A recent discussion in my Psychology of Close Relationships class probed the topic of how relationships transition from hot and heavy to more comfortable and emotionally intimate. As you can imagine, this isn’t always welcome news to an undergraduate and the discussion quickly turned to how to avoid this relationship rite of passage.
First and foremost, it’s important to understand that this transition is totally normal and has to do with the diminishing amount of novelty and excitement in the relationship.1 One way to stave off this transition is by adding novelty back into your partnership. Researchers have examined this phenomenon from a self-expansion standpoint and claim that people have an innate drive to grow, learn, and expand.2,3 The introduction of a new partner necessarily allows for new experiences and opportunities. However, when the novelty of that partner begins to fade, the two of you could engage in new adventures together.
One particularly interesting finding is that couples who engage in “novel play” show increased relationship satisfaction.4,5,6 As you can imagine, my undergraduates had a number of suggestions when it came to “novel play.” I figured I’d share the G-rated date ideas with those of you looking to spice up your relationships.
It’s worth noting that not all play is considered equally beneficial for relationships. Activities that are more exciting lead to more positive outcomes than those that are just pleasant.7 So, enjoy, but be careful (particularly if, like me, you’ve passed the age where injuries heal quickly)!
- Go-cart racing
- Volunteer at an animal shelter to walk/play with puppies
- Rollercoaster rides
- Take a ghost tour
- White water rafting
- Bubble soccer
- Bungee jumping
- Water park
- Go for a hike
- Take a dance class
- Trampoline park
- Ice skating
- Escape room
- Horseback riding
- Play hide-and-seek
- Rock climbing
- Arcade fun
- Have a snowball fight
- Workout together
- Drive a race car
- Cheer for your favorite team
- Habitat for Humanity build
- Mud Run
- Pick fruit at a local orchard
- Flight lessons
- Clay shooting
- Zip lining
- Travel to a new destination
- Plant a community garden
- Ride a bicycle built for two
- Putt-putt golfing
- Watch a scary movie
- Go for a swim (perhaps with dolphins)
- Attend a concert
- Take a “pedal tour” of your town
- Scuba diving
- Tour a brewery/winery/distillery
- Play a sport (kickball, dodgeball, tennis)
- Corn maze
- Take a spin class
- Scavenger hunt
- Tour an local attraction (art museum, botanical garden, aquarium, state park, butterfly garden)
1Ahmetoglu, G., Swami, V., & Chamorro-Premuzic, T. (2010). The relationship between dimensions of love, personality, and relationship length. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 39, 1181-1190.
2Aron, A., & Aron, E. N. (1997). Self-expansion motivation and including other in the self. In S. Duck (Ed.), Handbook of personal relationships: Theory, research, and interventions (2nd ed., pp. 251-270). London: John Wiley & Sons.
3Aron, A., Lewandowski, G. W., Jr., Mashek, D., & Aron, E. N. (2013). The self-expansion model of motivation and cognition in close relationships. In J. A. Simpson & L. Campbell (Eds.), The Oxford handbook of close relationships (pp. 90-115). New York: Oxford University Press.
4Aron, A., Norman, C. C., Aron, E. N., McKenna, C., & Heyman, R. E. (2000). Couples’ shared participation in novel and arousing activities and experienced relationship quality. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 78, 273-284.
5Strong. G. & Aron, A. (2006). The effect of shared participation in novel and challenging activities on experienced relationship quality: Is it mediated by high positive affect: In K. D. Vohs & E. J. Finkel (Eds.), Self and relationships: Connecting intrapersonal and interpersonal processes (pp. 342-359). New York: Guilford Press.
6Tsapelas, I., Aron, A., & Orbuch, T. (2009). Marital boredom now predicts less satisfaction 9 years later. Psychological Science, 20, 543-545.
7Reissman, C., Aron, A., & Bergen, M. R. (1993). Shared activities and marital satisfaction: Causal direction and self-expansion versus boredom. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 10, 243-254.
Dr. Sadie Leder-Elder – Science of Relationships articles | Website/CV
Dr. Leder-Elder’s research focuses on how people balance their desires for closeness and protection against rejection, specifically during partner selection, goal negotiation within established romantic relationships, and the experience of romantic love, hurt feelings, and relationship rekindling.