I remember the day my baby was born in vivid detail. I remember the color of the paint on the walls, the names of the nurses who tended to us. I remember the taste of the coffee at the hospital, the orientation of the bathroom from the induction room. I remember the immense fear I had when my wife went into labor while awaiting an induction, and I remember the shere joy of holding my baby for the first time.
But do you know what I remember in just as much detail?
A food fight I had with my family ten years prior. I rember what I ate, where I was sitting, who was there, the face shape, hairstyle and shirt of the manager of the restaurant. Our brains do their best to remember important information, cataloging it for future use. Why, then, would I remember both events in just as much detail? The birth was only seven months ago, while the food fight was more than ten years ago, and I could hardly make a case that they’re equally important.
The brain catalogues information as “important” when you’ve associated it with strong emotion. Your life is made of those emotional moments, because they are what you remember the best, and because they bind people together. Emotion creates and and strengthens human connection.
Creating memories brings people together.
Creating memories brings people together. When two people (like my wife and I) or a larger group of people (like my family at the Itlian restaurant), make memories by creating an emotional (happy) environment, a stronger bond is created. Oftentimes, that happens naturally. A brother and a sister don’t have to live together very long before they create memories and are bonded for life. Other times, people will put themselves into situations where they’re bound to create those memories.
All too often, people slow down the rate at which they make memories as they enter the job force and “settle down.” Ironically, the result is a sped up life. The question, “where did the time go?” comes to mind. This is especially true, as it seems, in long term relationships. I don’t know exactly why, but perhaps it’s because people get too comfortable right where they are.
I’ll let you in on a secret: failing to create emotion and make new memories with your partner is a sure-fire way to end the relationship, albeit more slowly than doing it with a few fiery figths. If the bond that you created previously isn’t being strengthend, it’s being weakened. There’s very little, if any, middle ground. So, how can you continue to develop that bond with your long-term partner?
1) Be Active
The opposite of active is passive, so let me describe that first. Passive is when most of the time you spend together is not being together. As in you’re in front of the TV, or most of the conversations you have sound more like a news report than two high-schoolers flirting. Remember: there’s nothing wrong with acting like a couple of teenagers in love. Be active. Do new things. I’ll be honest, I believe the enemy of “new things” is routine. There’s nothing wrong with routine or structure, they both help productivity, but can you block out of time in your schedule for “unplanned things?” I certainly hope so.
A surprise flight to Paris might be outside of your budget (or time restrictions), but you can do something unnexpected everyday. Go to a meetup, try out a cooking class, take her to the ballet she’s always wanted to see, start a blog, go for a walk, grab her from behind and tickle her, or, you know, have a baby. (Warning: DO NOT have a baby as a way to heal your relationship. It won’t work.)
Memories are really cool things. It’s like a movie that you’re actually in. You get to relive stories as if they were still happening..and if you can do that with someone else? All the better. Just like making the memories did in the first place, reliving those memories with your partner, can strengthen your bond and even give you ideas of where your future is headed. But be careful reminiscing. It’s important to let go of things that need to be let go of.
3) Go for long walks, ask open ended questions
I don’t think there’s any better way to get to know someone than to talk to them, but not in that news report kind of way I mentioned earlier. Be an active participant in the conversation. Ask open ended questions like, “how do you think that experience affected who you’ve become?” Or, “what did your parents’ experience teach you about relationships and marriage?” The most important thing is to make sure the questions you ask can’t be answered with a simple yes or no, and when they’re done answering, just ask another one! Make it up as you go, it’s fun and seriously insightful.