1. Ask each other personal questions. There are tons of lists of #deep questions out there, and the benefit of going off a script is that you won’t feel as self-conscious about being too nosy. Some, like Dr. Arthur Aron’s study on building closeness (made even more famous in the New York Times), have insightful questions that range from “When did you last cry in front of another person?” to “For what in your life do you feel most grateful?” Go to a cafe with free coffee refills, pull up a list on your phone, and watch how fast three hours go by as you learn endless new things about each other.
2. Learn each other’s love languages. Everyone expresses affection differently: the official Five Love Languages, as first introduced by Gary Chapman, are Gifts, Words of Affirmation, Quality of Time, Acts of Service, and Physical Touch. And that’s great! But if you are someone who shows love through helping with small tasks when your partner actually craves a lot of hugs, that’s good to address. You can take this quiz and learn yours.
3. Show interest in the things they like. No, this does not mean you have to actually like it or pretend to like it yourself. There’s that all-too-familiar TV trope of one spouse rolling their eyes while their partner rattles on about something “boring” (football for men and shopping for women, duh!). But studies show that using encouraging language and asking your partner about the things they’re passionate about — as neutral as you might be about the topic yourself — makes people feel closer and is a key to successful marriages.
4. Turn on some makeout music and go at it. Kissing has a lot of great physical benefits, like lowering stress and even cholesterol levels, but sometimes kissing gets left behind when couples are rushing to get busy. Put on some prime makeout tunes (anything from soft indie folk to slick R&B to smooth jazz, because whatever, this is your makeout session), turn down the lights, and get going.
5. Work out together. Everyone knows how important exercise is in general, but even better is having your partner by your side as you push yourself to run that extra lap. Not only are you supporting each other as you challenge your bodies to lift more or jog faster, but you’re also together when your body is releasing a bunch of endorphins. Basically, you’ll associate all those happy post-exercise feelings with each other! Plus, seeing each other drenched in sweat and liking each other more is a surefire way to feel more connected.
6. Make playlists for each other. There’s evidence that listening to music has actual physiological benefits, like giving us a boost of oxytocin, which is also known as the “love hormone” due to its release during social bonding activities like cuddling or sex. One way you could add to all those good feels is by making each other playlists, aka the modern day mix-tapes. Music is so personal, and you can immediately feel a newfound closeness to your S.O. when you listen to a playlist they made of the music that got them through high school, for instance. Bring on the Simple Plan.
7. Reveal one new thing you each want to try in bed. It’s a no-brainer that fulfilling each other’s sexual fantasies is a bond-booster. If having the talk up-front feels too stilted or broad, you can take individual surveys (and share only the results of the things you both are open to trying) and take it from there … directly to the bedroom.
8. Day trip to your heart (and wallet’s) content. It can be tough to swing a full weekend that involves air travel and well-kept hotels. But even just a trip to a town close by that you’ve never been to can feel like an escape, and that’s important. Walking aimlessly down the main street of a new place, taking a hike, or even just driving a few miles to try a new hole-in-the wall restaurant — all these things will feel like you’ve actually allotted time to be together and will help you be *~in the moment~*.
9. Text less, call more. On one hand, texting and messaging is great because it opens the door for contact where it didn’t exist before (at work, in line at a pharmacy, during Hulu commercial breaks.) On the other hand, it can also make you feel like you always have to talk, even when you don’t have much to say at the moment — not responding just feels rude. If you’re having a busy day at work, instead of texting (which will just stress you out), consider calling them when you get home instead. It’ll feel a lot more fulfilling and intimate, especially because you’ll have so much more to catch up on.
10. Say a few creatively nice things to them every day. All compliments are always welcome, but challenge yourself to go beyond “you’re beautiful” or “you’re smart.” Think of how they inspire you to change for the better or how they look in a specific shirt. How can you not feel close to someone who so clearly and uniquely appreciates you?
11. Do more eye-gazing in bed. According to sex therapists, eye contact during sex may not feel the most natural, but it is a crucial part of bonding in bed. Uninterrupted eye contact can be freaky, but if you’re in a position like missionary or cowgirl where you’re positioned to look directly at each other, try to fix your gaze on their eyes, even if it feels a little awkward at first! It’ll help build a stronger feeling of trust in a moment when you are potentially the most vulnerable.
12. Bring in the mutual friends. Even if you’re super infatuated, solely depending on each other for company adds a lot of pressure and can start to feel isolating as a result. Studies show that there are huge upsides to hanging out with other couples or groups of mutual friends, like finding your partner more attractive as they crack jokes with their BFF.
13. Treat them like a great friend instead of your one best friend. Think of your platonic best friend. Do you spend an hour every night complaining about your day to them? Do you vent every single frustration and insecurity to them the exact moment you feel it? Or do you do some of those things, but balance them out with lighter topics and activities, so, you know, you actually enjoy spending time together? Ironically, talking to your partner about everything, all the time, without any sort of filter ever actually decreases intimacy, according to therapists. And it’s not hard to see why; it’s incredibly exhausting.