Do you remember what it’s like in the first stages of a relationship when you have butterflies in your stomach and you’re hung up on every word of every conversation? As it turns out, there’s a scientific reason for that. "In a new romantic relationship, the rush of the love hormones norepinephrine and dopamine stimulates our pleasure in the brain and leave us breathless and euphoric," says Dr. Deborah Sandella, a psychotherapist and author of the international bestseller Goodbye Hurt & Pain.
Sandella says these hormones make us feel "drunk in love," but the feelings eventually mellow when a couple becomes comfortable and emotionally safe with one another. The good news is that there are still ways to bring back this type of passion in a long-term relationship—if you intentionally stimulate it. With Sandella’s help, we’re laying out exactly how to spice up your relationship so you can feel the excitement you felt on your very first date.
Create a romantic atmosphere.
We love it when our partner shows us that they notice, Sandella says. Give your S.O. a night that favors his/her preferences—and focus on little details like a favorite candle, bottle of wine or putting on a song they love. Then be sure to switch so you get a night of pampering and attention as well.
Plan fun date activities.
Sandella stresses that this is where you need to use your imagination. What activity have you not done before that will be fun and exciting for both of you? Is it karaoke, roller skating, or going to a sushi-making class together? Be open, and play to both of your interests. "When we experiment with emotionally and physically novel experiences, lots of feel-good hormones are released even when the outcomes are less than perfect," Sandella says. Basically, we are rewarded for trying out new things even if we aren’t great at them.
Pretend you're on a first date.
For this one, you really need to commit. Plan a night on the town where you make believe this is your first night together, with no guarantees that you’ll work out. "When you become curious, your mood lifts and you can see your partner with new eyes," says Sandella. "Suddenly, you re-experience the original attraction to each other."
Go on a road trip.
Venture out on a weekend road trip, relying on "signs" to point you to your destination (be sure to take in the sights, too). What determines a "sign"? Well, that’s up to the two of you. While on a discovery road trip with her husband, Sandella says they once landed in a beautiful mountain town. "We were invited to a big birthday bash—the whole town was going—with an out-of-this-world live band," she says. "You never know what you’ll find; it’s a treasure hunt."
Do an emotional intimacy Q&A.
Science finds that self-disclosure boosts the intimacy and bonding hormone oxytocin, which makes us feel good, Sandella says. Emotional intimacy also stimulates sexual intimacy—so there’s really no reason not to try this. Ask your partner questions like, How in touch are you with your feelings moment to moment on a scale of one to 10, with 10 being the most? How does this influence you in this relationship? Take turns answering to spice up your relationship. You can find the full quiz here.
Be sure to read Rid Your Home of This One Thing to Improve Your Relationship. Tell us what you think about these tips to spice up your relationship.
This story was originally published on March 27th, 2017 and has since been updated.