And if you want to deepen your relationship and strengthen your already-strong bond, well, you have to, well, try to deepen your relationship. It’s the trying — the focusing on the little things, the willingness to be vulnerable and offer more of yourself in exchange of more from them — that make it possible.
So what helps deepen a connection? Below, according to a variety of relationship therapists, are ten suggestions. You might notice a common thread woven throughout all of these suggestions – communication (surprise, surprise). Here’s what to remember.
1. Actively Show Appreciation.
Whether it’s a note in your partner’s lunch, or a random text to say thanks for being such a kid’s bedtime savior last night, what you might think of as a fleeting gesture can build genuine closeness. The key with appreciation is to be specific in what you mention. “It can really be as simple as telling your partner how much you appreciate something they did for you, or something more complex like expressing gratitude for their support and presence in your life,” explains Dr. Callisto Adams. “Expressing appreciation and gratitude can help build positive emotions and foster a sense of connection. It can also help to improve communication and understanding, and can make your partner feel valued and appreciated.”
2. Lean Ito Conflict
Obviously, you don’t want to go around picking fights. But in all relationships, good or bad, conflict is inevitable. So, roll with it. “Many couples are terrified of conflict and see it as a sign of poor relationship health,” says couples therapist Sandra Harewood. “But healthy conflict can be a force for good, deepening the bond between a couple as it is a sign of growth, change, and transformation.” Conflict can present couples with the opportunity to explore communication and deepen trust which, according to Harewood, allows both partners to develop confidence in themselves and the relationship as a whole. “Accommodate your feelings and experiences by learning to argue well, and you’ll be less likely to be knocked off balance when things go wrong,” she says.
3. Increase Your “Bids For Connection”
‘Bids for connection,’ which are based on the research of Dr. John Gottman, refer to reaches for acknowledgement, reassurance, or validation within a relationship. And couples who “turn towards” a bid more often than not are happier and closer for it. “A bid could be a touch of the shoulder while passing in the hallway or a comment like, ‘Wow, look at that goat!’ while driving by a farm,” says therapist Erin Dierickx. “The more often they are offered and received, the more trust, satisfaction, and connection you will experience in your relationship.”
4. Have Check-Ins
More than just a passing “How was your day?” tossed off from the other room, a true check-in with your partner involves distraction-free conversation with the intent to listen. Sit down and have a five-minute check-in each night. Talk about your day, and highlight anything you’d like to talk more about when you have more time. Once a month, Wolfe also suggests a deeper check-in over dinner or coffee. “Try to have this check-in at the same time each month to establish a routine, and plan to discuss how each of you feels about how things are going in the relationship,” says Trisha Wolfe, LPCC. “Is there tension? Are you making progress toward shared goals? What can be improved on for next month?” The goal with check-ins — brief or length — is to stay on top of your relationship so issues don’t fester for weeks, months, or even years.
5. Stay Curious
Not in the sense of snooping around your partner’s unlocked phone or bathroom drawer, but through constant self-reminders that you definitely don’t know everything about them and want to learn more. “Curiosity is the secret sauce in a relationship,” says Harewood. “I’ve seen many couples get caught in the trap of thinking they know all they need to know about their partner, or that they’ve heard it all before. But, things are always changing, both for the individual and the relationship.” Staying curious and asking questions will prop the door for intimacy wide open.