“Stay Smitten” is a recurring blog feature filled with tangible relationship advice to help make sure your honeymoon is more than just a phase. That it’s a way of life. Why? Because marriages in which love shines the brightest have the power to change the world.
When Mr. Smitten and I were on our honeymoon, we met a couple celebrating their 10-year wedding anniversary. The key to a happy marriage, they said, was to schedule at least one vacation together every year.
“No kids. No friends. Just the two of you,” they insisted.
Traveling together gave them the uninterrupted time they needed to prioritize each other—not to mention create new memories in destinations around the world, they said. It was insurance for their relationship in the face of busy schedules.
While Mr. Smitten and I have taken their advice to heart, I can’t help but believe it’s also a little too simplistic. After all, what about the 300+ days out of the year when they’re not on vacation? How do they make each other feel special then? What do they do to make new memories?
Our conversation never reached these depths, so I can’t say what, if anything, this particular Mr. and Mrs. did to continue to grow closer throughout the year, but I can tell you one of the best ways that Mr. Smitten and I do:
It’s such a simple concept, but, honestly, so important. Don’t just take my word for it, either. The significance of making time for regular date nights, especially when you’re committed to getting creative and seeking out new opportunities for things to do together, has been proven!
As relationship expert and author Tara Parker-Pope writes in the New York Times, “New experiences activate the brain’s reward system, flooding it with dopamine and norepinephrine. These are the same brain circuits that are ignited in early romantic love, a time of exhilaration and obsessive thoughts about a new partner.” In other words, trying new things as husband and wife can make you fall in love…deeper and deeper!
In one experiment, researchers divided a group of 53 couples in two. One half was told to go on a date every week and to pick something familiar—eating at their favorite restaurant, visiting their favorite museum, recreating their tried and true favorites. The other 50 percent? The psychologists running the experiment instructed them to seek out new, exciting experiences for their dates.
Ten weeks later, the second group—the ones stepping outside their comfort zone and getting creative—reported feeling exponentially more satisfied, happy and in love than the first group.
This is exactly what couples—such as the one Mr. Smitten and I met on our honeymoon—say they feel every time they travel together! The new experiences inherent with every trip offer endless opportunities for dopamine levels in your brain to skyrocket (i.e., lead to spontaneous make-out sessions and oodles of ooey gooey feelings).
All this is to say, one of the easiest ways to stay smitten is not just by carving out time at least once a year to go on vacation together, but to also get intentional about date night…or date morning or date afternoon. Whatever works for your relationship! If dates aren’t regularly on your calendar, pencil them in. If they’re already marked with a big heart week after week, spice them up by seeking out new experiences that appeal to both of you and that will get those dopamine levels through the rooftop.
Life is too short to wait to spend time together or to try new things until your annual or biannual vacation rolls around.
In the name of love, Mr. Smitten and I each recently came up with our top three date ideas for fall—things we’ve never done together. With the hope that they’ll help inspire some amazing hours of your own, here’s what’s high on our list of options for some of our dates this season:
Taking a flying trapeze class (preferably with The Greatest Showman soundtrack playing, more specifically Zac Efron and Zendaya’s “Rewrite the Stars”)
Enjoying a private dining experience for two at Le Chateau (an over-the-top evening of deliciousness at a local French restaurant)
Hiking with both our fur babies (we adopted one in February and the other hasn’t been able to hike since then due to an injury, so they’ve never been out in the woods together yet!)
Touring New Glarus brewery or similar
Taking a painting class