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Serenity Hacker

7 Ways to Strengthen Relationships and Create Lasting Memories

skyheart

The past may be gone forever..and whatever the future holds, our todays make the memories of tomorrow.

There’s almost nothing more rewarding in life than close relationships, be it with a spouse or loved one, friends, children, or our families. One of the things that all of the most cherished and satisfying relationships have in common is lasting memories.

Memories, especially joyful ones, fortify relationships and increase their endurance, especially through difficult times. We really don’t “plan” on creating happy memories, they just seem to happen, yet we’d all like it if we knew we could have more of them. But how do we go about intentionally making them happen? What are the things that we remember most?

Sure, a vacation might do the trick, or another big life event, but these don’t always occur very often. And even though we really can’t guarantee that we’ll be able to create more joyful memories, there are manageable things we can do in the present that deepen bonds, increase mutual joy and aliveness, and raise the odds that we’ll have more memorable times to look back on in the future. Most of these involve, at least in some way, breaking from our routines.

Even good relationships tend to stagnate when routine sets in…  time slips by, without any real memories being made. This is when we look back and wonder where the time went… there are no real markers to set things apart.

Stressed or difficult relationships are also undermined by routine: things have become so uncomfortable or tough that any routine that keeps the status quo, or the stress at bay, is often adopted. No good memories are created in this place, and with time, this increases the chasms that separate us from those we care about.

Breaking out of the routines that keep us from deepening our connections and experiencing the stuff we’ll enjoy looking back on doesn’t have to be complicated, expensive, or extravagant. Instead, try incorporating some of the following simple elements into any of your relationships, and make them, in some way, part of your routines together:

  • Experience New Things Together
    This is ultimate “break up your routine” idea, but it goes quite far in creating the kinds memories that stay with us. When we experience something new, our senses are heightened, our adrenaline is active and our awareness is keen. Scientifically, all those biological factors actually work to sear memories deep into our subconscious, and make them easier to recall. Go places you’ve never been before, try things you’ve never done. You don’t have to love them all, the point is to get out of your relationship’s comfort zone and activate everyone’s spirit (and biology) of adventure.
  • Create Together
    This one often goes neglected, but really, how often do we create together with the people we love? We don’t have to get all fancy about it, creating can be as simple as creating a space in your home, making a snowman, building a tent with your kids, or even concocting a new recipe together. The bonds that are built around creative activities are special because creating involves being open, imaginative, and cooperative, and in the end, there is a result in which everyone contributed a part. When you create together, do it in a spirit of fun, and of play…  let go of the results. Better yet, let someone else take the lead… help someone you care about create something that’s meaningful to them.
  • Be Active Together
    Much of what we do for pleasure with those we love is rather passive. We may watch television, go to the movies, or out to eat. Though these sorts of pursuits might be relaxing and pleasurable, it’s because they’re passive that they don’t really strengthen our connections or create occasions that are memorable. Make it a point to experience things that require active involvement, even if just occasionally. Games, hikes, outdoor activities, or sports are all easy enough to do on a budget. You don’t have to do them all the time if they’re not your thing, but choosing active entertainment expands our experience of one another in a way that passive entertainment just can’t.
  • Include Others When You Spend Time Together
    This doesn’t have to be all the time, but including others not only brings a freshness to regular activities but also widens our perceptions of each other. Plus, the more personalities in a place, the more unexpected results, which often become the stuff of some our funniest memories. If you’re a family, do things that include other families, even if that just means things you normally do at home. If you’re a couple, try to connect with other couples, and for friends, go places where you’ll encounter new people together. Even making it a point to do something of this sort once a month, or every other, can enliven any relationship and solidify the ties that bind us.
  • Learn Together
    This is another category that gets neglected, because often we think learning is a solitary activity, or something we do formally, as in class, often with people we don’t know. But learning together with people we like or love is actually quite fun, broadens our horizons, and serves to enrich our relationships. The point here is to learn things that are new to everyone, so no one is really “the teacher”. Pick something that interests everyone involved. You can go about it formally or informally, but commit to it together.
  • Share in Joy and Celebratory Events
    Make time to acknowledge joyful moments and celebrate successes and triumphs, no matter how small, be it your own or someone else’s. Joy can be contagious, and though it might take a little effort, taking part in celebratory occasions together often adds more meaning to relationships. And you don’t have to wait for holidays, family events, or friends’ special occasions. Though such occasions are often fun, not everything needs to be a party, or even personal for that matter. Attending celebrations around your interests is often a good time, cheap, and can be found in your city and town. Universities, museums, libraries, even weather conservatories and parks often host or organize such events around anniversaries or other historical markers.
  • Make Room for Spontaneity
    Next time you’re inclined to pass on an invitation to do something because it’s not your thing, it’s too different, or because you feel too busy, just say “yes” when you feel the urge to say “no” or “maybe later”. Perhaps your sweetie suggested something new, your friend something strange, or your child something imaginative… these are the very things we shouldn’t pass up (besides, what are you passing them up to do instead?) The most wonderful, unexpected surprises often take place when we let go and let spontaneity reign supreme for awhile. When we allow spontaneity in our lives, we’re embracing living, we’re fully present, and we learn more about each other, and quite often about ourselves, in the process.

