Due to the daily pressures, distractions, and dynamics of modern life, a romantic relationship doesn’t have to be dysfunctional to grow distant over time. Long working hours and the demands of raising children can push date night, sex, and romantic vacations to last place on the priority list.
Researchers at UCLA observed 30 dual-career couples with young children to understand the daily challenges for finding opportunities to build strong relationships and families. They discovered that these couples: 
With high expectations in our careers and relationships, yet little guidance on how to make love last, we are clearly struggling.
Only the intentional partners have a chance to deepen their emotional connection in order to bond over the years of their relationship.
Learning to Stand in Love
When we are falling in love we are often more intentional than married people might be about going on dates, having intimate conversations to learn about each other, and making time for shared adventures.
It’s easy to fall in love, but much harder to stand in love, which requires intentionally creating moments of connection and intimacy.
Perhaps a look at another realm of life can reveal an analogous secret to making this all work…
Successful business owners often share that their energy and time is far more important than money. It turns out that it’s how they choose to spend their time and energy that determines how much money they make.
The same is undoubtedly true for a person’s love life. It’s easy to let cell phones, TV, and other electronic devices drain our time and energy while we are home. Social media and TV shows are designed to entertain us by strategically offering the most captivating and shocking stories and memes.
Mark Manson argues that “Smartphones Are The New Cigarettes.”
Just recently I was on my phone while my partner was talking about something important. I was skimming all the videos, articles, and quotes on my Facebook feed on how to be a better lover. It wasn’t until my partner said, “You’re not listening to me!” that I realized I was mindlessly sucked into my phone and half-heartedly listening to one of the most important people in my life.
See the irony?
Partners must stand against the urge to take the easy route of just passively letting things happen in our relationships. The sad truth of love is that if we do nothing to actively improve our romantic relationships, even without doing anything that is actively destructive, the relationships will get worse over time. Relationships require active work and maintenance. After all, even when partners are first dating, things don’t just happen. The active efforts of the relationship make them happen.
According to the author of The Intentional Family, we need to focus on two connection killers to make our relationships better: how we spend our time and how we use technology.
One of the best ways to intentionally improve a relationship is to add meaning to the daily habits we already practice, as well as to cultivate new rituals that make the moments we have together, even when we are crazy busy, more meaningful and connecting.
A romantic ritual is an event that is repeated, planned, and, most importantly, designed to be meaningful to both partners.
In Wired for Dating, Stan Tatkin, PsyD. states that “you can and should be your partner’s best antidepressant and antianxiety agent.” The following rituals not only create opportunities for connection but also reduce the stress burdens many of us carry today.
Sit down with your lover(s) and select two rituals below that you’d like to try out in your relationship. Before implementing them, talk together about why these rituals will be meaningful to you. If there are prior experiences that come to mind during this discussion, such as childhood memories, take the time to share those in depth. Finally, hash out the when, who, and what of how the ritual will occur to ensure that it is feasible to add the ritual to your lives. Try it for a trial period and then check back in with one another to assess how it went.
At mealtime without kids, you may find yourself plopped down on the couch watching the latest Netflix series, or browsing social media while sitting at the dining table.
Kids, conflicting work, school, and extracurricular activity schedules make it tough to find the time to connect with your lover at mealtime.
When meals are eaten together in a space that facilitates conversation, partners often feel more connected and, as a result, tend to have fewer petty fights.
Here are 4 tips for enhancing your mealtime:
If you struggle to find time for a romantic or family dinner each night, think of opportunities during morning and weekend meals, such as a regular Sunday brunch. Maybe on certain nights you can go out to eat, creating a ritual such as Taco Tuesdays.
Couples with mismatched sleeping styles, as in the case of an early bird paired with a night owl, can experience instability in the relationship. This can lead to more conflict, less time for shared activities, less sex, and less connecting conversation. 
Tatkin believes that it’s healthy for partners, even those with different sleep styles, to discover ways to begin and end their days together with rituals.
Here are some ways to stay in sync:
Home is wherever the relationship is, and how partners part and reunite influences their energy, self-esteem, and emotional connection.
When you or your partner leave for the day, do you embrace each other? Do you kiss? When you reunite, do you hug and tell your partner you missed them?
This study of 30 couples found that the men who returned home later in the day received no acknowledgment from their distracted family members. Being greeted in a loving way is a fantastic start to an evening at home. Here are some ideas:
When a relationship is new, falling in love requires lots of one-on-one talking about the good and stressful parts of the day and what is meaningful to each partner.
According to Dr. Doughty, the author of The Intentional Family, “Few dating couples would get married if they had as little focused conversation as most married couples do.”
Dr. Gottman’s research highlights that after relationship therapy, the couples who have a daily stress-reducing conversation are less likely to relapse than couples who don’t talk daily.
Intentionally talking with each other one-on-one, even for just 15 minutes, can be good enough for busy partners. Focus on discussing how your daily events made you feel, rather than just talking about the facts of the events that occurred.
One of the best ways to do this is to tie the talking ritual to enjoying a beverage together. Dr. Doughty has coffee with his wife every night after dinner at the dining table. My partner and I have apple cider and talk while we sit up in bed.
Having a daily conversation deepens tenderness towards each partner, creates a better emotional and sexual connection, and prevents fights over little things that often arise when a relationship lacks meaningful connection on a daily basis.
Actively maintaining health together is a great way to stay connected.
Remember, if partners do nothing to actively improve their relationship, even without doing anything that is destructive, the relationship will get worse over time. That’s why it is vital to intentionally cultivate daily rituals that help partners reconnect.
Relationships thrive when partners realize that the seemingly insignificant moments, such as a loving hug and kiss when one partner comes home, are often the most significant of all. By being intentional, partner can transform dull, mindless routines into a source of connection and fun.
This article was originally published on www.kylebenson.net
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Kyle studies how partners in healthy relationships intentionally –talk to each other, have passionate sex, stay emotionally connected, and more – to uncover the tools and perspectives that make love last. His work has been featured in dozens of major media channels including The Gottman Institute, Business Insider, U.S. News, The Chicago Tribune, Huffington Post, and more.
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