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Barker is the author of Barking Up The Wrong Tree

How do you get to crazy love — or get crazy love back when it’s gone away?

Forget the silly relationship books, let’s look at the real science and get some answers.

Here are 5 shortcuts to bonding deeply with a romantic partner:

1) No More Boring Date Nights

No more dull dinners telling the same stories and hoping you have fun.

What’s at the root of seduction? Surprise. From my interview with Robert Greene, author of the bestseller, The Art of Seduction:

Couples don’t need more “pleasant” activities — you need more exciting activities to make sure you’re feeling the “butterflies” around each other.

Researchers did a 10-week study comparing couples that engaged in “pleasant” activities vs “exciting” activities. Pleasant lost.

Via For Better: How the Surprising Science of Happy Couples Can Help Your Marriage Succeed:

Why would doing anything exciting have such a big effect on a relationship?

Because research shows we’re lousy about realizing where our feelings are coming from.

Excitement from any source will be associated with the person you’re with, even if they’re not the cause of it.

When I spoke to the top researcher of romantic love, Arthur Aron, he said the same thing:

So no boring, lame date nights. Go dancing together or anything else you can both participate in as a couple. No documentaries — research says you should go see horror movies or suspense thrillers.

(To learn the 4 most common relationship problems — and how to fix them — click here.)

Okay, no more dull dinners. You’re taking tango lessons or going skydiving. Awesome. So how do you fix the nagging little problems in your relationship to take it to the next level? That’s easy… Don’t.

2) Don’t Reduce the Negative. Increase the Positive.

We spend a lot of time trying to fix things in our relationships. Turns out we’ve got it backwards. Unless they’re critical, don’t focus on reducing the negatives. Couples thrive when they increase the positive things.

Via The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work:

Research shows trying to change people doesn’t work:

John Gottman, the #1 guy on making relationships work, says 69% of a couple’s problems are perpetual. These problems don’t go away yet many couples keep arguing about them year after year.

Via The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work:

So ignore the bad. Increase the good stuff.

(To learn the four things that kill relationships, click here.)

So you’re not trying to fix what’s broken, you’re doubling down on the things that make you two happy. What else do you need to do?

3) Get To Know Them. Really Get To Know Them

Couples who communicate are 62% more likely to describe their relationship as happy.

Via 100 Simple Secrets of Great Relationships:

Emotional, personal information exchange promotes powerful feelings of connection. Asking and answering the right questions can create a lifelong bond in just one hour.

Via Sam Gosling’s book, Snoop: What Your Stuff Says About You:

What happened in Arthur Aron’s lab when he had grad students ask each other these personal questions? Well, two of them ended up getting married.

No time for tons of questions? Share the best event of your day and have your partner share the best event of their day. And celebrate their successes. It works.

Here’s what Arthur told me in our interview:

But it’s not all talk. Research shows touching is powerful too. (Want something really powerful? Touch their face.)

And look into their eyes. It can make people fall in love. Seriously:

(For that list of questions that made people bond deeply in just an hour, click here.)

So you’re doing exciting stuff, focusing on the good things and really getting to know each other. What else should you spend time talking about?

4) Reminisce About the Times You Laughed

You don’t need to be together very long to do this. What made you two crack up on those initial dates? Bring it up and have another laugh about it:

And here’s a bonus: more laughing means less fighting.

Via 100 Simple Secrets of Great Relationships:

The other thing to emphasize when reminiscing? Similarity. The single strongest predictor of marital well-being? Feeling the two of you are similar.

Believe it or not, even having similar fighting styles was a good thing. It was related to double-digit drops in conflict and a double-digit increase in satisfaction.

Via 100 Simple Secrets of Great Relationships:

(To learn the recipe for a happy marriage, click here.)

Okay, so you two are laughing. What’s the right perspective to take when you’re out together?

5) Pretend You’re on Your First Date Again

On first dates we make an effort and effort draws people together:

Studies show pretending time with a romantic partner was a first date makes it more enjoyable:

(To learn how to be a good kisser, click here.)

We’ve learned a lot. Let’s round it up and learn one more killer thing that can actually build a positive feedback loop in your relationship…

Sum Up

To bond more deeply with a romantic partner make sure to:

  • Kill the boring dates. Do new exciting stuff. Dancing, suspenseful movies, learning new things together.
  • Don’t fix the negatives. Build on the positives. You can’t fix most problems. Double down on what works well.
  • Really get to know them. Use Arthur Aron’s questions. And ask about the best part of their day, celebrate it, and share the high point of your day. Touch. Stare into their eyes.
  • Reminisce about the times you laughed. Emphasize similarity.
  • Pretend you’re on your first date again. Make an effort. Put your best face forward.

Want to diagnose how well your relationship is working?

Listen to the story you and your partner tell others about your relationship. John Gottman said it’s the #1 predictor of whether things are working.

Another trick is to hold their hand during stressful times and see how it makes you feel. Less stressed? Bingo.

The sad thing is that over time we often take the other person for granted. But you don’t have to.

By expressing gratitude, research shows you can actually create a positive feedback loop in your relationship:

If you’ve got something good together, being grateful can make it even better.

Right now, share this post with your partner and tell them, “Thank you.”

Isn’t that what we all want to hear?

This piece originally appeared on Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

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