True love is unconditional and everlasting,
it is established over time and validated by memories ~Anonymous

What greater thing is there for human souls than to feel that they are joined for life,
to be with each other in silent and unspeakable memory.
~George Eliot

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28 comments… add one

  • Thanks, Miche, for a great post.

    I don’t think that there is much that I can say to improve on it. So instead I will just second it!

    As I read, I kept thinking about how even frightening experiences can bond people in ways that safe experiences do not. For example, overcoming a fear together, such as with the Outward Bound programs, creates a bond of kinship and trust that seems to trump conscious thought.

    This is probably the result of ancients instincts. But, if that’s what it takes to seal and strengthen the relationships that really matter to us, perhaps all of us could do with a little fright!

    Anyway, thank you and all the best,

    Hugh

    • Hi Hugh, thanks for visiting, and welcome! You are definitely right about the frightening experiencing bonding people… actually, it’s the same sort of instinctive response (thought not full of terror) that’s activated when we experience something new or go to an entirely new place. Encountering the unfamiliar is what kicks it in. And the cortisol rise, biologically, helps sear it into memory. Thanks for commenting, and I’m glad you enjoyed the post! Cheers, Miche :)

  • Hey Mich,
    Thank you for posting this. It comes as great advice at a perfect time for me. I only get to see one of my best friends a few times a year and have already adopted some of your tips over the past couple years. We always try to make the most of our time together.

    The next time we see each other I want to create, learn, and be with other people together and also just leave some unplanned time. We always seem to have the most fun just going out and doing something completely random that neither of us has done before.

    I also love the Anonymous quote. That pretty much says it all.

    Best Always,
    Jeremiah

    • Hi Jeremiah, thanks so much for stopping by! I’m glad you enjoyed it! Sounds like you have a good plan… funny how the simplest things that bring a lot of pleasure are often overlooked. It’s great that you leave time for “random” stuff… some of us get so set in our routines or feel so busy we actually have to purposefully make time just to be spontaneous, as counter-intuitive as that sounds. Cheers, Miche :)

  • Hi Miche,
    What a beautiful blog you have here! WOW! Love the feel….
    And this post…is just superb! So full of lovely ways to bring the spark back in any relationship. All your suggestions are just perfect to the T…
    I especially love the last one…”Make Room for Spontaneity”…somehow between my hubby and me thats what works best ;) Makes for great memories too :)
    This is such a wonderful topic to write about….people today are truly struggling with their relationships…everytime i get a couple come in for counseling..my heart just breaks to see how far apart they have grown…
    Thank you for writing about this…
    Much Love,
    Z~
    .-= Zeenat{Positive Provocations}´s last blog ..True Love or Infatuation-What’s the Difference? =-.

    • Hi Zeenat, great to see you here! Thanks so much for the kind words, and for visiting! You’re article was spot on with the differences between love and infatuation, too! I think spontaneity is key, especially when we’re settled into our relationships and lifestyles, not just for romantic partners but for friendships and with children, too. And ditto, most of the fun stuff happens when we allow for that! Cheers, Miche :)

  • Great post Miche as always. I’d add another way to do this to go out and actively work on new relationships in your life. Actively engaging with new people makes you appreciate or get rid of existing ones that have stagnated. I love your writing by the way.//Marc
    .-= Marc | Black Belt Guide´s last blog ..Mind Pushups – Build Concentration for Sustained Focus =-.

    • Hi Marc, thanks for the kind words, and the insightful comment! You’re right, and though I wrote the post with existing relationships in mind, meeting new people and having new relationships is often provides a great lens to re-evaluate the ones in our lives that no longer work for us. ;) Miche

  • Joy

    Beautiful post. Ditto on everything!!!
    I think it’s also important to somehow capture and preserve your memories together. And to take the time to reminisce together as well. Sometimes it’s important in the plateau moments to be able to look back and recall the “spark”, the”laughter” and let your own memories inspire you to blossom.
    Some of my favorite moments in life were spontaneous, some of my best “plans” didn’t go as smoothly; it’s about taking the time to be ready, and to let the moments unfold naturally.

