The Holidays: A Time for Creating Shared Meaning

November 19th, 2014

by Michael Brown, MSC, LMFT, dba Happy Couples Healthy Communities
The Thanksgiving meal, decorating the Christmas tree, the Nativity creche, lighting the menorah candles, the exchange of gifts, the meals, worship, gatherings of family and friends, New Year’s Eve traditions, etc.: the holiday season is rich in symbols, rituals, and meaning that are both universal and particular to each marriage and family. These symbols and rituals are part and parcel of the shared meaning of a marriage and family. Creating shared meaning is the attic of a sound relationship where our important dreams, narratives, myths, and metaphors about our relationship and family find a home.
John Gottman, Ph.D., the pre-eminent researcher on relationship stability and divorce prediction in our times, has identified Create Shared Meaning as the last of his “Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work” and as the attic of the Sound Relationship House, a theory and model for making marriage work based on his over 40 years of multi-dimensional and extensive research with over 3000 couples. The Sound Relationship House begins with friendship and moves through managing conflict to the higher goals of making each other’s life dreams come true and creating shared meaning. The supporting walls of the House are Trust and Commitment.
According to Gottman, marriage has a spiritual dimension that has to do with creating an inner life together:
• “Marriage isn’t about just raising kids, splitting chores, and making love. It can also have a spiritual dimension that has to do with creating an inner life together–a culture rich with symbols and rituals, and an appreciation of your roles and goals that link you, that you to understand what it means to be part of the family you have become.” (Gottman & Silver, 1999).
How do we create shared meaning in a marriage and family? The “Masters of Relationship,” who John Gottman identified as two people who stay together, who report high relational satisfaction and who like and enjoy one another, create shared meaning by intentionally talking about:
1. Rituals of Connection (formal and informal),
2. Shared goals,
3. Supporting each other’s life roles, and
4. Agreeing about basic symbols, such as what a home means (Gottman & Schwartz Gottman, 2013).
Rituals of Connection include how we eat together, how we part at the beginning of the day and how we greet each other at the end of the day, how we say goodnight, how we spend our weekends and vacations, how we celebrate holidays, etc. Shared goals include our goals as a couple and a family. Our life roles include our roles as husband and wife, father and mother, professional roles, etc. Our basic symbols include photographs or objects that show who we are as a family, our family histories, the meaning of a home, and objects and activities that symbolize our philosophy of life.
We are each philosophers trying to make some sense out of this brief journey through life and every committed relationship is a cross-cultural experience in which we blend together each partner’s legacy, culture, values, and beliefs to entirely new culture (Gottman & Schwartz Gottman, 2013). This holiday season, take time to create shared meaning in your relationship and family by celebrating and talking about the symbols and rituals in your marriage and family.
Gottman, J., & Schwartz Gottman, J. (2013). The Art & Science of Love: A Weekend Workshop for Couples. Seattle, WA: The Gottman Institute.
Gottman, J., & Silver, N. (1999). The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work. New York, NY: Three Rivers.

4 Tips for Recovering After Infidelity

November 15th, 2014

RingsAaron Anderson, FamilyShare

Do you worry that your marriage will never completely heal because of an affair? Not only can your relationship recover, but it can be better than before.


If you’ve been cheated on, you often wonder how you can be certain it’ll never happen again. You wonder how you can ever trust your spouse again. After all, your spouse has been such a believable liar in the past, so you don’t know if you’ll be able to see through future lies.


Despite all the questions and betrayal that you feel, there are ways that you and your spouse can recover from an affair and come out stronger for it.  

1) Create accountability. Whenever there is an affair, there’s almost always two vulnerabilities going on: 1) something in the relationship that made it vulnerable to an affair, and 2) a vulnerability in one of the partners to act out and have an affair. Because of this, there is accountability for both partners to take. You can take accountability by looking inside the relationship to see what made the relationship vulnerable to the affair, and you can work to fix that vulnerability now and in the future.


This doesn’t mean it’s your fault that your partner cheated on you. Many relationships go through low points, and most people are able to make it through without having an affair. The fact that your spouse acted on the vulnerability in the relationship by having an affair is 100 percent his or her responsibility — and your spouse needs to take ownership for what it was inside of him or her that acted out.


