It’s a couple of years or more into your relationship, and you’ve formed a comfortable bubble in which the two of you have your routines, your go-to activities, your rituals and your inside jokes. It’s nice, and cozy, but…at times, it starts to feel a little bit stagnant. ‘Is this just what relationships are like after the honeymoon phase ends?’ you ask yourself. Things aren’t exactly bad–far from it. They’re just a little bit…monotonous, maybe. Sometimes. The relationship isn’t in any acute danger, and another night in, spent watching Netflix while cuddled up on the sofa, doesn’t sound the least bit disagreeable. Still, you do occasionally wish you could stir up a little bit more excitement from time to time.
Sound familiar? This is something that many couples go through as they move past the getting-to-know-you stage and into a nesting phase. Nesting is great, and it’s an important part of building a relationship. However, couples who sink too deeply into the nesting stage and stop doing new things together sometimes eventually complain of having lost the spark. ‘The spark’ can often be rekindled by injecting a powerful drug: Novelty. Novelty makes us feel good, because it prompts our brains to release dopamine–one of nature’s most famous feel-good chemicals (Cooper, 2013). In the context of a coupled relationship, a little bit of novelty can provide a boost in excitement and also bring couples closer together (Selig, 2010). Participating in novel activities as a couple doesn’t have to mean going skydiving or doing anything crazy. It can be little things, like trying a new cuisine together or going on your daily walk in a new and unexplored location.
For inspiration, we’re going to suggest five novel activities that you might try together as a couple. Feel free to come up with your own!
- Start a club or group together. What interest do you both share around which it might be fun to build community? Perhaps you both enjoy meditation or yoga, or playing mafia/werewolf, or board games like Settlers of Catan. Start a group in which together you host people in your area (or online via zoom, if you prefer) who enjoy or are interested in the same things. You can utilize word of mouth, facebook groups, or even apps like Couchsurfing or Meetup to post events and garner participants. The collaboration involved in regularly hosting something together and building a community around it is an excellent way to inject excitement into your relationship while bonding over working as a team.
- Read a book aloud together. You can ritualize this–select a book that you’re both interested in, and choose a romantic or relaxing place to read. You might sit together in a hammock, or in front of your fireplace sipping wine and lounging on cushions as you take turns reading a chapter or a section to each other. If you like this activity, another twist on it could be that you each select a book you’ve read before which had a big impact on you. Investing time and energy in reading something that holds a special place in your significant other’s inner world is a great way to get to know them even better while simultaneously strengthening your connection by accepting influence from your partner.
- Take a massage course together. Massaging one another is an excellent way to bond physically and get to know one another’s bodies well. Most people love to be massaged, but a lot of people don’t feel confident in their ability to massage well. You can take a massage course for cheap on Udemy or your favorite online education platform, or even in person. As you practice your new techniques on one another, be sure to update your love maps by asking and responding to what techniques your partner particularly enjoys. Deepening your knowledge of how one another’s bodies work and respond to different types of touch is sure to deepen your connection as well, and unless you already do so regularly, taking a massage course while practicing on each other also qualifies as a novel activity.
- Try a new sport together. Have either of you ever gone bouldering? Give it a try! Climbing not your thing? Try paddleball, foosball, snorkeling, or geocaching. In order to commit more fully to the experience, you might separately read up on different aspects of the sport and then teach each other based on what you’ve read. For example, if you decide to go snorkeling together, one of you might educate themselves in advance on how to read the ocean (how does the moon impact the current and the relative roughness or calmness of the ocean? At what time during the tide cycle are conditions best for snorkeling?) while the other might learn about how to identify different fish species in your area + any hazards to watch out for and how to respond should you accidentally step on a sea urchin, for example. Then, you can teach each other.
- Go dancing together. Getting active together in a way that involves a lot of eye contact and good music is often more enjoyable and easier to get motivated for than getting active in a way that involves sweating and bending over with cramps. Plus, having to work together to synchronize your rhythm and movements can bolster your physical connection and prompt you to relate to one another on a different level and with a different flavor than how you communicate in your everyday life.
- Play tour guide. One weekend, you’re both tasked with separately finding a new place in your area which neither of you has ever been to. Take your preferred transportation method to that place, and if possible, have the other person close their eyes or be blindfolded on the way there. Once you arrive, the partner leading the expedition to the new location is responsible for playing tour guide. However, rather than giving true and factual information, their task is to invent the most preposterous information they can think of. It may seem like you’re visiting the bank of a local river, but maybe you’re actually visiting the site of where the crater that wiped out the dinosaurs hit.
- Scavenger hunt. Set up a scavenger hunt around your house in which inside jokes and relationship memories are used as clues to find a prize, which might be a new tasty treat or small item you know your partner has been eyeing. This infuses some novelty into your relationship in two ways: through doing an activity you don’t do regularly, and through obtaining a new item.
It might be easier to inject novelty into a relationship during its early years, but as we all know, many couples lapse so much into comfort and certainty after they marry that they gradually stop engaging in courtship and activities that are outside of their normal routine. If you find that adding novelty to your relationship helps you to stay connected and retain a sense of excitement in your relationship, you might consider adding a lifestyle clause to your prenup that stipulates that the two of you should engage in a novel activity at least once every week, month, or quarter. Although not usually legally enforceable, lifestyle clauss help you establish accountability and set intentions that, if followed through on, turn into powerful tools for staying connected, building trust, or continually growing and developing as a couple.
If you do your prenup using Hello Prenup, you’ll be guided through a set of questions that will help you create a personalized premarital agreement which meets each of your unique needs, is designed based on the conditions of your unique relationship, and to which you can add various clauses according to your situation. You’ll also save at least $1,900. You could even re-invest that into novel activities to do together!
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Julia Rodgers is HelloPrenup’s CEO and Co-Founder. She is a Massachusetts family law attorney and true believer in the value of prenuptial agreements. HelloPrenup was created with the goal of automating the prenup process, making it more collaborative, time efficient and cost effective. Julia believes that a healthy marriage is one in which couples can openly communicate about finances and life goals. You can read more about us here Questions? Reach out to Julia directly at [email protected]
Cooper, B. B. 2013. Why Getting New Things Makes us Feel so Good: Novelty and the Brain. Retrieved from: https://buffer.com/resources/novelty-and-the-brain-how-to-learn-more-and-improve-your-memory/
Selig, M. 2010. Can the “Novelty Habit” Boost a Couple’s Connection? Retrieved from: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/changepower/201005/can-the-novelty-habit-boost-couples-commitment