How to deepen love
Valuing full disclosure, I admit I’m biased when conceptualizing love. Almost all of the training I’ve had dealing with couples and relationship work has been through the work of Drs. John and Julie Gottman. But hey, what’s better for people who are seeking help (especially mental health, which is constantly under the microscope to determine its validity) than a research-based approach such as the Gottman Method? Most of what you’ll read will be suggestions from this method.
Now time for the big question.
How do you deepen love?
Maybe you’ve been in that new love which is full of passion and excitement, and now it’s settling down to the more dependable (and dare I say mundane) type of relationship. Maybe you’ve been married for 15-years and you love your partner, but you also feel lonely and wish for a stronger connection. Maybe you’ve never felt a deep type of love and wonder how others manage to feel that way.
No matter what your circumstances are there’s one thing you should know. You can just-about-always deepen your love for your partner. There are exceptions, but they are just that - exceptions and not the norm. Those exceptions might be better suited for couples therapy or marriage counseling (you can also email us with questions about that, if you’re concerned or unsure).
The secret to deep love is building a solid friendship system.
If you’ve ever met a couple that have been together for a long time and report high levels of relationship satisfaction, you’ll likely hear the two of them saying that their partner is not just their lover, but their best friend. This couple has a strong friendship system, which lays the groundwork for a fortified romantic relationship.
Which, obviously, segues into the questions of how you sustain a strong friendship with your partner. Perfect. Let’s keep going.
Making Time for Each Other
Making time for each other is very important.
I repeat. Making time for each other is very important.
Think about your best childhood friend growing up. You probably remember spending a lot of hours just being around each other! Doing fun activities, talking about your goals and life dreams, and sitting around watching TV. Simple things, right?
And making time for each other may be difficult given that we’re adults with life stressors. I get it. I’m a mom, aunt, wife, sister, daughter, student, friend, and employee. I so get it.
There’s a lot we have to balance on any given day. However, when it comes to our relationships, if we want them to last, the truth remains the same. We must make time for our partner.
Something the Gottman research found is that couples who devote at least five hours a week on their relationship are happier with their relationship than all the rest.
I know what you’re thinking. FIVE HOURS?! That’s so much time!! But the reality is that you’ve got 168 hours in a week, and if you’re getting eight hours of sleep per night and working 50 hours per week, you’ve still got 62 hours left to dole out.
The solution is the Magic Five Hours (thanks, Gottmans!).
The Magic Five Hours are suggestions for small changes in your daily routine of working on your relationship which add up to five hours over a week. These five hours enhance emotional connection leading to deeper love.
Have a morning parting. When you and your partner say goodbye before leaving for the day, take two minutes to discuss what each of you must do during that day. This isn’t a contest to see who has a crazier day, but rather a way to show general interest and learn something about your partner and their experience. Spending these two minutes five days a week can lead to 10 minutes a week counting towards your magic five hours.
Have a daily reunion. When both of you are home, spend 20 minutes debriefing about your day. Again, this is not a contest, but rather the couple should approach this discussion with genuine curiosity. Talk about what went right, what went wrong, and then switch and listen. You may be surprised with what you learn about your partner. If your partner discusses how horrible their day went, providing some empathy (whether or not you agree with the bosses decision to write them up) will make your partner feel like you have their back leading to deeper intimacy.
A word of wisdom… sometimes this is hard to do right when the two of you are walking in the door, when you, your partner, and your kids are all coming home at the same time and wanting to talk about the day. If you do wait a little bit to have this discussion, do it as soon as you can! Remember this is a reunion discussion! This should be a pleasurable experience and so if immediately after walking in the door feels overwhelming- schedule it for an hour after being home. Just be sure to acknowledge your partner when they get home. Spending 20 minutes discussing how your days went once your partner gets home counts towards one hour and forty minutes towards your five hours.
Appreciation is something that we also might give a lot to our friends but not necessarily our partners. We may think that we shouldn’t have to show appreciation (or even notice it for that matter) for things that must be done for daily functioning. Moreover, too often we might feel that we are taken for granted and therefore don’t even want to express appreciation for our partner.
As terrible as it may sound to say out loud, we think that we are not appreciated and so we don’t express our appreciation for our partner.
Spending five minutes a day, seven days a week to express one appreciation will enhance your relationship. Appreciation doesn’t have to be a monumental task that your partner did that day- it can be something like saying “Thanks for not giving me attitude when I asked you to take the trash out” or “I appreciate that you went to work today.” The bigger stuff is nice too, but even the small things are good to appreciate. Spending five minutes every day of the week adds up to 35 minutes a week towards your five hours.
Simple, really. Just share affection five minutes per day for seven days a week. Maybe you do this already, or maybe you only have five minutes of affection once a month. Either way, adding affection into your daily routine with your partner is important for deepening love.
Affection may look like being playful, holding hands, kissing, giving a back rub, or any time of physical appreciation for your partner. Think of how nice it would be to get a back rub from your partner after a long day! It not only makes you feel more relaxed, it creates stronger connection for your relationship. If you add five minutes a day it adds 35 minutes to your magic five hours.