2) Create new boundaries. Boundaries not only protect you, but they also send messages to others about how to treat you. As a couple, you need to identify ways to repair broken boundaries and protect your relationship from outside influences. This means the partner who was having the affair needs to show that he or she is willing to put the relationship first. This means stopping communication with the affair partner, dedicating more time to the marriage and discovering the many ways your spouse has allowed outside influences to come before your marriage.

You also need to create new boundaries. You need to make it clear to your partner what you will and won’t accept in the relationship, and you need to make it clear what your expectations in the relationship are moving forward.

3) Find your inner voice. No one expects his or her spouse to have an affair. But in all my years of practice, I can probably count on one hand the times when a spouse has been completely surprised that his or her partner was having an affair. Most of the time, spouses say they saw signs but ignored them, or they’ll say that they had their suspicions but didn’t think it was really possible.


The truth is, if you really think about it, you’ve had an inner voice all along that was telling you something wasn’t quite right. It might not have been very loud or it might have been easy to ignore, but if you look back, you’ll see that it really was there all along. And listening to that same inner voice will give you the confidence moving forward to trust yourself and see for certain whether your spouse is doing the work necessary to protect your relationship from another affair.


4) Learn to love again. After creating accountability, setting boundaries and letting your inner voice shine through, it’s time to learn to love again. This means it’s time to soften those places that have become guarded or calloused as a result of the affair. If your partner has been taking ownership and protecting the relationship by setting boundaries, it’s normally safe to let yourself love again — which means you can trust your spouse with your heart again and begin to build a new relationship.


Remember, your old relationship with your spouse was vulnerable, so you don’t want that one back again. You need to make a new relationship that builds on the strengths you’ve learned through the healing process. In a very real way, you’ve become different people and are learning to love each other again. Both you and your relationship are all the better for it because you’ve addressed and overcome the vulnerabilities within the relationship and within yourself.

Adventurous Activities for Husband and Wife

November 12th, 2014


As time goes by and you both settle into your daily routines, sometimes it gets harder to think of new and exciting things to do together.

There are always new restaurants to try or new places to visit and explore, but it seems like the things you still do together have become all too familiar.

Try something together that can be your very own. Here are some ideas to get you started.

Motorcycling in Matrimony

Whether you’re cruising along a coastal highway or zipping through country terrain, taking a ride on a motorcycle with your loved one can be an almost magical experience.

Before you strap on your helmet and fuel up your machine, you’ll need to do some pre-planning. You will either need a permit, an endorsement on a regular driver’s license, or a motorcycle license. As for insurance, check the minimum insurance requirements and look for discounts. For registration, you’ll need the basic paperwork like you do for a car—emissions, proof of insurance, proof of title and your permit or license. Check your state DMV for a detailed list.

You’ll be out in all kinds of weather and you need to dress for it appropriately. Motorcycle apparel like leather jackets are standard wear, as well as gloves and pants. And don’t forget the boots.

Popular motorcycle riding destinations include Michigan’s Tunnel of Trees, Beartooth Pass, Wyoming and San Juan Mountain Skyway in Colorado.

Kayaking Couples

Kayaking is a great way to connect with nature. You can go fishing or relax and watch the sun set right from the seat of the kayak.

There are SINK (sit inside kayaks) and SOT (sit on top) kayaks. Both styles can be purchased or rented. Talk it over with your partner as to which you would prefer.

As far as safety, you will need a PFD (a personal flotation device). Do not go kayaking without a good one and wear it at all times. Take a kayaking lesson with a certified instructor to learn the basics. A first-aid and CPR lesson can be taken as an added measure of precaution.

Remember to stay hydrated and pack a gallon of water. Also recommended is a first aid or supply kit that contains band aids, anti-acids, energy bars, lotion, sunscreen and aspirin. Seal it in an air-tight container. Some kayakers place the container in a ziplock bag to ensure it won’t get wet.

Wear bright colored clothing when you kayak such as orange or yellow. This way you can be seen by other boats and won’t encounter any accidents.

Add a Touch of Spontaneity

If you don’t want to do something strenuous, there are many other things that you two can start together that don’t take much planning.

