It’s a good idea to periodically take an inventory of your relationship in order to see what’s working and what could use improvement. Rather than waiting until things break down, which usually leads to fighting and bruised feelings, it’s better to keep an eye on potential problems and catch them before they become too serious.
One problem that plagues many, if not most, long-term relationships is a creeping sense of ennui, or boredom, although the couple themselves may not be explicitly aware of it. After some years together (or even just a few months in some cases!) the couple stop trying as hard to make and maintain the connection between themselves. They begin to coast. This is a normal phase in the evolution of romantic relationships, but it isn’t usually a good thing. Taking each other for granted, and taking your relationship for granted can cause serious problems down the road.
Just as many people evaluate their lives and come up with a “bucket list” of things they hope to accomplish before they die, it’s not a bad idea to create a list of things to do with your spouse or romantic partner. People make a “bucket list” as a way of keeping their lives exciting, dynamic and interesting, and the same is true for a “relationship bucket list” – it will help keep the attraction and love between you alive and healthy.
Here are some general guidelines for your relationship bucket list.
Use your minds together. Once people graduate from school, they often lose the habit of intellectual and creative thought. Unless both of you are lucky enough to have thought-provoking, creative jobs that fulfill that part of your psyche, it’s easy to decline into a kind of lazy, shared ignorance.
So take a class together. What are the two of you interested in? If you want pure intellectual stimulation, try an academic course at your local college or university. Most universities have programs aimed at adults in the local community. If you and your partner can’t agree on one subject you’re both interested in, then take turns. Try French literature one term, and then African history the next. Let each person pick in turn. Not only will it do you both good to learn new things and use your minds, you will get to meet other curious people in the classes you take. Be sure to discuss the things you’ve been studying – this will deepen the emotional and psychological bond between you. [Related: The 3 Things that All Successfully Married Couples Do]
Consider, too, more practical classes where you make things – painting or sculpture or photography, perhaps. Cooking courses are quite common and will leave you with a legacy of tasty recipes to make together at home for years to come.
Learn a language together. Not only does foreign language study strengthen your mind, but it also opens up many opportunities for travel. Pick a place you’ve both dreamed of going – Italy or Vietnam or Ethiopia or any other country – and start studying its language, art and culture. Learning Italian or Vietnamese or Amharic together will give you a natural conversational partner to practice with. Perhaps you’ll want to then take some classes or read some books together on the history, art, food and culture of the country. All during this time of study, you’ll be saving up money to take a trip there. Having a dream of travel to an exciting, interesting place will give you both a positive goal to work towards together, and this will also deepen and strengthen your relationship.
Almost any kind of travel together is a good shared adventure and an excellent addition to your relationship bucket list. Another possible way to organize your travel is more personal – perhaps you might want to study the history and genealogy of each of your families and then travel together to the places you were born and where your ancestors lived. Not only will this be an interesting and exciting adventure, but it will teach both of you more about each other. Getting to know your partner in new ways is sure to strengthen the bond between you.
Speaking of adventure, consider the old saying “an adventure is a discomfort remembered” and do something together that takes you out of your “comfort zone.” Sign up for a class at the gym together – it won’t hurt you to get a bit of a sweat while learning salsa or hip-hop dance, for example.
If you want something more dramatic, pick a major goal like running a 10-kilometer race or even a half or full marathon together. Outline a training plan and work together to get in shape over a good period of time. Co-operating to reach a major goal will certainly deepen the bond between you.
And there are even tougher athletic goals out there if you want to really suffer together! One popular trend these days is for so-called “mud runs” that mimic the obstacle course training used in the military. Working together to survive and succeed at such a tough endeavor will put your relationship under stress, for sure, but out of that shared experience you’ll develop much stronger connections. That’s exactly why the military uses that type of training – to build strong bonds between soldiers who may have to put their lives in each other’s hands.
A good idea in planning your relationship bucket list is to talk together about your dreams, both big and small. Don’t just put once-in-a-lifetime dreams like an expensive trip to Tahiti on your list (although you should definitely dream big!) but put more humble and achievable goals on there, too. Maybe you want to visit every museum in the city where you live, eat at every restaurant in your neighborhood, or take a driving trip to every corner of your particular state or province. Road trips are easier and less expensive than overseas travel, yet they offer plenty of chances for meeting people and learning history.
The most important factor in creating your relationship bucket list is to plan it together, and to do it together. Just sitting and talking about your shared dreams, from the simple to the outrageous, enhances the love and connection between the two of you. So the first item on your relationship bucket list should be easy and fun: Make a relationship bucket list together!