Feel your relationship floating away? Ask yourself if you’re headed down the same path with your partner—literally. Commuting to work in the same direction as your spouse could put your relationship on course for increased happiness, according to a study from Chinese researchers.
It all has to do with the concept of “grounded cognition,” the idea that bodily and sensory stimulation can influence metaphorically associated judgments, says study author Irene Xun Huang of the Chinese University of Hong Kong. If someone’s behaviors align with your own—say you’re both physically traveling in the same direction—it can make the feelings of striving for the same goal more salient in peoples’ minds.
Still, if you have to make the rush-hour trek alone, here are five tips guaranteed to keep your relationship strong—and on the right track. (Want more must-have relationship advice? Sign up for The Girl Next Door newsletterfor free!)
1. Share a Chuckle
In the language of love, laughter is key. Reminiscing about inside jokes can give you a bigger boost of satisfaction than recalling a laugh you had on your own, according to a study from Appalachian State University. More importantly, the shared laughter doesn’t have to stem from positive circumstances. So go ahead, laugh together about that time you face-planted on the sidewalk or made a major faux pas at a family function.
2. Try a Foursome
No, not that kind. We’re talking about a double date. Friendships with other couples can help solidify your relationship, finds new research from the University of Maryland. The reason: Seeing your girlfriend or wife being social at her best can make her more attractive and reveal new aspects of her personality. Interacting with another couple can also give you a model of what to strive for (the way they compliment each others sentences) or what to avoid (the way they bicker), according to the study.
3. Compliment Her
In the long run, small gestures mean the most, according to a 25-year study funded by the National Institute of Health. The study, which followed 373 married couples for a quarter of a century, found that those who gave affective affirmations regularly were the happiest. “Give compliments, offer encouragement, and use subtle gestures like handholding,” suggests study author Terri Orbuch, Ph.D., author of 5 Simple Steps to Take Your Marriage from Good to Great. “It shows your partner that you notice them and you don’t take them for granted.” Try these daily: Tell your girl she looks great in her new jeans, give her a hand with the dishes, send her a middle-of-the-day sexy email, or fill up her gas tank.
4. Deepen Your Conversation
When was the last time you talked about anything other than the kids, work, or household chores? Knowing more about your partner in four key areas—friends, stressors, life dreams, and values—can increase overall happiness, according to a National Institute of Health study. In fact, 98 percent of the happy couples in the study said they intimately knew and understood their partners. Your move: “Ask her about a happy memory from her childhood, to name the three worst songs of all time, or what her favorite movie is and why,” says Orbuch.
5. Shake Things Up
Playing hooky won’t always land you in hot water, so skip the same old, same old and fight your way out of a relationship rut by adding variety to a vanilla routine. “ Skip work and do something fun together, like visiting a museum or tourist spot nearby,” Orbuch says. “Take a water-skiing class, and swing your pelvis at a dance workshop.”