Get season tickets for your favorite sports teams, the opera or the symphony. A spontaneous night out can be fun for the both of you.

Take swing-dancing lessons. Let the music be your guide and let-loose!

Pick a day or weekend and have a movie marathon. Make sure you have popcorn, soda and candy and then make a bed on the floor and watch movies. Just like you did when you were young.

Protecting Your Relationship from Emotional Infidelity

November 4th, 2014

Protecting Your Relationship
By Denise J. Charles
We have to exercise clear controls for ensuring that our relationships do not cross the emotional boundaries which could harm our primary relationship.
As human beings we all have an overpowering need for human connection. We want to feel as though we matter. It is important that we are affirmed and that our worth is validated. Most of us therefore enter marriage expecting that our spouse will meet our deep need for love and acceptance. In an ideal world where we all came from well-adjusted families, this would probably be true. Since, however, we enter marriage with our own individual, often flawed emotional life-scripts; sometimes we are not exactly poised to meet someone else’s emotional needs. This is especially so, if when growing up ours were not met.
In other words, inadequate parenting or abuse, can affect our ability to reach out to someone else. So while our spouse may have a valid need, we may not be in an emotionally healthy place to either recognize or meet that need. Additionally, unmatched marital expectations, different socialization, poor communication, even gender-influenced ways of relating, can contribute to emotional disconnection in marriage or other committed relationships.
This leads us to the issue of emotional infidelity. In the same way that we pursue extra-marital sex because we need to have specific needs met, we also pursue extra-marital, emotional attachments because a basic need may not be met in our marriage. In the same way that sexual exclusivity defines marriage, there should also be a peculiar or distinctive quality to the emotional intimacy which should characterize our marriage or committed relationship.
Does this mean that we should not have meaningful friendships outside of our primary relationship or marriage? I don’t think so necessarily, but when such friendships are with the opposite sex, we have to exercise clear controls for ensuring that such relationships do not cross the emotional boundaries which could harm our primary relationship.
So what exactly does an inappropriate emotional attachment look like and is it always dangerous? Deep, opposite sex, emotional friendships are indicated and become lethal in a number of scenarios. These include when:
1. The relationship replaces the deep, meaningful communication which should take place between a couple
2. The friendship causes divided loyalty in the marriage or primary relationship, where the partner prefers to spend time sharing with his/her friend as opposed to sharing with his/her spouse or partner
3. The connection fosters sexual attraction. It is known that the more we open up to someone we feel emotionally connected to, the more vulnerable we are to becoming sexually involved with that person; in this way emotional infidelity becomes a precursor to sexual infidelity
4. The spouse feels uncomfortable or threatened by the friendship and perceives that the intimacy of the marriage or relationship is under threat
5. The emotional tie is accompanied by flirting, touching, or sexual innuendo but stops short of actual intercourse. This can encourage the guilty spouse to be misguided into thinking that nothing wrong is being done while the marriage is actually being steadily eroded.
Guarding Against Emotional Infidelity
Preserving the emotional sanctity of the marriage may not be a big deal for couples who have solid relationships and connect regularly. For those with communication challenges, or for relationships with tensions or unmet needs, greater vigilance may be required. Whatever the state of the relationship, however, some thought and discipline is needed if the uniqueness of the marriage or committed relationship is to be preserved. The following tips should be helpful.
1. Be open and honest with your partner about your expectations in the relationship; share your feelings about the issue of your emotional needs and please make them known in detail.
2. Cultivate a close relationship by spending more time together. If you are tending your relationship, then it will be very difficult for your relationship to be intruded upon by any outside source.
3. Set rules with respect to boundaries with friends of the opposite sex. Insist that any close friend also becomes a friend of the couple.
4. As a couple, agree not to have secret liaisons like lunches or after-work dinners with someone either of you feel emotionally attracted to.
5. Practice disclosure when appropriate, if you feel yourself drawn to someone other than your spouse or partner. Being open about extra-marital attraction, dis-empowers it and encourages accountability in the relationship.
6. Don’t expect your partner to meet your every need. Seeking ways to develop yourself or to enjoy your own company lifts some of the responsibility and weight from your partner and makes you less emotionally vulnerable to others.

