phone instinctively every time it buzzes, you might as well save your relationship by being more attentive to your boyfriend or girlfriend. Block out stretches of time in your calendars to disconnect electronically as a couple—and to reconnect as human beings. Giving and receiving undivided attention is so much more rewarding than the instant gratification your social feeds provide.
8. Agree not to masturbate for a week.
No matter how strong your sex life is, it can be surprisingly impactful to establish a temporary no-masturbation pact. By refraining from solo sex, you set the stage to thirst for each other’s naked bodies even more than usual simply because you’ll need each other to fill your respective orgasm voids. Everyone likes to feel needed, especially sexually. If you’re competitive by nature, you might as well turn the no-masturbation thing into a fun contest a la Seinfeld and see who caves in first.
9. Spend a few nights apart.
When you truly love someone, separating even for one night can suck. But there’s a reason for the cliché about absence and the heart. By spending time apart, you position yourselves to remember why you enjoy each other’s company so damn much. Even if it’s just for a day, the deprivation will make you ache for each other and look forward to reuniting to a degree that’s tough to replicate otherwise.
10. Clean out your house.
Over the years we all accumulate a vast amount of crap. There are so many advantages to sifting through your belongings together and tossing out a solid percentage of them. As you uncover various relics and knickknacks representing past vacations and long forgotten memories, you’ll appreciate your shared history. Plus, by getting rid of the things that don’t have any sentimental value, you’ll feel unburdened by the weight of junk. Whether your hold a tag sale or make a donation to a local charity, a good house cleaning is a great way to start fresh (and to save yourselves from becoming certified hoarders).
Even the smallest change in your surrounding environment can have a significant impact on your wellbeing. That’s why people buy flowers even though they’re expensive and tend to die relatively quickly. A little DIY home décor project as simple as painting your bedroom walls or changing all the photos displayed throughout the house will give you something to focus on together. Plus, agreeing on a design change and tackling the execution together will remind you that you’re literally building a life together.
12. Do something new together.
Last but not least, the most straightforward approach to reigniting the passion so you can fall in love all over again is to channel newness, a shockingly effective way to trigger the release of dopamine in the brain. Novelty is always within reach—for individuals and couples. Doing something new doesn’t have to mean bungee jumping or traveling to Egypt to see the pyramids. Sometimes, the simplest new pursuits can be wonderfully satisfying. So cook something other than the five go-to meals you typically rely on, buy tickets to the theater instead of the movies for once, or try a different exercise regimen like couples yoga. Whether you’re learning French or experimenting in the kitchen, traversing new territory will prove relationship enriching.