I implore my coaching clients to utilize the honeymoon phase of their relationship wisely to firmly establish a solid foundation for their relationship. Create beautiful, fun memories and clearly express your vision for a shared future during this time; plus take the time to develop the skills needed to be the best partner you can be. The honeymoon phase is filled with an incredible chemistry of love. These chemicals are nature’s way of heightening all of your senses to emblazon loving memories in your mind, giving you energy and endurance to stay up all night together, and to make you single focused on your heart’s desire. Studies show that taking a marriage course, relationship coaching or counseling during the honeymoon phase will strengthen the longevity of your marriage. In fact, some studies show it can reduce your potential to divorce by half. The beginning of a marriage is the best time to establish what matters most and co-create how you are going to work together as a team to get to your end goal of “happily ever after.”
Here are five fun, albeit unusual, suggestions for keeping your relationship on the path to success for the long-run:
Your Nose Knows
Proactively use your sense of smell to reinforce a positive state of being tied to loving memories together. I use an exciting bit of scientifically proven chemistry called the Proust Phenomena when I work to anchor my coaching clients in certain positive emotional states. Psychologists have demonstrated that memories triggered by smells can be more emotional, as well as more detailed, than memories not related to smells. They have deemed this effect the Proust Phenomena, after French novelist Marcel Proust recalling his vivid childhood memories after being triggered by the smell of a madeline cookie dipped in tea. When you inhale, odor molecules set brain cells dancing within a region known as the amygdala, a part of the brain that helps control emotion. In contrast, the other senses, such as taste or touch, get routed through other parts of the brain before reaching the amygdala.
Research around the Proust Phenomena suggests that memories triggered by smells are more emotional and evocative than memories triggered by other cues. Studies also show a particular emotional association to a smell can be created by repeatedly having that scent involved when experiencing a certain emotional state. One way I suggest using this to your advantage is to create a signature scent for your intimate moments together. Enjoy the journey of finding a certain smell that has no other strong associations for either of you. I recommend using an essential oil because it can be used in so many different ways —diffusing in the air, a few drops in a bath or on your sheets, or massaged on the body. Once you have found a scent that resonates with both of you, deliberately create an emotional state of being you want to achieve when you are completely present and connected in a loving state with your partner. Describe what it feels like and work to establish that connection as you diffuse the smell in the air. Use this scent each time for the next consecutive 28 times you are intimate. After it is embedded in your memory, your partner will be able to help you quickly connect with them by diffusing your signature smell. Even before you consciously smell it, your brain will be getting you in the mindset for love.
Wire Your Brains Together
As they say in neuroscience, “neurons that fire together, wire together.” Mental states become neural traits. Day after day, your mind is building your brain. Be mindful of how this affects your marriage and note that intense, prolonged, or repeated mental/neural activity—especially if it is conscious—will leave an enduring imprint in your neural structure. Armed with this knowledge, it’s up to you to reinforce as many of those shared pathways of neural rewards with positive feelings and loving memories.
Whatever you focus on is strengthened in your mind. A fun, love ritual that engages this phenomena is for you and your love is to set your phone alarms to go off at least once during the day in sync with one another’s alarm. When you hear the alarm, take a mental break from work, childcare or whatever else you were focusing on, if you are able to at that moment or shortly thereafter, for three minutes. Close your eyes, turn off your other mental chatter and concentrate on your partner. You could choose different themes for each day of the week; maybe on Mondays, it will be how much you appreciate your love and Wednesdays it’s a sexy thought. Have fun and play with the themes. You may want to text a little sweet something after your meditative moment or save the juicy thoughts till you reunite at the end of the work day.
Another way to wire together is to learn together. Find something that you enjoy and can be passionate about together. You could take on a big project like co-writing a book or teaching a class. Or it could be a smaller, easier to accomplish task of learning something about an upcoming art theater or cultural event you are going to attend and each study an interesting component to share. You could take up a new language of a country you plan to visit. Yet another fun activity could be finding a theme around your meals, co-create your menus and try cooking new things together. The possibilities are endless, get creative and brainstorm a list of what to tackle next.
