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