Go on a date.
Personally, here is the real overwhelming task: date time. What makes this much easier is that date time doesn’t have to be going out of the house it is just alone time for you and your partner without interruptions. The recommended dose is two hours per week. This can be chopped up into different time frames, but I prefer to be a solid chuck.
Volia! If you were able to do these suggestions, you’ve hit your five-hour quota for the week. It may feel exhausting at first, but the reward of a happier and healthier relationship (and feeling more connected to your partner) will make it fun pretty quickly.
A tip from the therapist for couples who are not doing any of these types of things currently, diving right into the five hours may feel overwhelming especially if you are currently emotionally distant. You may want to start with one or two things to try and add another suggestion each week until you are able to hit the five-hour mark.
Aside from the Magic Five Hours, I’ve included even more tips below for strengthening the friendship system in your relationship in order to deepen your love.
Updating Love Maps
Love maps are byproducts of spending time with you partner. Love maps are knowing the facts about your partner. It’s knowing who their favorite relative is, what they wanted to be when they grew up, where they want to retire, and what their most embarrassing moment is.
Love maps are having the space in your brain for your partner and feeling like they have space for you too. This is important as it makes your partner feel like they are known and matter to you and vice versa.
When we enter a relationship, we often learn these things about our partners, however, as time proceeds love maps can become outdated. Although our favorite relative may be the same, we may have had a new most embarrassing moment that we have not shared with our partner. This may seem like a small piece in the grand scheme of love, but updating your love maps leads to a stronger friendship system, which in turn leads to deeper love.
Building up Fondness and Admiration
Sharing fondness and admiration is the idea that you respect, well like, value, cherish, and are generally fond of your partner. Showing appreciation is one way to build fondness and admiration.
Another is being kind to your partner. Showing them the same level of respect and grace you would show your best friend.
For example, if your partner had a bad week and didn’t do anything to help around the house, you may think to yourself (or say to them) that they are being lazy and unhelpful. If it were your best friend who had a bad week you may think to yourself what can I do to help cheer them up? Being kind, gentle, showing empathy and appreciation are all ways to build fondness and admiration.
Turing Towards your Partner Instead of Away
This is a hard one. The basic idea here is that when we want to reach out to our partner, they will be there. This means that when we “turn towards” our partner, we’re not ignored.
We all have had moments when our partner may say something that we don’t really respond to. Things that they say which can irritate us or doesn’t feel worth our time to respond to.
Respond to it, anyway. That’s the long and short of turning towards.
When you’re not responding to your partner when they reach out (even if it feels silly) they’re feeling uncared for. It may not show immediately that they aren’t feeling cared for, but a lot of emotional distancing can occur when one person attempts to connect and the other turns away by ignoring. Being there for your partner when they want to talk creates a feeling of safety- that you’ll be there for them when the big stuff comes around because you’re there for the small day-to-day stuff.
The main takeaways from this post?
Enhancing the friendship system of your relationship is very important to deepening love.
Treating your partner the same way you would treat your best friend will allow intimacy to grow.
Spending at least five hours with your partner each week, updating love maps, building fondness and admiration, and turning towards instead of away improve your friendship system.
No matter what your current friendship system with your partner looks like, you can improve it!
One last and important thing to remember is that friendship doesn’t happen overnight. Friendship takes time, hard work, and dedication, but you and your partner are worth it. Integrating these suggestions into your relationship, no matter what the status of friendship and love, will help deepen love and keep your relationship happy and healthy.
And the very last thing is that if you’re unsure whether this is enough for you and your partner(s), you might either read up on the couples therapy and marriage counseling we offer (we specialize in conflict, infidelity, and communication). And if you’re just here before your session and wanting some additional information before you come in? We’ve got you covered with an overview of the first few sessions for couples work (couples counseling 101). Reach out if you have any questions!
About the Author
Molly Lyons | Couples & Individual Counseling Intern
Molly enjoys working with diverse populations and couples, and seeks to always be open to new learning experiences. She works best with individuals who are trying to discover who they are and how they relate to their world, as well as others in their world. Molly believes that a person’s external factors can provide both barriers and resources towards growth and that one must discover these in order to thrive.
Molly is currently in her final year of the Master of Science in Clinical Counseling at Central Methodist University (CMU) and is a counseling intern at The Counseling Hub. She obtained her Bachelor of Science in General Psychology with a minor in Child Development from Central Methodist University directly before enrolling in the counseling program. Prior to pursuing her counseling degree, Molly received an Associates of Science in Early Childhood Education from Moberly Area Community College.
Molly has experience in the Counseling Center at MACC's Columbia campus, providing counseling services for students around the topics of identity crises, school-related stressors, depression issues, and coping with anxiety. Molly has co-facilitated Safe Zone trainings and completed additional training on LGBTQ+ Counseling Competencies through the American Counseling Association (ACA). Molly is an active member of both the ACA and the Association for Multicultural Counseling and Development (AMCD).