As Valentine’s Day approaches, many couples will be prioritizing romance for the most romantic day of the year. But, how can be spice up our relationships for the other 364 days of the year?
Most studies show that 40-50% of marriages end in divorce in North America, and that’s just for first marriages. Consecutive marriages have even higher rates.
Not only is divorce an emotionally painful experience, it’s also an expensive one. In the U.S. a divorce costs on average $15,000 . That doesn’t include additional costs after the divorce, including child support, spousal support, division of assets, or the loss of retirement and health benefits. Strengthening your marriage and prioritizing your spouse will benefit both your home life and your finances.
Steven J. Hanley, Ph.D. is a psychologist in Michigan that works with couples and families. He says that in order to strengthen the intimacy in your marriage, you must engage in collaborative activities as a couple, rather than parallel activities with little engagement. He explains, "Investing in your relationship requires effort and a capacity to go outside of your comfort zone as a couple. I encourage couples to engage in collaborative activities rather than parallel ones. Snuggling up on the couch to binge watch Netflix can be fun, but it doesn’t require much interaction or communication, the key components of intimacy. That is a parallel activity."
Hanley says that in order to increase intimacy and strengthen your marriage, you must prioritize these collaborative activities. He also adds that engaging with your spouse is something you can do with little to no expense, all it requires is two people willing to openly communicate.
What are some examples of frugal collaborative and intimate activities for a couple?
1. Play a game together
Instead of turning on the television and curling up on the couch for the evening, consider spending time together working on a crossword puzzle, playing a favorite board game, or pulling out a deck of cards. None of these activities require that you spend money, but they will give you time as a couple to engage together and communicate with one another.
2. Feed the kids first
Hanley suggests that some nights it’s okay to forego the family dinner. "Feed the kids first, put on a show for them, and then enjoy a face-to-face dinner with your spouse at the kitchen table," says Hanley. It can get expensive to pay for a dinner out and a babysitter. This is a great option if you want to still have a quiet and intimate conversation with your spouse while your children are occupied in the house elsewhere.
3. Create something together
If one or both spouses enjoy "making things," consider sharing your skill and creating something together. Perhaps one of you is a skilled woodworker. If so, together as a couple you can create a beautiful piece of furniture. Perhaps another really enjoys cooking. Together the couple can make a fine meal. There are many hobbies that a couple may enjoy individually; it may be enjoyable to occasionally engage in the activity together.
4. Exercise together
A couple that seeks to maintain their health together will find their moods are boosted and their communication improves. "Exercise increases endorphins and endorphins can reduce stress, improve self-esteem, and create the feeling of a "runner’s high." Exercising together is a great way to spend quality time bonding while also improving health," says Jared Heathman, M.D.
5. Go to bed earlier
Skip the movie and head to bed a bit earlier together. According to research, couples who do not go to bed together are more likely to disturb one another’s sleep and have more conflict. Head to bed early and enjoy some moments together, even if it’s just to talk about your day before falling asleep.
If both couples make the choice to pursue intimacy in their marriage, there’s a good chance that they’ll be happier and more communicative as a result, reducing the likelihood of divorce.