Enjoyable Activities: The Key to Relationship Wellness

Although there’s a pattern of key elements for achieving it, sexual and relationship psychology proposes a behavioral technique for achieving happiness in your relationship: doing enjoyable activities.
Enjoyable Activities: The Key to Relationship Wellness
Loreto Martín

Written and verified by the psychologist Loreto Martín.

Last update: 06 June, 2023

Many people wonder what the ingredients for a true and lasting love potion are. What’s the key to relationship wellness? How can you make a relationship work in the long term? The truth is that there are no magic ingredients that always make for a satisfactory relationship, but taking part in enjoyable activities together forms an important part of it.

However, although all people are different, sexual and relationship psychology establish certain measures that you can take to achieve wellness in your relationship. This is the case of enjoyable activities and their impact on partners. Below, we’ll explain in detail.

When problems affect a couple

Sexual problems, stress, children, family reconciliation, work, and money problems, among other conflicts, may have an impact on relationship wellness. These, or a combination thereof, can have an impact on partner interaction in many ways.

For example, they may get angry, pull away emotionally, reject one another, or reduce communication, among other things. However, something that always tends to happen is that both partners stop doing things with each other.

When they no longer do fun activities, the problem tends to worsen. This suppression isn’t only the consequence of a bigger problem but also the core of another conflict.

This occurs due to the fact that a suppression of the reinforcers for both partners takes place. They no longer do things together, no longer share activities they once liked to do, don’t have conversations, or no longer go to their favorite restaurant.

A couple with problems.

There are many relationship problem triggers. As a result, you can both lose your communication skills or the desire to spend time together.

Relationship reinforcers and affinity

Reinforcers are stimuli that make certain behavior patterns more likely to occur. For example, if one of the partners receives a kiss every time they cook something delicious, it’s likely that they’ll strive to cook something even more delicious the next time.

In that case, the reinforcer would be the kiss, as it causes the behavior to cook well to happen more often. When you stop doing things as a couple, there’s less opportunity for both partners to use reinforcers.

If you don’t do enjoyable activities together, there’s no opportunity to use reinforcers, and, therefore, these behaviors are much less likely to occur. Therefore, from both sexual and relationship psychology, doing enjoyable activities is an effective solution that tends to yield good results.

Couples usually come together due to affinity. Therefore, it’s common for there to be enjoyable activities that you can do together that serve as reinforcers for both of you.

The goal of this is to reuse the reinforcers you had stopped using. The fact that you no longer use them doesn’t mean they’re obsolete. Reinforcers don’t just stop working. Instead, most people just tend to forget about them.

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Behavioral or emotional solutions?

When you think of marital or relationship problems, you don’t usually think that the solution is behavioral, but rather emotional and cognitive. In fact, in therapy, it’s normal to use both.

Of course, it’s important to address issues such as couple standards, beliefs about close relationships, and unrealistic and irrational expectations and attributions. It’s vital to talk about those aspects to achieve marital adjustment, communicational patterns, or to improve sex.

However, enjoyable activities are part of a series of beneficial behavioral strategies. In addition, the results obtained from behavioral techniques can certainly motivate a couple, showing both partners that all relationships work if behavior is modified, and to continue working on achieving wellness.

How to increase reinforcers

In addition to doing enjoyable activities, you can use other behavioral strategies that may allow you to achieve an effective and lasting change in the relationship.

Enjoyable activities for relationship wellness

When a relationship has deteriorated, it’s likely that both partners won’t want to do things together. That’s the main problem with enjoyable activities. Therefore, it’s useful to start slowly. If a couple hasn’t gone out for more than eight months, perhaps taking a two-week trip to Panama isn’t a good idea.

However, small activities that are comfortable for one or both partners may be a good idea. For example, walking the dogs, making lunch, or buying bread together are simple activities that can build reinforcers. As the couple progresses, one or both partners can propose having dinner together at their favorite restaurant, going to the movies, or partying with each other.

It’s common for reinforcers for those types of activities to be observed, affecting the likelihood that they’ll do such activities again. Many couples who go to couples therapy due to a deteriorating relationship start to do enjoyable activities automatically after having done simple activities together first. They’re the ones who take the initiative to go and buy bread for dinner together, without the therapist telling them to.

The latter is just one example of the fact that behavioral techniques are useful at the beginning of couples therapy: the first thing you must do is look for reinforcers.

A couple cooking together.

Something as simple as cooking as a couple or going shopping together can be useful for promoting relationship wellness.

Special days technique

Another way to establish reinforcers without a specific activity is to use the special days technique. This is useful if the couple isn’t willing to do anything together or don’t have enough time. On special days, both partners are asked to devote one weekday to reinforcing their partner. They can’t choose the same days and both partners should know what days are “special days”.

Although there may be hesitation at the beginning, as the partners may consider it unnatural or forced, the truth is that it usually makes couples feel good. Receiving reinforcements from comments, conversations, or actions often makes people feel satisfied.

When you give reinforcers, you usually receive reinforcers in return, and that’s an idea that both partners have to consider. Usually, both partners decide to give reinforcers because it makes them feel good when they receive them. Although this technique doesn’t allow conflict resolution, it does increase gratification.

Observing the positive to promote relationship wellness

Another behavioral technique that you can use in addition to enjoyable activities is observing the positive things. Although there are positive things, things you once loved, when a relationship has deteriorated, partners tend to stop observing these positive aspects.
Observing the positive also seeks to increase reinforcers through the communication of aspects that you like about your partner. From physical, psychological, or everyday aspects, such as telling your partner that you enjoyed the meal they cooked, it’s important to tell each other positive things every day. Ideally, you should communicate three things for ten or fifteen minutes each day.

As you may have seen, there’s no specific key for relationship happiness. However, all relationships can work if both partners decide to make some behavioral and cognitive changes. These changes go hand in hand. In other words, behavioral techniques can cause cognitive changes and vice versa. Therefore, it’s important to know both and know how to apply them to achieve relationship wellness.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.