Last week, I blogged about going on a unique date with your partner to keep things interesting. Well, this week, I read an article by Aron et al. (2000) that further emphasized the importance of this recent love tip.
I'm sure that many of you would agree that doing fun things with your partner is good for your relationship. However, you probably didn't know that researchers have actually found evidence to support this idea. While it may be obvious, engaging in new, interesting, and exciting activities with your partner is very beneficial to your relationship.
In 2000, Arthur Aron and his colleagues conducted five separate studies to fully examine how participating in activities with your partner influences various aspects of your relationship's quality. In study one, participants completed a survey that mainly measured these three variables: (1) shared participation of new and exciting activities, (2) experienced relationship quality, and (3) the amount of boredom the participants experience in their relationships. Study two used the same questions from study one, but this time, the researchers went door-to-door to find participants.
Studies one and two found a strong positive relationship between participating in new and exciting activities and experienced relationship quality. So, as the activities in your relationship increase in perceived newness and excitement, your experienced relationship quality also tends to increase. Likewise, as one variable decreases, the other also tends to decrease.
Unfortunately, these studies were only correlational in nature (i.e. the studies showed that the two variables were related, but they did not show which variable caused the other-- does increased relationship quality cause people to engage in more exciting activities OR does engaging in more exciting activities cause increased relationship quality?). Because of this, the researchers decided to conduct three more experimental studies to help shed some light on the cause-effect relationship between these two variables.
Study three examined the impact that engaging in exciting and not-so-exciting activities has on experienced relationship quality. Twenty eight couples (24 dating & 4 married) participated. Each couple came the study location and completed relationship quality surveys (which measured things like relationship satisfaction & feelings of passionate love) in separate rooms. Then, they engaged in an activity together, which was either new & exciting (a fun obstacle course that they had to work together to complete) or boring & mundane (sitting on the floor and rolling a ball to a check point over and over again). Afterwards, they completed relationship quality surveys again.
They discovered that shared participation in novel-arousing activities, compared with shared participation in mundane activities, increased experienced relationship quality. Interestingly, participants' experienced relationship quality significantly increased after only about 10 minutes of engaging in the new and interesting activity!
Study four focused on only married couples. It was very similar to study three, except the participants were all married and there were three conditions instead of just two. This time, participants came to the lab, separately filled out experienced relationship quality surveys, and then engaged in either a new and exciting task, a boring and mundane task, or no task at all. Like study three, after they were finished with the activity, they completed experienced relationship quality surveys again.
The results from study four also revealed that when couples participated in the novel-arousing activity, their experienced relationship quality was increased. These couples' experienced relationship quality increased significantly more than couples who participated in boring and mundane actiities and couples who didn't participate in any activities.
The fifth and final study was similar to studies three and four, with a few revisions. Like study four, participants were all married. Once they arrived at the study location, the couples were first separated and asked to complete various relationship quality surveys. Second, the couples were reunited and asked to engage in a five minute videotaped discussion. They were instructed to plan a vacation together for five minutes. Once they were done with their discussion, they either egaged in the new and exciting activity or the boring and mundane activity (there was no control group this time). After the activity, they engaged in another five minute discussion. Here, they were asked to discuss the home improvements they would make if they were given $15,000. Lastly, the couple was separated again to complete various relationship quality surveys. To recap, the procedure was: surveys, discussion, activity, discussion, surveys.
The videotaped discussions were coded by researchers for various behaviors that expressed relationship quality.
Study five yeiled some interesting results. First, like the other studies, when couples engaged in the novel-arousing activity (compared to the boring activity), their relationship quality significantly increased from the first survey to the second survey. Second, when couples engaged in the novel-arousing activity (compared to the boring activity), the relationship quality behaviors that they expressed significantly increased from the first discussion to the second discussion.
I know what you're thinking, "how can life always be new and exciting?" It doesn't have to be. The results from this study don't mean that every single thing that you ever do with your partner should be a new and exciting experience. Instead, this study does suggest that spicing up your relationship every once in a while is a really great thing. For instance, if you always go to Ruby Tuesday's for date night, you could spice things up by going to a Japanese steakhouse like Benihana's or a fondue restaurant like The Melting Pot instead. It will be a new experience, and if you've ever been to one of these restaurants before, you know that they're definitely exciting as well. You could also go bowling, play pool, go to a batting cage, or even play mini-golf, especially if they are not part of your usual routine.
Whatever activity you decide to do, the important part is that you do it with your partner and that it's new, interesting, and exciting for the both of you.
- Aron, A., Norman, C. C., Aron, E. N., McKenna, C. & Heyman, R. E. (2000). Couple's shared participation in novel and arousing activities and experienced relationship quality. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 78, 273- 284.
For more ideas about exciting date options, see the following resources: