21 Ways to Refresh Your Relationship in 2021
My husband and I began dating in our early twenties, just as we were turning the curve into true adulthood. We both worked hard at new careers and each had our own apartment. Our days had a rhythm. Within a year of dating, without even needing to discuss it, we knew when we would see one another, which restaurants we were likely to frequent on the weekends, which televisions shows we were going to watch that evening, and which one of us was going to call it a night while the other nodded off on the couch. The early spark and rush of feelings in the relationship had settled into something more consistent and comfortable but admittedly less exciting.
This had happened in other relationships previously, but for me, it was usually the nail in the coffin. When the butterflies faded, I cut my losses and moved on. That’s what you did when a relationship turned, right?
But this time, I didn’t want to cut my losses. I wasn’t ready to say good-bye to a person I loved so much. I worried over this predicament for a few weeks before finally blurting out over dinner one evening: “I don’t want to break up!”
He smiled. “That makes two of us.”
“But things are different now!” I exclaimed. “It’s not the same as it was in the beginning!”
To his credit, he didn’t laugh…. although I am now, 15 years later, as I write this.
I had made the common misconception of thinking that a relationship rut meant a relationship was over, instead of just indicating that it needs attention. It is a beautiful thing to become effortless with your partner, but at the same time, prolonged feelings of monotony can lead to temptation to seek excitement outside the relationship. The benefit of a rut is that it gets your attention and, hopefully, inspires you to renew your connection.
Here are 21 ways to refresh your own relationship this year should you find yourself in a rut.
Be specific. My husband is fond of telling me “I need more help!” whenever he is frustrated. But this statement actually tells me very little. If he said, for example: “I have a conference call scheduled at 2 pm; can you please keep the kids from interrupting me?” I would have a much better understanding of how I can meet his needs. Likewise, instead of simply saying “I love you” out of habit, I try to use the words in a more specific and intentional way. “I love how well you handle our son when he is grumpy” or “I love how committed you are to a project once you begin” are ways the expression of love can be more meaningful.
Set a timer to listen. Listening without being defensive during disagreements is easier said than done. In our marriage, we manage by giving each partner 20 minutes to own to the floor. During this time, one spouse can air grievances to the other who does nothing but listen. No interruptions. No defenses. Just open ears. When the 20 minutes are over, it is their turn to talk. This greatly helps both partners be heard.
End the day with an email. It can be hard to communicate our needs and thoughts without having a moment to think during hectic days. Regular time to talk as a couple beyond the necessities can be hard to come by. Get into the habit of sending a daily or nightly email to your spouse detailing your thoughts of the day. They can read this in their own time and just keeping one another in the loop can go a long way in feeling connected.
Keep a gratitude journal. Amazon has many pre-designed journals for this purpose available or you can start by simply writing down one thing per day that makes you feel grateful for your partner. It will help develop new habits in appreciating the small things that are easily overlooked.
Remember the people who made your relationship possible. I may not adore my mother-in-law, but I know that she is the reason I have the man I love in my life. The simple act of texting her my thanks for raising him can be enough to change my perspective and outlook. Thank the person that introduced you or the friends that stood up for you on your wedding. Let them know you appreciate their role in your relationship’s success.
Send a thank you card. Take time to pen a thank you note to your spouse about something you are grateful for in the moment or in your life overall. Leave it where you know they’ll find it – under their windshield wiper or taped to the bathroom mirror. You can even mail it. When they read it, they’ll know that you were thinking about them and feeling thankful for their presence in your life.
Kiss on the lips. Intimacy doesn’t always equal sex. Many things outside of the bedroom can still only be provided by your spouse. Something as innocent as kissing on the lips can increase levels of oxytocin (the love hormone) and dopamine (a hormone associated with happiness and attraction).
Hold hands. Studies have shown that typically we only hold hands with people we have a certain level of comfort with or attraction to. By holding hands with our partner in public, we let the world know that they are our chosen person.
Do a couples Bible study together or with a group. Exploring the biblical foundation that God designed for a husband and wife can go a long way in understanding your roles and how love is intended. RightNow Media has a whole library of FREE marriage studies that you can do by yourselves, online or in person with other couples. Studies like the The Crazy Cycle, The Art of Marriage, and Vertical Marriage all have great personal reviews. LifePoint will also be holding virtual marriage small groups soon so stayed tuned for start dates and times.
Plan a surprise date for your spouse. The date isn’t as important as the planning – all they should need to do is show up. Set up childcare. Choose an appropriate outfit for them to wear. Plan the location and don’t tell them where you are headed until you get there. Let them feel both surprised and cared for in the efforts taken to show them a good time.
Try a new activity together. Register for a class in person or online to master a new skill together – painting, cooking, yoga, or dancing just to name a few. Make sure to pick an activity that is unknown for both of you so that you can bond over mastering the skill as a team.
Call in sick. If the only time you get alone together is when you should be doing something else (like working) take a random personal day and spend that time together. Our jobs are important, but so are our relationships. Occasionally choosing to invest in your connection to your partner over the daily grind is a great way to honor the days when they were the only thing in your life that mattered. (A bonus if it’s a day when your kids are at school!)
Acts of Service
Do your partner’s chores. My husband dreads trash night so occasionally I like to surprise him with having our trash and recyclables already at the curb when he arrives home from work. Likewise, I love coming home from a night out with friends to a basket of folded laundry. Even when the chore isn’t done the way it usually is, it’s still done. A wrinkled shirt is worth knowing he wanted to serve me by taking something off of my plate.
Give the gift of “me time.” Encourage your partner to take some time away from family responsibilities and enjoy an activity that is just for them, particularly if you have young children. Point your husband towards the golf course when you see him looking extra stressed, or insist your wife go and get a massage on the weekend. Sacrificing your own free time to enable them to recharge their batteries can be beneficial to you both.
Serve others together. Look for volunteer opportunities in your church or community that allow you to come together over a common act of giving back. There are lots of LifePoint volunteer teams that you could join to use your individual skills and experience to make a difference – together! First Fruits Farm in Freeland, Maryland and Believe Big in Glyndon, Maryland are local Christian organizations that are always looking for volunteers for a good cause.
Physically greet one another. I know a couple who made it a family rule that when Daddy arrived home from work, he always said hello and kissed his wife before any of the kids. Not only does it demonstrate to your children the value you put into your relationship, but it’s a way to connect after time spent apart, however brief.
Set common goals. Sit down with your spouse and come up with a list of goals that you share be it for your family, your home, your finances, or your relationship. Being on the same page when tackling a task and achieving a goal is a great reminder of why you became a team to begin with.
Get unplugged. Set aside time with your spouse when the television is off and the phones are put away. I know couples that have a “no phone on date night” rule, and others who look forward to being in the car together to catch up with no interruptions. How often you go screen free is up to you both, but the time should be mutually agreed upon and respected.
Laugh together. Not only does laughter have countless mental and health benefits, but it is also one of the major ways people bond. Laughter brings us closer together. Check out a live comedy show, watch a funny movie together on Netflix, or reminiscence over some of your funniest memories.
Bring out your inner children. Grab some Nerf guns and battle around the house, visit the zoo or aquarium without your children, or hit up an arcade or carnival on date night. Taking advantage of opportunities to feel like a kid again can help you let go (at least temporarily!) of the adult stress in everyday life.
Get weird. Everyone has an internal freak flag – that’s a fact! Once you figure out which of your weirdo ways your partner finds hilarious, play it up and laugh at yourself along with them. Don’t be afraid to be silly – being vulnerable with what makes us unique shows your partner that you trust them.
We hope that you and your spouse find something on this list that refills your relationship tank this year!
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