“Shared joy is a double joy; shared sorrow is half a sorrow.” – Swedish Proverb
Love, sex and housework. How do these three things fit together? Apparently pretty well. Several recent studies show that couples who share household and child-rearing chores have more sex. In fact, the more shared housework the more sexual frequency.
It’s not a matter of bribery or reward, but of how much energy each partner has at the end of the day. More importantly, couples who share responsibilities also share a lot of other things – trust, intimacy, respect, communication. Feeling understood and supported by your partner is a turn on.
My husband and I recently celebrated our 15th anniversary and I’ve been thinking about what keeps passion alive in long-term relationships. The best ones have both realistic expectations and great imaginations when it comes to love. Both partners know each other deeply, yet understand there is always more to know. We grow throughout life. The great adventure is that each day holds new possibilities and we can continue to learn from each other through the years. Staying intimately connected in our fast-paced lives can be challenging, but worth every moment.
Eight Ways to Keep the Sizzle in Your Relationship
- Lead independent lives. No one can give you everything you need. Develop outside relationships, go out with friends. If you are vibrant and happy in your individual life, you’ll bring a lot more to the table in a long-term relationship. In psychotherapist Esther Perel’s research, one of the biggest turn-ons for couples was seeing their partners in their element, radiant and confident. One of the biggest turn-offs: neediness.
- Don’t try to change your partner. Maybe certain of his habits drive you crazy, but when you first fell in love, the fact that he seemed to have paralysis when it came to picking up his dirty socks was not that big of a deal. Familiarity over time can make a couple look more at what’s wrong than what is right. Focus on each other’s strengths.
- Practice the 20-to-1 positivity ratio. Dr. John Gottman’s research finds that successful long-term couples have a 20-to-1 positivity ratio. That is, for every negative moment, happy couples have 20 positive moments. These can be as simple as a smile, shared laughter, a loving look, or affectionate touch. If you’re not there yet in your relationship, it’s never too late to start. Sprinkle your days with positive affirmations such as “I love you,” “thank you,” “wow, you amaze me,” or “I admire how you did that.”
- Mix it up. When things get boring, give yourself a boost. Do new things together. We all remember our favorite falling-in-love memories, but don’t leave it at that. Create new memories by making time and space for love. Try things that thrill you, maybe things you never thought you would do but always wanted to. The element of surprise and mystery releases dopamine in the brain, which is related to romantic love. But you don’t have to go whitewater rafting to boost your love factor. Just reminiscing about your happiest times can create a renewed sense of togetherness.
- Passion ebbs and flows. Long-time love learns to ride the waves. Find your adventurous self from time to time, but trust also in those quiet moments when you are just holding hands.
- Get to know your partner’s inner world, says Dr. Terry Orbuch, otherwise known as The Love Doctor. The relationship expert suggests building this daily habit into your routine: “For at least 10 minutes every day, talk together about something other than work, family, who’s going to do what around the house or your relationship.” If you’re not sure how to enter that inner world, ask questions like: “What have you been most proud of this year?” “If you won the lottery, where would you want to travel to and why?”
- Recognize calls for attention. In Dr. Gottman’s Love Lab, his team studied 120 newlyweds. Couples who were still happily married six years later had this in common: they were mindful of the little signals their partners made asking for attention. Happy couples responded 86% of the time to their partner’s signals, compared to only 33% of the time in couples who eventually got a divorce.
- Be generous with gratitude and do so daily. In Dr. Orbuch’s long-term study of 343 couples, those who expressed frequent gratitude to each other were significantly happier in their marriages than those who didn’t. Of the happy couples in her study, 61% said their partners “often made them feel good about the kind of person they are, compared to only 27 percent of the other couples.”
Love is a daily action. It shows up in bedrooms and kitchens, in household chores, in how we speak to one another, what we talk about, and how we see our loved ones and ourselves. It’s not a separate act late at night. It is a thousand acts of sharing, listening, honesty, forgiving and honoring one another for who we are.
Here’s to your happily ever after!