Good marriages rest on hearing, listening

October 30th, 2014

Hearing ListeningBy Gina Barreca/Hartford Courant, October 20, 2014
Here’s what I’ve learned in 23 years of marriage: Love isn’t blind, but it can be hard of hearing.
At the beginning of a relationship, you hang onto each other’s every word the way you hang onto each other’s arms: more to display affection than to satisfy a real need. You laugh at every story and gasp in delight at every exaggerated tale.
Every conversation begins a new pathway.
Your heart beats faster when you hear your name or an endearment murmured by your beloved. You spend hours wondering whether you should repeat how much you care or if that would be overdoing it. Your sweetheart probably heard it the first time, but it might be worth repeating.
Then familiarity sets in and, like the foundation to a house, you settle into each other for better and worse.
You’ve learned every pause for comic effect and quirky inflection of the well-worn funny story. You know when an exaggeration is close to a fib and when a fib is close to a lie. Your heart beats faster when you hear your name or an endearment because it often precedes a request or a rebuke. If there’s no answer when you shout, you wonder whether you should shout again or if that would be overdoing it.
You realize how important it is to be heard and how even more important it is to listen. Listening can’t be overdone.
So you each listen, and you both learn your cues.
In a good relationship, the dialogue always changes slightly, even when you’re more or less rehearsing other conversations. If you’re lucky, you’re rarely playing to an empty house.
And at the best of times, in the most fortunate of lives, in the most hard-won, fiercely protected and carefully cultivated relationships, there can come a time when you go beyond listening with your ears and know it in your bones.
It’s not only about finishing each other’s sentences, although that’s part of it. It’s knowing that the ground on which the foundation is built is unyielding; it’s understanding that there are pathways to each other that rest beneath both of you like power lines, buried under the earth, unseen and silent.
There’s an old joke about an aging couple. He wants to prove that his poor wife is losing her hearing. He decides to collect hard data to take to their family doctor. While she’s cooking, he starts the test. Approaching her from the doorway without being seen, he asks, “What are we having for dinner tonight, honey?” No response. He moves 10 feet closer and speaks louder. “What are we having for dinner tonight, honey?” Still nothing. She doesn’t even turn around. He feels bad, but she needs to admit she has a problem. Finally, now standing no more than two feet behind her, he makes his final attempt. “WHAT ARE WE HAVING FOR DINNER TONIGHT, HONEY?” he yells. “FOR THE THIRD TIME ALREADY,” she yells back, “WE’RE HAVING CHICKEN.”
My husband has tinnitus, which used to be known as having “ringing in your ears” but is now defined as the perception of sound when no external sound is present. If you live with me, according to Michael, there is no such thing as having “no external sound present,” but we’re managing.
Sure, there are some odd conversations: On a recent holiday, he stopped to ask for driving directions. A local woman told him to take the “roundabout.” Only Michael heard what she said as “banana boat.” She was pointing in the direction of a yellow building and he assumed that’s what she meant. “Is that the banana boat?” he asked. She kept pointing to the traffic circle, trying to override his comment. “Roundabout! Go toward the roundabout!” “Banana boat? Is that the banana boat?” Finally she just smiled and walked away.
As he told me the story, when he returned to the car, we laughed so hard we were wiping tears from our eyes.
After 23 years, it turns out that conversations can become epic journeys (with some roundabouts).
And the best parts are worth repeating — with bells on.

Help Your Marriage Thrive With These 4 Unconventional Tips

October 22nd, 2014

Thriving Marriage

There’s no doubt that it it takes work to maintain a strong, loving, meaningful marriage, but it’s that work combined with compromise that can also make a successful marriage so fulfilling. If you’re looking for ways to strengthen your marriage and make sure it withstands the test of time, hone in on the fundamentals of marriage such as communication, honesty and romance—and think a little creatively, too. Here are a few unconventional ways to ensure that love keeps burning strong.

Play Games

According to Science-Based Life, there are three components to romantic love: intimacy, passion and commitment. Intimacy requires the sharing of inner emotions, fun and fear. Many confuse intimacy with either sex or emotional meltdowns. Though you can be intimate during these events, many day-to-day activities can also inspire intimacy, such as playing games together.

