5 Fast Fixes for a Stronger Relationship

By Liz Brody

If I hear, "make a date night," one more time, from one more relationship expert, I'm going to throw the aphrodisiac in her face.

I don't want to make a date night. I don't want to ride the Class IV rapids or jump out of a plane to get the dopamine flowing. I don't want to dangle from a chandelier. These are fine suggestions to beat a passion plateau. But they take t-i-m-e (not to mention acrobatic skills), which some of us don't exactly have.

"Oh boy," my mate says when I ask him for ideas on the phone. (Maybe it was a bad idea to make him change my ring tone to Car Alarm) “that’s a minefield right there.”

My girlfriend offers, “I'm sure my husband would say sex—more than, you know, a few times a year. But that's asking a lot. I'm very busy.”

I did, however, find some great, quick ideas for women on the run:

IF YOU HAVE 10 SECONDS... Hit pause. This will come in handy the next time he’s really bugging you. Say, when he’s dawdling, making you late again to visit your mother. Before one righteous word flies out of your mouth, FREEZE. Just watch him for 10 seconds. Visualize yourself in his shoes. Visualize him as he looked the first time you fell for him. Pause the action. (In email terms, it’s a kind of a Save As Draft so you don’t actually send the inflammatory message). Ten seconds gives you time to flash on, “Oh, he’s very uncomfortable with my family,” or “Hmmm, he’s been whipped at work and needs to be in control of something (pathetic as his choice may be.)” It might occur to you that “a few minutes late” isn’t worth a fight. Then again, you might conclude that, yes, he is a total jerk. At least you tried.

IF YOU HAVE A MINUTE...This is from a great article in the current Scientific American Mind by Robert Epstein (do it with your guy): Embrace each other gently and gradually synchronize your breathing with his. Just stand there inhaling and exhaling together, as if you were one being. A minute or two of this, apparently, lowers your inhibitions—and that can help people bond.

IF YOU HAVE 2 MINUTES... Jot down three things he’s done lately that you appreciate (OK, one?). Send the list as a note to him in an email at work. Or slip it under his coffee mug in the morning. Or just casually mention, “You know, I dug the way you handled that surly waiter the other day.” Yeah, it’s a tad corny, but experts say it really works. Certainly, if there’s one thing the research on happy long-term couples shows, it’s that they figure out how to accentuate the positive. “When you say or list what you appreciate in him, it brings those things more to the forefront of the mind,” says Gail Saltz, MD, Today Show commentator and author of The Ripple Effect: How Better Sex Can Lead to a Better Life. “It also prompts him to say what he really appreciates about you.”

IF YOU HAVE 3 MINUTES... Here’s another good one from Epstein: Standing or sitting fairly close to your partner, start moving your hands, arms, and legs any way you like—but in a fashion that perfectly mimics his. “This is fun but also challenging,” Epstein writes. “You will both feel as if you are moving voluntarily, but your actions are also linked to those of your partner.” See if this doesn’t activate your empathy circuits.

IF YOU’VE GOT 5 MINUTES... Try a daily forgiveness ritual, suggests Sharon Salzberg, a revered spiritual teacher and cofounder of the Insight Meditation Society in Barre, Massachusetts. It's like a little shot of immunity to prevent you from fighting. Find a quiet spot to sit, and let these phrases go through your mind: If I have hurt or harmed you, knowing or unknowingly, I ask your forgiveness. If you have hurt or harmed me, knowingly or unknowingly, I forgive you. “You’re not saying, ‘It's all right that you did that,’" Salzberg explains. You’re just opening up your mind to ideas like, "I let go of seeing you solely as the perpetrator; I understand the conditions that led to that action,” and, “I am not identifying myself only as the person who was hurt; I’m bigger than that.” You may even realize, “I have to let go of unrelieved anger to have any space for love to grow.” See if 5 minutes a day doesn’t warm up the love dynamic. For a real intimacy boost? Get him to do it too.

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