Jinny Hopp, former Human Environmental Sciences Specialist in Jasper County, University of Missouri Extension
Many people say that having a friendship with their spouse or romantic partner is an important goal of their relationship. Life usually becomes more complicated as intimate relationships progress. If a relationship is not built upon a solid foundation of friendship, it may become more difficult for partners to stay connected over time. It is also easy for partners to become less polite and respectful to each other as time passes because they feel more comfortable with each other. However, couples who remain good friends throughout life usually find much more enjoyment and satisfaction in their relationships.
There are many things couples can do to keep their friendship alive:
- Set aside time each day to talk and reconnect. All people change over time, and partners need to continue to learn about each other’s thoughts, feelings and ideas. Researchers have found that spending just 15 minutes a day catching up and filling each other in on what happened during the day helps prevent problems that can lead to emotional disconnection or relationship dissolution. Research has also shown that the amount of fun time spouses spend together is a major factor in the happiness of their marriage. Sharing enjoyable times prevents people from getting bored with their relationships and helps rejuvenate the bond when they are very busy and preoccupied with other concerns. Doing fun things together also helps create a set of shared memories that serve as an “emotional bank account.” When the account is consistently filled with positive emotions and good times spent together, it is easier for the relationship to weather problems.
- Have regular dates. Dates allow partners to spend fun time alone together, which can be especially important if they have children. A date might be a good time to share dreams with each other. A date should be a time to share an activity both partners enjoy. Conflict should be avoided during dates. The goal is for both people to enjoy time together.
- Show appreciation for each other. Hold hands. Plan pleasant surprises for each other. Laugh together. Compliment each other often. Leave unexpected notes of praise. Develop signals that say “I love you” but don’t forget to also say the words “I love you.” Say “thank you” for little kindnesses. Find out how your partner would like you to show appreciation and let your partner know what you would like. Showing kindness in little ways is important for several reasons. First, it enables spouses to increase their love for each other and become better friends. It also keeps little annoyances from being blown out of proportion, which helps the relationship stay strong. Daily acts of kindness can also promote the growth of romance in the marriage. John Gottman’s research has found that true romance is best preserved when partners frequently respect and care for each other in ordinary ways.
- Observe family traditions and rituals. Traditions and rituals serve many important functions in families, including strengthening the couple’s bond. First, they enable couples to figure out what is important to each partner and to their relationship. They also give meaning and predictability to relationships and family life. Rituals help couples recharge themselves from the stresses of everyday life and increase the amount of intimacy in their relationships. Relationships that are marked by many traditions and rituals are often richer and more purposeful than those that are not.