Relationally . . . on Purpose

10 Ways to Add Heat to Your Relationship

It takes effort to make and keep a relationship lively and sexy!

We get stuck in unhelpful ruts and patterns. We misunderstand or misinterpret our partner’s words or actions and neglect to check on our beliefs. We become annoyed over and over about the same household or partnership junk. We prioritize work or friend time over time with our partners. . . .

You get it. You may be living some of it right now.

And don’t be fooled into thinking that only long-term couples get stuck. The couples who get stuck are any who are not nourishing their relationship.

As we heard from arguably the most infamous fictional misanthrope, Ebenezer Scrooge, in Dickens’ classic A Christmas Carol, “Are these the shadows of things that will be, or are they the shadows of what may be only?”

Ups and downs are part of relationships. That’s natural and human. And I’m here to tell you that staying stuck in unhelpful ruts and feeling disconnected from your partner more often than not are outcomes that may be only.

Be intentional and add some relationship heat and connection. What a great time of year for it! Read below for 10 intentional activities for making connections with your partner.

10 Ways to Add Heat to Your Relationship

1. Have fun together

Go play! Get silly! Have fun! Embrace your inner (or outer) dork! Think togetherness!

Make snow people. Start a playful snowball fight. Sing carols. Sit down for hot chocolate or eggnog. Watch classic or new holiday movies. Wear reindeer antlers or a Santa hat.

We may be taller and see or feel more effects from gravity and wear than we did a couple or few decades ago, but fun and play are for all of us! You and your honey will feel energized and playful and create a memory and connection in your fun together.

2. Be present

Sometimes the best present you can give is the gift of being present.

Be in the moment. Show up. Focus on yourself. Focus on your partner. Ask what is happening in the moment that I would regret missing or could productively contribute to.

Commit to being an active participant in your relationship by showing up, especially if or when it feels like it’s not the easiest place to be.

3. Offer to help

Think about where you can pitch in on a task and don’t wait to be asked.

We get sucked in by the busy-ness of the end of the year activities. And there’s always plenty to do, including the everyday stuff. Help your sweetie prioritize the list of to-dos. (And remember to give yourselves permission to let go of anything that doesn’t add value – you can pick it back up another time.)

Tackle your list together. Be proud knowing that you work well as a team. High fives to you! You’ll both feel the loving message of We are in this together!

4. Take a break

If something between you two is feeling bigger than you can manage in the moment, choose to take a break. Step out of the room or take a deep breath.

Respectfully let your loved one know you’re feeling overwhelmed before you leave. Then also let them know that you’ll be back shortly. And then follow through and respectfully, honestly, and non-judgmentally share how you’re doing and what you needed in that moment.

It’s an opportunity to change frustration or overwhelm into a productive conversation.

5. Be flexible

Things will not happen exactly as you planned or hoped. That’s real. That’s life.

Breathe through that and then bend and flow. Rigidity is not a sexy or connection-making trait. Believing that things can only be one way sucks a lot of joy and possibility out of life and a relationship. Ugh. Flexibility allows for creativity and possibilities – and even fun!

Brainstorm with your partner to come up with new ideas. (Sure, I’ll say it – ‘cause somebody’s got to – think flexy is sexy!)

6. Listen to understand

There’s a lot of bustle to hear in the winter months. Snowplows, mail trucks, Christmas music, cash registers chirping.

Don’t get distracted by the bustle when your partner needs you. Give your partner your attention. Look into their eyes. Be patient and let them finish speaking. Commit to listen to understand.

Remember that your partner may not be looking for you to fix anything, they may just want and need to be heard. Start with something like, “Wow, that sounds like a lot,” or something suitably appropriate. Then, maybe, if it feels right, ask if there’s anything they would like you to do for them.

Listening, giving a hug, understanding where your partner is – those are “the fixes.”

7. Notice and share

Practice noticing and sharing what you’re thinking or feeling.

At the end of the day (or any time) pause with your love and do a check-in. Start it by saying something like, “Hon, I’m feeling overwhelmed right now. I could use a hug.” After your hug, invite your sweetheart to share what they’re feeling.

No judging your feelings or theirs. Just notice, listen to, and honor the feelings in your space together. Your beloved will appreciate your being in tune to yourself and being curious about them in return.

8. Embrace the holiday spirit

Practice joyfulness, forgiveness, kindness, generosity, patience, and more.

Smile at others while you’re waiting in line. Pay it forward if you never have. Let someone wearing an ugly Christmas sweater know that they made your day. Whistle or sing a carol or song, especially when it might be least expected, like in a checkout line or an elevator. (Yes, be that fun person!)

Notice and appreciate these qualities in others too, especially in your honey. Your honey will welcome your being the embodiment of the spirit.

9. Take responsibility

If you’ve stepped in it, own it. Don’t make excuses. Don’t blame others. And don’t minimize your partner’s thoughts and feelings.

Mistakes happen in life and love, and real humans make mistakes. Own it and make your sincere apology to your honey. Make it a learning moment. Then move on and do something fun together (see #1!).

10. Be intentional (saved the best for last)

Don’t leave your connection to your partner to chance!

Be purposeful and planful. Plan a breakfast or coffee date for the two of you – even (or especially!) if things feel super busy. Reach out and hold your lover’s hand more often than usual. Sit for 3 minutes together in low light at the beginning or end of the day, just enjoying the peace of the moment. Have loving, patient, and inviting conversations.

You may have connected by chance. (I bet you have a great beginning to your love story! Consider retelling your meeting stories to each other and notice and enjoy where the stories are the same and different.) But your togetherness really began when you each made the effort to connect.

Flirting, sharing, touching, being curious, etc. . . . right? You got it! You GOTTA keep doing that to keep your connection and the fire between you hot!

I hear you. You’re thinking Awkward!

Sure. These are just suggestions, change ‘em up in a way that suits your style and personality and that of your relationship. And know that new things are awkward. But still commit to picking one or two of these and start practicing today. And keep adding new ones as you become more comfortable with the other ones.

This is about reshaping your connection as you create new and exciting expectations and meaning for intimacy.

Relationships are a marathon. And there are no shortcuts. They’re a life-long practice with your partner.

You’ve got this. You, your love, and your relationship are worth it.

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Picture of JoEllen Lange, MA, LAMFT

JoEllen Lange, MA, LAMFT

JoEllen helps men connect with themselves and their identities through compassionate listening and acceptance. She provides them with tools to help them move ever closer to their intimate partners while helping them acknowledge and process their pain of previous disconnection. JoEllen also helps couples rediscover, reimagine, and redefine their connection to each other through compassionate understanding and healing. She also loves to help newly engaged or newly together couples create healthy relationship foundations by engaging them in PREPARE/ENRICH conversations.