Try to Win an Oscar Everyday for Best Kiss
“A peck on the cheek says, ‘I love you,’ but a 10-second kiss says, ‘I’m still in love with you!’” states Dr. Ellen Kriedman, PhD. A relationship that started with a lot of chemistry and romance, can over time become just a sweet friendship that lacks the spark of passion. So to keep your relationship passion-filled, create a contest with your love acting as if you are in a romantic movie of your choice and kiss like you intend to win an Oscar for your acting prowess. I recommend upping the time to at least 30-seconds. You could opt to make an impression to last the whole day through by planting one on your love first thing in the morning or jump start your transition from work-brain to relationship-brain by melting into your love at the end of the day. While you are studying which kisses to emulate, happily you will also be strengthening your relationship, lowering your stress and your potential to divorce.
A study, involving 174 couples, conducted by the University of Rochester found that an inexpensive, fun and relatively simple movie-and-talk approach to strengthen a marriage could be just as effective as other more intensive therapist-led methods—as it was shown to reduce the divorce or separation rate from 24 to 11 percent after three years. “We thought the movie treatment would help, but not nearly as much as the other programs in which we were teaching all of these state-of-the-art skills,” said Ronald Rogge, associate professor of psychology at the University of Rochester. Simply amazing and an easy bit of marriage insurance!
Keep a “Look Forward To” on the Horizon
In the movie, Hope Springs, Meryl Streep’s character, Kay hit the nail on the head when she said she knew her and her husband were in trouble when they no longer had any “look forward to’s” in their future. Your “look forward to’s” can be little things like splurging on a special ice cream or a nice bottle of wine to celebrate something together on your next date night or a big thing like an upcoming “trip of a lifetime” to Paris. Especially if quality time is one of your love languages then you truly understand just how special creating out-of-the-ordinary moments are for you and your partner’s togetherness. If something is on the horizon, you get to experience the positive body chemistry associated with anticipating something good is going to occur. Endorphin and dopamine stimulation happens when we experience and expect good things. Anticipating positive events sustains the output of dopamine into the brain’s chemical pathways. This chemical cocktail makes you feel good and links in your brain the good feeling with thoughts of your partner.
Technology makes this easy to create into a love ritual. With fun sites like Pinterest, you can co-create boards around upcoming trips, meals you want to cook, adventurous date ideas, or things you’d love to build or manifest together. You could also start putting together lists in a Google Document or via Evernote for things like: a remodeling project, weekend getaways, restaurants and wines you want to try, places to explore, books to read, movies to see, a bucket list of fun adventures you want to do together, and special ideas for upcoming anniversaries. Again the possibilities are endless, so make “look forward to’s” designed to establish special, memory-evoking memories a top priority!
Tap into Your Inner Investigative Reporter
By keeping yourself in a positive state of mind, you will be uplifting the overall state of your relationship. Studies have shown that the base happiness level in a marriage is tied to the level of the individual who is less happy. I would hope that knowing this might instill a desire to make an extreme effort to pull your partner’s spirits up daily by working on your own levels of happiness. Of course we all feel down or sad from time to time but overall, it’s important to strive to see the world with a glass half-full mentality for the long-term health of your relationship.
If you really want to keep the positive thoughts coming, make this a part of your daily ritual. Consistently ask yourself and your partner good, thought-provoking, open-ended questions around the topics of happiness, excitement, pride, gratitude, joy, commitment and love, you’ll find that you access your most empowering emotional states on a regular basis, and you’ll begin to create mental highways toward filling up your reservoirs of positivity. Co-create with your partner a set of questions you can ask at least once a week or better yet once a day when you sit down together over a meal or before you go to bed at night.
Remember whatever you focus on, you will feel and experience on a deeper level. If you focus on the problems in your life or what bothers you about your relationship, chances are you could come up with a long list of negative things and by concentrating on those, they will not only persist but appear to grow. If you concentrate on all the wonderful mutual goals you are committed to with your partner, you’ll find that you are both consistently moving toward the result you’re after. Armed with a set of beautiful questions, designed to expand your mind to the possibilities you can create, you will be focusing on growing what matters most in your lives together!
Design Your Happily Ever After in Big, Little Steps
I hope you take some, if not all, of these steps to heart as you move forward toward building a relationship that can weather any storm and bring you more joy and love than you could ever imagine. Drop me a line if you use these and let me know how they have influenced your life together. One last parting tip: keep a one line a day journal of your loving thoughts and joyful memories for they will be powerful anchors to look back upon over the years to come.
Joy M. Nordstrom is founder of Joy of Romance Inc., a certified matchmaker, relationship coach, wedding proposal planner and special romantic event and vacation planner. Joy emphasizes making relationship maintenance fun, sexy and intelligent by educating individuals on a practical, scientific and passionate-based approach to maintaining their romantic relationships.