You may associate bonding with your partner with the early stages of your relationship. But whether you’re six months or six years in, there are always more opportunities to grow closer with your partner. Learning how to bond in a relationship can be a lifelong pursuit, but it definitely doesn’t have to be difficult.
There’s a difference between struggling and putting effort into your relationship. With bonding, sometimes it will just take a little bit of conscious effort. “Bonding with your partner takes work,” Liz Colizza, MA, LPC, Head of Research at Lasting, tells Bustle. “Sometimes ‘bonding work’ feels easy and sometimes it feels difficult. Bonding with your partner feels easy when it flows out of shared interests, hobbies, or experiences.” So if you can identify what little ways you’re already sharing with your partner, you may be a step closer to bonding even more — and potentially growing your love and connection.
You don’t need to ask each other the 36 questions that lead to love, or do any sort of forced activity or bonding, just to get to know your partner better. Sometimes simply expressing your interest will do the trick. And therapists and experts who work with couples have identified some excellent ways to bond a little bit more with your partner — ways that you may even already be doing to some degree.
Here are seven ways to level up the bonding in your relationship.
1Express Interest And Curiosity
When you’ve been together for a while, or even live together, you and your partner may fall into the pattern of asking fewer and fewer open-ended questions: questions that begin with “how” or “why,” and generally don’t have a “yes” or “no” answer.
“This sounds so simple, but it’s easy for couples to stop asking open-ended questions because they fall into a habit of taking one another for granted,” Colizza says. ” […] The reality is that you and your partner will change over time and that you need to continually update your knowledge of your partner. Asking open-ended questions can increase emotional connection and friendship in [relationships].” Being aware of how you pose your questions can help you develop this form of bonding as a habit.
2Prioritize Your Partner’s “Emotional Calls”
While you may know your partner better than anyone else, it can still become easy over time to not always notice when they are reaching out to you emotionally. Colizza calls these “emotional calls,” and responding to them is an essential form of bonding.
“Emotional calls are all tiny attempts to connect with your partner throughout the day,” Colizza says. ” […] If you want to improve the health of your [relationship], make it a priority to notice your partner’s attempts to connect with you. Respond to their calls by lovingly meeting their need and communicating to your partner that you are there for them.” It’s worth finding ways to respond to your partner, even when they’re communicating nonverbally, to show your connection.
3Verbally Express Your Appreciation
Saying “thank you” to your partner may seem more like an act of politeness, rather than an act of bonding, but experts say that appreciation is much more nuanced than that.
“Again, this sounds simple and you are probably doing it on some level, but appreciation produces huge benefits,” Colizza says. “When you express appreciation toward your partner you build a protective shield around your relationship [because] appreciation counteracts contempt — which is one of the most destructive forces in [a relationship].” Learning to express your appreciation daily can help you two grow closer than ever before.
4Make An Effort At Eye Contact
When you and your partner have been together for a while, the realities of everyday life as a couple may mean that you aren’t staring lovingly into each other’s eyes as much as you used to. But working towards more eye contact can actually be a major boost in terms of bonding.
“Partners can bond with one another by maintaining eye contact when they communicate, especially if discussing important topics about their feelings, experiences, or needs,” licensed psychotherapist and founder of Let’s Talk Divorce, Shirin Peykar, LMFT, tells Bustle. So even if you may not be in your honeymoon stageanymore, at least you’ll be opening the door towards more honest and vulnerable communication.
5Put Your Phone Down
While there’s something to be said about a connection so deep that you can sit in silence on a couch, scrolling through Instagram, and not feeling awkward about it, there is still something to be said about dedicated phone-free time for couples.
“One really important thing we can do to make our partner feel worthy of our time is [to put] our phones down when communicating, which also cultivates bonding,” Peykar says. Whether this means actively coordinating a “no phones at the dinner table” policy, or just leading by example, you may find that these moments are great opportunities to bond.
6Initiate Physical Touch
Having a strong sexual connection with your partner is fantastic, but physical touch does not have to be reserved for moments of sexual intimacy between you and your partner. Making physical touch a more common, everyday habit in your relationship can be quite beneficial.
“A simple thing we can do to facilitate bonding is through physical touch when [you] are in the same space [like] watching television, cooking together, [or] getting ready to go out,” Peykar says. “Sometimes, a simple touch can create a substantial emotional association.” Not all touch has to lead to anything, and practicing this more can help grow the bond between you and your partner.
7Create Rituals Together
Building rituals or traditions as a couple can give you two something to look forward to regularly, and be able to ensure that you and your partner are constantly building your connection — even if you have hectic daily lives.
“Creating a ritual of connection — such as going on a walk after dinner, or having coffee ready for your [partner] after putting the kids to bed so that you can […] talk about your day, can be something you both look forward to as well,” Peykar says. Whether you decide you want to build in daily, weekly, or monthly rituals, there’s something about the repetition of these simple acts of bonding that can help really level up your existing connection.
Whichever way you decide to grow your bond with your partner, chances are — you’re already likely well on your way. Bonding has no concrete goals to achieve, because it’s something a couple does, and continues to do, for the course of a relationship. And making even the slightest changes in your daily interactions can help grow your love even further.