No matter what way you slice it, relationships with significant others always require work. Even the best ones can grow a little too… well… comfortable, which is why I was stoked when my good friend Kate Dillon recently opened up in a conversation about what can keep a marriage (or any intimate long-term relationship for that matter) exciting.
As Kate says, “It’s about finding that formula that works for you.” Every relationship is indeed different, but here are eight ideas from the conversation that we think will help bring excitement and longevity to any relationship.
1. Stay intellectually stimulated.
Think about what makes a man (or a woman) irresistible. I’m sure we can draw up a number of physical traits, but after having conversations with a number of friends, most — if not all — always seem to mention the importance of mental stimulation. “I think staying intellectually engaging is more important for women,” says Kate. “I don’t want to feel as if I’m the only one bringing ideas to the table.”
2. Be active.
If sex is the only physical “activity” that you or your partner engage in, then something needs to change. Being active to stay healthy and fit isn't just a favor you can do for yourself, but it’s also a pleasure for your partner. Kate and I both feel that it’s particularly challenging dating someone who doesn’t have an active lifestyle. Working out regularly, whether together or separately, can introduce another level of energy and attraction between two partners.
3. Be romantic.
After being with a partner for a long time, we can often take him or her for granted. It’s important not to lose the romance. And when I say romance, I don’t mean sending a sexy text message (though that can be nice too). Romance often involves a continued, inspired and sustained set of actions that remind your partner how much you care for him or her. Sending flowers periodically to the workplace, leaving missives under the door or writing poetic verse (even if over email) may sound old school, but I’ve found that these are highly appreciated and often returned in kind.
4. Cook together.
Everyone always appreciates a good meal, especially if it’s home cooked. Plan and prepare a special meal together. You may be surprised how it feels more like a romantic ritual than a chore.
5. Gift an experience.
Instead of giving physical objects as gifts during the holidays, try gifting activities that can stimulate your partner or that you can do together. Perhaps it’s a ticket to see live music or a surprise weekend trip. “My friend gave her husband a knife blacksmithing class for Christmas,” Kate told me. “That’s really hot!”
6. Be spontaneous.
Nothing shakes up monotony like a bout of spontaneity. Though many of us like to plan everything out, sometimes being too calculated discourages excitement. Take a road trip for the weekend; book a hotel nearby to change the scenery; or take off early one day to catch a movie or see a museum.
7. Inspire each other.
One of the things I love about being in a relationship is not only inspiring my significant other, but also being inspired by him. When two people come together, particularly two deeply engaged individuals, it’s imperative that inspiration flows freely throughout. If anything, it will offer a support base for each person’s life work.
8. Laugh it up.
Humor can go a long way, if only to break up the more serious matters that crop up in a relationship. My grandparents have been married for 60 years, and I don’t think a day goes by without my grandpa cracking a joke or my grandmother teasing my grandfather. If anything, having a sense of humor can help diffuse tension and add some spice to life.
Click here to watch the full-length SRO Conversations with Kate Dillon.