Play video games together. They don’t require special weather conditions like outdoor sports do, and they enable couples to communicate and work together while playing. Plus, it’s just a lot of fun. Pick up a PlayStation 4 and use it for gaming, watching videos or exercising together. These daily bonding activities are the basis of a truly intimate lifelong relationship.

Evaluate TV in the Bedroom

For years, marriage experts have advised against TV in the bedroom, saying that the room should be reserved for sleeping and passionate endeavors. “Many couples with televisions in their bedroom use it as a distraction from connecting and to avoid intimacy, which can be thwarting to your sex life,” says Emily Morse, Ph.D., sex and relationship expert and co-founder of Emily & Tony. However, this depends on the couple, she advises. “If couples are setting ‘date nights’ around their favorite TV shows or watching erotic movies together and this inspires them to cuddle and have sex, the benefits for this type of situation are clear.”

Consider how watching TV in your bedroom affects you and your partner—is it something that distracts from your relationship, or is it something that brings you and your partner closer? Aim for the latter.

Vacation Often

Because of work demands and finances, many couples do not take vacation. Because of this, they miss out on the opportunity to rekindle passion, explore intimacy and develop another component of love: commitment.

Make vacations a priority. They don’t need to be long to be effective—even a weekend getaway can help to break the routine of everyday life. Focus on making memories together and getting out of your comfort zone, even if it’s a staycation for just a day or two. By re-prioritizing your relationship, you’re taking your passion and intimacy and recommitting it into the marriage.

Take Up a Hobby

Adopt a new hobby and learn something new together. Whether it’s ballroom dancing, ice hockey, playing the guitar or photography, you’ll forge a new bond by exploring something new together. Make your new interest a priority by scheduling time for it on a regular basis. As you discover new layers within your hobby, you’ll also learn more about your partner.

Key Elements of a Good Marriage

October 20th, 2014

By Emma Jackson
To define the characteristics of a good marriage is, in many ways, to open a hornet’s nest, since happiness is a difficult thing to define and relationships are often so intricate and personal that only those within them know the secret ingredients that keep them together. According to relationships expert and author of many best-selling books, including The Dance of Intimacy, Dr. Harriet Lerner, despite our differences, there are clear and defined basics that mark all healthy relationships, including marriage. In this article we share a few of her useful tips:
Respect for difference: We sometimes fall in love with a person but make the mistake of trying to change ingrained aspects of their personality or way of processing events and information, only to become frustrated when they do not conform to our ideal. In all relationships, it is vital to respect that a significant other does not feel or think the same about some aspects of life or about particular situations. In The Dance of Intimacy, Lerner suggests that unity is important, but so is the recognition of independence. Lerner says,
“ ‘Being who we are’ requires that we can talk openly about things that are important to us, that we take a clear position on where we stand on important emotional issues, and that we clarify the limits of what is acceptable and tolerable to us in a relationship. Allowing the other person to do the same means that we can stay emotionally connected to that other party who thinks, feels, and believes differently, without needing to change, convince, or fix the other.”
Think of yourselves as a team: A team has common goals, though each component has his/her own role to play. When serious issues come up (involving finances, child rearing, etc.), a team spirit will help you focus on where you are going rather than on arguing for your corner.
Argue about an issue, not about the person: According to Michael Hyatt in One Little Word that Almost Always Provokes Conflict, when arguing over a heated issue, couples often make the mistake of attacking the person through conflictive language such as “You always…” “You never…” Remember to stick to the issue at hand; do not bring up a string of anecdotes from the past in an attempt to attack your spouse’s character or general behavior. This leads to defensiveness and stops you from solving the problem at hand.
Be committed: At times, marriage can be tense. Don’t take the easy way out by seeking solace in a third party or ending the relationship as soon as the honeymoon stage is over. Try to work out your differences, with love and respect. Of course, this does not mean allowing healthy limits to be crossed.
Talk about important issues: Communication regarding important events and issues is vital; allow your spouse to express themselves and try to remain non-judgmental so that talks are fruitful instead of incendiary. Try to avoid the temptation to interrupt; it can be very frustrating for spouses when they feel they are not listened to or that their opinion or interpretation of an event does not matter.
Keep promises made to each other: Even small promises (like agreeing to take a spouse out to dinner every Saturday or to do the cleaning up on the weekend) need to be kept, so that spouses feel valued. When many small promises are broken over time, it can lead to a loss of trust.
Be sensitive to your partner’s needs and show them you care enough about them to change behavior that hurts or annoys them: You don’t have to change who you are, but if something you tend to do or say hurts your partner, try to change it to make them happy.
Do not be a ‘fixer’: In addition to trying to change our spouse, we can also fall into the trap of trying to fix situations and even people, by allowing them to cross limits, or fixing up the damage they may have caused third parties. According to, this is especially true where tough conditions like alcoholism or substance abuse are involved. If you are constantly picking up after your spouse and rushing to the rescue, or fixing problems created between them and other family members, you need to stop, without feeling guilty about it. Encourage your spouse to seek help, but make it clear that you will no longer pick up the pieces they leave behind. This does not mean giving up on them; make it clear that you love them and that you are willing to help them, but do not be afraid to establish your limits and stick to them strictly. This will not guarantee that your spouse will seek the help they need However, according to Harriet Lerner, the focus in any case should be n your own behavior and the changes you need to make, rather than those your spouse needs to make.
Try to maintain respect and love beyond the ‘honeymoon period’: Don’t stop saying words of love to your spouse; they are necessary and act like a powerful ‘glue’ many years after you say ‘I do’.