    • Hi Joy, thanks so much, and thanks for stopping in! What you’ve said is so true, the time to reminisce and relive the memories together definitely strengthens our ties. Bill Cosby said this: “The heart of marriage is memories; and if the two of you happen to have the same ones and can savor your reruns, then your marriage is a gift from the gods.” I thought that was quite cute! My experience has been the same with plans and spontaneity, some of the best times were the last-minute, spur-of-the moment occasions no one planned on! Cheers, Miche :)

  • Hi Miche! What a superb list for keeping relationships alive! Hubs and I have had 30 yrs. together – we’ve used everything on your list but surprises are best. It’s SO easy to get into routines after 3 decades together – we love to change things up a lot – it works!
    Thanks for visiting my blog – and from this taste of yours, I’ll be back! :)
    Hugs
    SuZen

    • Hi Suzen, thanks for stopping by, and thank you for the kind words! I think changing things up is really the key, and not only is good for relationships, but it’s good exercise for our brains, too! It “erases the bored”, so to speak! ;) Cheers, Miche

  • I esp like sharing in joy and celebrations. There’s always something to be celebrated, in some small way, even by going out for a coffee! It’s nice to keep a positive attitude, and life gives us plenty opportunities for doing so.

    Have a wonderful Valentine’s Day!

    • Hi Joanne, thanks for popping in! I totally agree… for one latte, or four!! ;) Cheers, Miche

  • I really like this post here. I love your enthusiasm behind those ideas – it’s so positive! :) Thanks for sharing!
    -Thanh

    • Hi Thanh, thanks for stopping by, and likewise with your post! :)

  • Hi Miche – My husband and I love learning together. We often attend workshops, lectures, read the same book. It’s really enriched our relationship, and always leads to good conversations. I like this list too because I’m in the process of adding relationship coaching to my business, and there are great ideas here for any couple. Thanks!
    .-= Patty – Why Not Start Now?´s last blog ..Meaning Mondays: The Clouds Edition =-.

    • Hi Patty, great to see you, and I’m glad you liked the list! I think it’s really a blessing when couples share similar interests and learn together. It definitely adds a really rich element to the relationship and life in general.

  • Nothing strengthens relationship more than doing things, especially memorable ones, together. :-)

  • Terrific post, Miche, as always! I love all your recommendations here as each one is so active and participatory in nature, as in, it’s not just about showing up and sitting around (although that’s nice, too). I’m a little biased to assume this post applies to couples (as my husband came to mind first when I thought of whom with I’d like to be doing the things you list) but it could also apply to mother-daughter, father-son, and any other pairings that aren’t necessarily romantic.

    Anyway, reading this post reminds me of how little room for spontaneity there is in my outings when I now have to pack half my kitchen (due to a little one) before getting out the door :-). But this shift, though very different from a life w/o a little one, also has its ways of strengthening the bonds, if at least to elicit laughter when my boy says or does things that show his very own brand of budding but irresistible humor.

    • Hi Belinda, thanks for stopping by, and for the kind words! I actually had family relationships very much in mind when I wrote this… and friendships, too. Not that I wasn’t thinking couples, too, but I was trying to think broadly of what builds good memories and makes us closer over time. Ahhh, the laughter of little ones: one of life’s most beautiful and simple joys! Cheers, Miche :)

  • Miche,

    Thank you for this fabulous post. Is there anything more important than maintaining and fully developing the meaningful relationships in our lives? The stagnation you mention is usally never intended, it just sort of creeps in. In any relationship. Life is meant to be celebrated and your suggestions are great ways to refocus on what is really important in life.

    Thanks for sharing!

    Peter
    .-= Peter Mis´s last blog ..2,134 Ways To Be Happy: Confessions From The Functionally Unhappy =-.

  • Hi Miche,

    Yesterday evening I called one of my classmates out in town so we sit down and discuss things.
    We’ve been friends for the last 6 years, and I had to realize that the last few months weren’t going really smooth for the two of us. We got involved in too many things and forgot about each other. Our pride and some gossip somehow beat our relationship and it was quite due so we can sit down and talk now.

    Your list is quite alright, I’d add two things though:
    Discuss – and not only when things go the wrong way, but regularly. Sit down, go out together and talk. That’s what makes friends. (among so many other things)
    Respect – that’s not an action. that’s a state of mind, an atmosphere really. You should respect your friend whatever happens. Just because he/she is there/was there for you.

    Take care,
    Zoli

  • Relationships are delightful, frustrating, joyful, painful–we experience the full spectrum of emotions and ego in relationships–they are wonderful! I love the point about spontaneity.

    Great post, Miche!
    .-= Kaushik´s last blog ..The Basics — 13 key points about the flow of awakening =-.

  • Good stuff here. For me, after nearly 25 years of marriage its about building and maintaining an emotional bank account with my wife – we are free to make deposits and then only make withdrawals when the need is there.

  • Hi Miche,
    Really enjoyed discovering your site today, and love this list. Its so true that we can get caught up in mundane routines with those we love most – either just taking care of day to day logistics or doing passive things like watching movies together.
    This is a fabulous list, and it strikes me that these are great things to do shake up your life and open up new possibilities either on your own or with a loved one.
    All the best, Tara

  • Elsa Jiggins

    I noticed the cloud thing picture, is it edited or really authentic heart-shaped cloud? Just wondering. :)
    .-= Elsa Jiggins´s last blog ..Ways to win the lottery =-.

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