Being a parent is one of life’s most (if not the most) rewarding endeavors. But, between work and family, the juggle is real, and parenting couples sometimes forget to put in the time and effort to ensure that our relationships are as healthy, happy, and strong as our kids. Whether you and your spouse are in a rut or you simply need a reminder of how and why you became parents in the first place (hint: it’s because you really like each other), check out 10 simple things that you and your partner can do together to stoke the fire of your eternal flame.

photo: Tessa Duquette

1. Schedule time to sweat together.
Going out for dinner and a movie is great, but few activities will get your adrenaline pumping like a weekly exercise date with your spouse. Whether it’s doing hot yoga or hitting weights at the gym, exercising together releases feel-good endorphins and will help you and your partner reconnect with each other’s bodies. There are plenty of benefits to working out with your significant other, not the least of which is an improved sex life.

photo: Jeremy Brisiel

2. Embrace each other’s individuality.
Opposites may attract, but your partner’s adorable quirks likely have become less adorable after a few years and a couple of kids. While studies have shown that couples who are extreme opposites rarely last, respecting and supporting each other’s differences as well as celebrating the ways that you and your spouse complement one another can lead to greater happiness together. Instead of trying to change your partner, try finding common ground and common interests. Can anyone say, Couples Karaoke Night?

photo: Christine Prentice-Popken

3. Go outside of your comfort zone and take the plunge together.
Kids thrive on routine, but for grownups, living a routine life can easily cause us to slip into a rut. Parents can get back their couple’s groove by trying something new together. Research has shown that couples who picked new and exciting activities to do together for 90 minutes a week reported greater satisfaction in their relationships compared to couples that continued doing the same-old, tried-and-true, pleasant-but-routine dates like going to the movies. For some couples, the Polar Bear Plunge is a fun—if extreme—activity to do together.

photo: Tawny Kay

4. Give and receive hugs, earnestly and often.
We already know that our kids give the best hugs, but we often forget that our significant other is just as huggable and needs physical affection as well. Hugs are a highly underrated relationship panacea. In fact, studies have shown that hug therapy is extremely effective at relieving sickness, disease, loneliness, depression, anxiety, and stress. Set a goal to hug each other at least eight times a day.

photo: Troy Starwalt

5. Keep each other laughing.
Among the keys to a successful partnership is a shared sense of humor and the ability to make each other laugh. In an analysis of nearly 40 studies that followed 15,000 respondents over a 30-year period, researchers determined that humor played an essential role in sustaining a healthy long-term relationship. The study concluded that finding a partner with a sense of humor is less important than finding a partner with a shared sense of humor.

photo: Kristen Kezele

6. Keep calm and rock on.
Just because you’re a parent doesn’t mean that you can’t still rock-and-roll. A report from Johns Hopkins University found that music can be medicine for your mind and spirit, providing benefits that range from memory improvement to stress relief. Going to see a live performance of your favorite band has the dual perks of spending quality time with your spouse and proving to your kids that you can still bang your head like when you were younger.

photo: Marcella Williams

7. Read to and with each other.
Nothing soothes the soul like tucking into a good book, except maybe curling up next to your partner and reading together. Science has shown that the act of reading together brings couples closer, turning an ordinarily solitary activity into a shared one. Plus, there’s no denying that reading something other than Goodnight, Moon is a much-needed reprieve from parenting duties.

photo: Scott Payton

8. Learn to walk away.
If extreme sports or rock concerts aren’t your thing, taking a regular evening stroll with your significant other is a great way to reconnect after a hectic day filled with work and kids. There are myriad relationship benefits to the simple act of walking, from relieving stress to getting some fresh air together. Holding hands is an added bonus.

photo: Gwydion Suilebhan

9. Don’t be afraid to trip up.
Taking a trip together sans kids is a terrific way to spend some quality time with your spouse. Whether it’s taking a road trip and blasting your favorite tunes in the car or riding on a train to a new city, exploring new destinations together is an easy way to get away from it all (especially away from your kids, if just for a little while).

photo: Kipp Jarecke-Cheng

10. Follow your flashbacks.
Find a photo from one of your first dates, then recreate it. Your kids will have a good laugh at how young you looked back in the day, and you and your spouse can commiserate about how you used to have so much more hair.

What are your best #couplegoals tips? Tell us in the comments below!

—Kipp Jarecke-Cheng

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