Anyone in a long-term relationship might recall the dizzying, strange new feeling of freshly requited love (aka “drunk love”). That strong and electric connection, permeating every moment of our day, can send us off to quixotic daydreams that carry us through the dreariest of work assignments.
Unfortunately for us (but also fortunately for everyone else), these euphoric highs eventually land us back on Earth.
But on Earth, connecting might not come as naturally. It can be hard to place our finger on it, exactly, but if you’ve ever thought to ask your S.O. “What did you even do today?” chances are, you and your partner are not on the same frequency anymore.
Don’t panic. “This is a common complaint,” says Anita Chlipala, LMFT and author of First Comes Us: The Busy Couple’s Guide to Lasting Love. If you feel like you’re not connecting, you’re probably not crazy. As Chlipala explains, it is imperative that “both partners recognize that needing to feel connected is a valid and healthy need.” But how do we do this?
“I’m a huge fan of rituals,” Chlipala says. “A ritual is different than a routine because [a ritual] also has special meaning.” The ritual should be simple, but “the most important thing is to avoid logistics and focus on your partner’s experience and feelings.” In other words, it’s not time to assign chores or divvy out errands. It’s time to talk about your dreams, goals, ideas. You know, those things you talked about when you first started to feel that wonderful first date connection.
Here are some rituals that have worked for Verily women.
01. Plan a daily or weekly cocktail hour.
“It sounds so very Mad Men to admit, but having cocktail hour saves my marriage,” confesses Verily writer Allison Carter. She explains that with all the chaos, having a simple sit-down where you talk and relax over a drink can revive your feelings and help you grow together. While Carter says she does this every day, Chlipala suggests starting out small, maybe just once or twice a week. “One of my clients even dressed up to make the evening feel important.” So feel free to dress up—or down—as needed.
02. Meet up for lunch.
If either you or your partner has a flexible lunch schedule, consider a midday meet-up. “Even if it’s once or twice a month, it can make a difference,” Chlipala shares. Because having a bit of adventure and novelty can heighten romantic feelings, consider trying out different kinds of foods or restaurants to shake things up a bit. Or skip lunch together, and escape to a museum or shop.
03. Meet up for virtual lunch.
Similar, but different—but perfect for the time-crunched couples. You’ll definitely need to amp up the frequency of this ritual to get the same punch as a real-life lunch, but it can be the perfect time for a call, FaceTime, or even a snap of your sandwich to get the conversation started. Whatever the excuse, be sure to get a sense of what your partner really is going through today. Even if it’s just for five or ten minutes, grab your phone, take a walk, and ask questions.
04. Stay “in tune” with Spotify (or Youtube, or whatever).
I’m partial to this suggestion because this is something that my husband and I used to do when we first started dating. I still think about some of those songs he sent. Even if you don’t share the exact same flavor of music, it’s an effortless way to keep each other “in tune” with what’s going on while also providing someone with an awesome soundtrack. If you’re having a good day, send an upbeat song with a note: “My day feels like this! How is yours?”
05. Keep your Skype on.
Have a desk job? Chlipala shares that one of her couples simply connected by just keeping Skype on the entire work day. “They told me they felt closer to each other just by knowing their partner was there, even if they didn’t actually talk for hours!” If you are worried this ritual might be too distracting during the day, you could take a page out of Verily Editor in Chief Kara Eschbach’s book and open a Slack conversation with your guy. "We both use Slack for work anyway, so it’s a natural way to send a quick ‘Hey!’ or share a link to an article the other person might enjoy. Plus, you can organize your conversations into channels that won’t clutter up your alerts box, so it feels less like you’re bothering the other person if they happen to be mid-meeting," Eschbach says.
06. Text your own little language.
We have a whole bunch of texting ideas, but what about making your own secret code? One of Chlipala’s married clients used to send a totally random emoji as a funny way to plan physical intimacy. “Building anticipation and desire plays such an important role in passion and romance, and it can turn the day’s texts into flirtatious banter throughout the day,” Chlipala explains. If that’s maybe not your thing, I suggest downloading Bitmoji—giving each of you your own avatar. It can be kind of cheesy, but it’s basically like having your own cartoon language. There are hundreds of funny (and stupid) things you can send for a good laugh or sweet smile.
07. Plan a coffee motivation session.
If you’re like most couples, you probably have slightly different morning routines that involve a lot of grunting and avoiding each other. But with a little foresight, it doesn’t have to be this way! Try to arrange your schedules to wake up around the same time and meet in the kitchen to chat over coffee or tea. It’s the opposite of No. 1; instead of winding down about your day, talk about what you’re excited to accomplish and how this fits in with your big plans together.
“Feeling connected doesn’t just happen by chance,” Chlipala says. “Couples have to work at it.”
Executing these kinds of rituals, while pretty basic, can transform the lifeblood of any long-term relationship. Perhaps the intensity might ebb and flow over the years, but keeping that electric pulse alive with a few rituals is definitely a worthy #relationshipgoal.