Easy Ways to Bring Back the Spark and Strengthen Your Bond

October 20th, 2014

SparkBy Sherri Goodman
Whether you’ve been together for 4 years or 4 decades, every relationship can use a tune up. Bettering your relationship doesn’t require taking a second honeymoon, going cliff diving together, or any other crazy stunts. You and your partner can strengthen your bond simply by putting a little more effort into areas you may have started to overlook.
Show Your Appreciation
It’s all too easy to take for granted the daily grunt work your partner does in order to ensure that you’re both happy. Paying bills, household chores, and cooking meals—these things are all necessary to make life go smoothly. However, they are seemingly mundane enough that the work that goes into making them happen can be overlooked.
In a recent blog post, Adam & Eve stated, “men who assist their partners with the housework have 50% more sex than the men who don’t.” The statistic wasn’t from a random survey or anything like that, either. The University of California concluded it from a study.
It’s not just about housework, though; it’s more about being helpful. Taking tasks off your partner’s to-do list shows that you understand that their time is valuable. Not only that, but completing chores that benefit you both (doing the laundry, mowing the yard, cooking dinner) show how much you care. By helping, you are acknowledging this and making your appreciation known. Better still, you can complete tasks quicker by working together or dividing them equally.
Try Something New
Over the years you’ve probably come up with a sexual routine, sometimes without even meaning to. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, right?
Well, while the saying may be true for cars or appliances, it’s not exactly true when it comes to your sex life. Mixing things up can introduce you to something new that you may enjoy even more than your standard go-tos. Psychology Today writes in this article that trying new things in your relationship can help prevent and alleviate boredom. This will make you feel closer to your partner, happier in your relationship, and more satisfied with life in general.
If you’re hesitant, know that trying something new doesn’t mean you’re doing anything permanent. If you find that even just trying out a new position in the bedroom isn’t for you, there’s nothing wrong with sticking to the classics. What matters is that you give it a shot.
Spend Some Time Apart
This doesn’t mean you should take a break in the relationship, just that you should remember the importance of being your own person.
An article from Success said that too often people would give up the time they used to devote to hobbies or personal pastimes in order to devote more time and energy into a relationship. While a portion of your time is understandable, if not necessary, the problem comes when one partner gives up all of their personal time. Eventually, this can cause them to be emotionally out of balance, leading to “Relationship stress, miscommunication or worse: resentment and emotional pain.”
It’s possible you could benefit from taking some time to yourself without even realizing that you’ve needed it. Try doing something that’s just for you. Take a class, keep a weekly tentative date to spend time with your friends, or just set aside some time to work on a hobby. Engaging in activities can give you confidence, boost your self-worth, and help you reestablish your identity. The side effects can then spill over into your relationship, helping to make it stronger as well. And remember, absence makes the heart grow fonder.
Even people in the most stable relationships have to put the effort into maintaining their bond with their partner. And as much as you may have heard otherwise, it doesn’t take a lot of work. In fact, if it’s something you really care about making happen, it won’t seem like work at all.
Sherri Goodman is a freelance relationship writer and photographer from Richmond, Virginia. When she’s not working you can find her scrounging through sales at outlet malls or cheering on the Virginia Tech Hokies.

