How do you keep romance alive? If there's a special person in your life, you know how important good communication is to staying close and keeping the fires of passion burning. Good communication skills are essential, whether you've been together for two months or 32 years.
Psychologists stay that the intoxicating feeling of being in love lasts only about 18 months to three years at most; however, a study conducted by psychologist Bianca Acevedo and biological anthropologist Helen Fisher found that it's possible to keep love alive in a long-term relationship. When the brains of a group of people in their fifties, who had been married an average of 21 years, were scanned after looking at a photo of their partner, they showed the same level of activity as young lovers who had been together for an average of seven months. There was one important difference, however: Among the older lovers, the brain regions associated with anxiety were no longer active; there was more activity in the areas associated with calmness [source: Fisher]
Other studies have proven that a good relationship offers medical benefits of lower stress levels, reduced risk of Alzheimer's, and even improves cancer survival rates.
While there's no arguing the benefits of being in a happy relationship, how can you get -- and stay -- connected? Try these communication tips for romantic relationships and get closer to your loved one.
Be honest and share your feelings.
Good relationships are built on mutual trust and respect, and it's essential for romantic partners to be honest with one another. As your relationship grows, open up and talk to your partner about your past, as well as your hopes and dreams for the future. Speak up, even if you have differing opinions about a topic -- whether it's who to vote for in the next election or where to vacation, you need to be able to talk controversial subjects through and respect each other's perspectives.
Make time to talk every day, sharing the details of your daily life or talking about more meaningful issues. Some couples make it a point to enjoy a glass of wine in the evening to relax and talk about the day's events, while others take a walk together or simply touch base on the phone if one partner is on the road.
Your sweetie wants to get to know all about what makes you tick. After all, if you don't share your thoughts and interests, you may not be giving your partner a chance to love you enough!
Admire your partner's strengths - and overlook the little things.
Every day, tell your partner how much you admire one of his strengths. Say, "I'm impressed by your patience with others," or "You are such a good cook." Everyone likes to feel appreciated, and sharing good thoughts will have a positive impact on your relationship and your partner's self-esteem. Make sure the quality you highlight really is a strong point, however, or he might doubt your sincerity.
On the other hand, accepting the quirks about your partner that drive you nuts will also go a long way towards enhancing a romantic relationship, as long as it's not a destructive behavior like driving too fast. Some traits that can be endearing when you first meet someone -- like the way he or she wears a certain T-shirt every Saturday or constantly misplaces his or her keys -- can be annoying when you've been together for a while. Be willing to overlook those pesky behaviors; after all, that's what makes your sweetie unique.
Make thoughtful gestures.
Let your partner know you think of her even when she's not around, and that you really care about the details of her life. Does your significant other have an important presentation to make to a new client? Send an encouraging "good luck" text message before the meeting, and remember to ask how things went at the end of the day. Is he or she worried about an ailing family member? Show your concern and empathy for what your other half's going through.
You can also strengthen your relationship by taking time to get to know what makes your partner happy and show that you care with thoughtful little gifts and gestures. Pick up her favorite flowers occasionally; bring home his favorite snacks from the grocery store; or make a reservation at a favorite restaurant or a tee time for a round of golf. Thinking warm thoughts when you're apart can easily turn into warmer thoughts when you're together.
Learn to listen.
According to Elizabeth Bernstein, a relationships columnist for the Wall Street Journal, there are two categories of people: talkers and non-talkers. The world would be a wonderful place if talkers and non-talkers matched up, but even if they do, it's not always an equation for romantic bliss. It seems that many non-talkers are also non-listeners: they simply tune out the chatter [source: Bernstein].
Are women always the talkers? Not necessarily, although there is evidence that men and women process language differently: Understanding, producing and listening to speech is easier for women because they have more nerve cells in the left half of the brain, where language is processed.
Whether you're the talker or the non-talker, learn to practice active listening. Look at the person who is speaking, respond occasionally with some verbal cue like "hmmm," "uh-huh" or nod your head. Together, you should set aside some time to talk (and listen) every day, and ask each other questions to clarify thoughts and get more information. Most important, respect one another's need to be able to talk or to spend more time in silence. If necessary, let the talker phone a friend while the non-talker reads a book or enjoys a hobby quietly.
Say "I love you" often.
Maybe Stevie Wonder knew the fastest way to a person's heart when he wrote the lyrics "I just called to say 'I love you.'" The most successful couples say "I love you" several times a day -- and mean it.
It's not easy to get those three little words out: Some people grew up in families where love wasn't expressed verbally, and our technology-driven world of e-mail, mobile phones and texting makes it difficult to look into your partner's eyes and tell them how you really feel. Plus, it's very emotionally risky to tell someone you love them when you're hoping they say it back. Yet, when you look into someone's eyes and say "I love you" the brain releases oxytocin, the bonding hormone, and helps strengthen your romantic relationship.
Still having trouble saying it? Show you care in some small way, everyday -- like making coffee in the morning, taking the dog out when it's freezing cold, or massaging your partner's shoulders after a tough day. Or find other words to express your feelings, like "I'm so happy you are part of my life."
Whatever you do, make sure your partner knows just how important he or she is to you.
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- Bernstein, Elizabeth. "I Just Called to Say, Ahem, I Uhh, Love you." WSJ.com. (Accessed February 11, 2011)http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704422204576130154005774660.html?mod=WSJ_article_RecentColumns_Bonds#printMode.
- Bernstein, Elizabeth. "She Talks A Lot, He Listens A Little." WSJ.com. (Accessed February 11, 2011) http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704658204575610921238173714.html?KEYWORDS=talkers.
- Fisher, Helen. "How to Make Romance Last." Oprah.com. December 2009. (Accessed February 11, 2011)http://www.oprah.com/relationships/How-to-Make-Romance-Last-Helen-Fisher-Love-Column_1.
- Glamour.com. "The 5As of Relationship Success." Smitten. Daily Sex & Relationships Blog. (Accessed February 10, 2011)http://www.glamour.com/sex-love-life/blogs/smitten/2011/02/the-5-ax-of-relationship-succe.html.
- Kirshner, Diana. "Relationship Advice: The 411 to Creating True Love." Psychology Today. June 10, 2009. (Accessed February 11, 2011)http://www.psychologytoday.com/print/5211.
- Schmitz, Charles D. and Schmitz, Elizabeth A. "The 5 Things You Should Say to Your Spouse." Psychology Today. May 21, 2010. (Accessed February 11, 2011) http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/building-great-marriages/201005/the-5-things-you-should-say-your-spouse-0.