My partner and I are coming up on our sixth-year anniversary and we are planning a buffet night in. Although this year will be spent at home indulging our taste buds with an extremely wide array of foods (a mash up of choices, mostly his preferences, that don’t necessarily go together, I might add), it is important to recognize that you don’t need to go out to enjoy each other’s company – you just need bonding time. I’ll outline a few things below that have worked for our relationship and keeps our bond strong.
Disclaimer: I AM NOT BY ANY MEANS A ROMANTIC. I try, but sadly I am what my partner calls a “rock”. I don’t often come up with mushy ideas or romantic gifts (I’m relatively practical and nonchalant when it comes to those things). And while I remember the significant dates (our anniversary and Valentine’s namely), I apparently forget a lot of dates worth celebrating – monthiversaries, the day we met, the day I didn’t die in my car accident, buying a car are a few mentionables. He takes it to a whole other level with what I think are minor past events – planning surprise dinners, flowers, edible arrangements or something else special. And though I am always appreciative with his efforts, I often struggle to convey my emotions/happiness or provide the reaction he was hoping for. It takes a great amount of effort to get an overly excited or mushy reaction out of me (the tears are pretty scarce unless you show me helpless or inured puppies and kittens, or any cute animal really – that always works). Apparently, I’m a female anomaly for lacking these feminine skills.
Regarding bonding activities, “date nights” are a great way to set aside time to focus on yourself and your partner and work towards mutual happiness. Date nights can include a wide array of activities and should be something that you both enjoy (or at least something that one of you enjoys and the other is willing to try/tolerate). For us, our date nights sometimes include going out for dinner, watching a movie out or at home, planning a local outing (perusing a new store for fun, visiting a new local attraction or general adventuring together) and often times, gaming together. We can spend hours PC gaming – yelling at each other playfully, challenging each other, telling the other to keep up, joking around, etc. and it is some of the best quality bonding time that we have shared. My fiancé is a HUGE geek/techie and pc gaming is his area of expertise, so I have adjusted my gaming priorities since dating him and definitely spend more time than I used to gaming (where a pro gamer might start playing at 7:00pm and play until 5:00am or longer, my daily limit is 3-4 hours max!). These types of activities let you get to know the person, find common interests and see if they are a good fit.
I’ve also found that trying new activities or visiting new places together really helps a relationship develop further because it’s a new experience you can both share together (visiting Ripley’s Aquarium, trying VR (virtual reality) gaming and outdoor camping were all firsts for us as a couple). And of course, assessing and reflecting on those experiences together helps too. Sharing a learning experience in a situation where one of you is an expert and teaching your partner about it is also a winner in my books because the experience allows for a deeper appreciation of your partner’s skills and respect for and a better understanding of what they are passionate about. Having a light painting lesson on the beach was a really fun learning experience for me and is but one of many date nights where I can reflect on that special memory and remember how excited he was to share something he enjoyed and how the experience created a connection for us. And working on projects together strengthens [and tests] how well a couple operates as a team – for us, that usually involves cooking, woodworking or other DIY projects together. And it’s fun to learn what your strengths and weaknesses are and where your competencies can complement your partner’s abilities.
Even simple things like having a tea before bed and chatting about ideas or things that happened during your day show your partner that you are open to sharing with them and that you trust them (and vice-versa). And snuggling/hugs (a physical connection other than just sex) is also very important for bonding. Whether or not you are still in the early stages of dating, in a relationship, engaged or married, devoting time to doing little activities together really counts towards something greater. You should make time for date nights on the regular to maintain and strengthen the bond with your partner, giving them your full attention in an effort to spend time with them, get comfortable around them and enjoy their company.
I'm a 20-something woman working my way through life in Canada, traveling when I can afford it and seeking out my passions one day at a time.