Love & Survival: 3 Outdoor Excursions for Adventurous Married Couples

September 24th, 2014

Date night for married couples typically consists of dinner, dancing, and hopefully reliving the consummation part of marriage at the end of the night. But Dr. Arthur Aron, a psychology professor at the State University of New York at Stony Brook told the New York Times that couples need dates that introduce new, enjoyable activities to keep the relationship fresh and the dopamine flowing in the brain.

Those romantic moments of eye gazing and holding hands will eventually be replaced with familiarity and predictability as long as couples continue with the status quo. There’s no better environment to reinvigorate a marriage than the great outdoors. Here are three ideas for couples to consider.
7-Day Camping Trip

Families with both husband and wife working full time comprised 47 percent of all couples in 2013, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Add children to the mix and that means couples are playing the mom and dad role far more than they are being husband and wife for one another. A week-long camping trip far from home with only your backpacks and tents is the perfect romantic getaway for those in this situation.

Couples should pick a fresh, new destination, that they haven not traveled before. The only food you should take along is saltine crackers, so the two of you are forced to fish and hunt for sustenance. You may only catch one trout or trap one rabbit, which isn’t exactly a large meal. But you’ll be forced to share what you have and be grateful for it. The experience will bring couples closer because there is nobody else to rely on but one another.

The best part about camping is sleeping at night. Cuddling not only lower blood pressure and relieves anxiety, but also lowers cortisol in the brain, aka the stress hormone, according to a 1987 study in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine. Couples will need one another’s body heat in their sleeping bag to stay warm. There are also studies that link frequent sex in marriage to stability and long-term commitment.

Love Boat

There’s a good reason Royal Caribbean and Carnival Cruise Lines are known for their honeymoon packages. The tranquility that comes with being surrounded by water in every direction stimulates romance and love unlike any other environment can. Elaine and Jade Michaels, owners of House Boats For Two in Washington State, told the Seattle Times they specifically outlaw pets and children in their rentals so couples can fully enjoy the company of one another while on the water.

An all-day trip in a rowboat is the perfect weekend getaway, particularly for those living in areas with a lot of navigable waters. Of course any boating excursion, paddle or otherwise, can be ruined by bad weather and shoddy preparation. Make certain you check and re-check the forecast before heading out on the water. Canadians will need an operator card for any motorized vessel, while most American jurisdictions require a license of some sort. Take some Dramamine tablets along as well. They will come in handy for those not used to being on boats and susceptible to sea sickness.


Panoramic views and being one with the outdoors naturally makes hiking a romantic activity for couples. You don’t even necessarily have to live near a national park or mountains, as many cities have trails for these types of getaways.

The key to making the most of a hiking trip is to take your time. Stop and look at plants you’ve never seen. Lie down in the grass together face up, while holding hands and talking about everything from your first date to childhood memories. You may even encounter wildlife that will either be interesting to observe or force the two of you to protect yourselves from imminent danger.

The outdoors is the ultimate elixir to boost and maintain a healthy, romantic marriage. You’ll grow as individuals, but more importantly as a couple.

Hugging Closely

September 18th, 2014

by David Banks, PhDCouple Hugging
Dr. Banks will be speaking at the Better Marriages Conference, July 9-12, 2015 in St. Louis
When was the last time you really hugged one another? Do you just wave or call out “goodbye” to each other when you part? Do you just pat each other on the back as you leave in the morning or do a sideways hug? Taking time regularly to give one another a great embrace will strengthen your marriage.
Stand close together and face one another. Adjust the actions as needed to match your mutual heights.
Husband: Wrap your arms around your wife’s waist.
Wife: Wrap your arms around your husband’s neck or waist. Put your head on his chest or shoulders or lean against him in a way that feels comfortable.
Husband: Rest your head on her shoulders or the top of her head or lean against her in a way that is comfortable.
Both: Close your eyes and feel yourselves being held in each other’s embrace.