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Exciting date nights up the thrills



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Updated: December 18, 2012 1:39PM

Almost half of all Americans make resolutions at the beginning of every new year. Of these resolutions, the most common are to lose weight, get organized and save money.

These are all lofty goals, but making a “relationship resolution” is another wonderful idea. Such a resolution can help you focus on making small, sustainable changes to your relationship and sex life, and in doing so, allow you and your partner to find more intimacy, joy and passion in your daily lives.

One of the best relationship resolutions you can make is to commit to a weekly date night. Date nights are not only enjoyable, but they also are a vital part of a strong and passionate relationship.

However, not all date nights are created equal.

Date nights are more beneficial for couples when they include heart-pumping activities, according to a study led by Arthur Aron. The researchers sent married couples on dates, with one group engaging in “pleasurable” but tame activities (such as cooking or seeing a movie), while the other group engaged in “exciting” activities (such as seeing a rock concert or hitting the ski slopes).

At the end of the study, Aron and his colleagues found that the couples who went on “exciting” date nights were happier and more connected than couples who went on “pleasurable” dates. Hence, even though quality time is always important, it seems that the type of quality time you share is equally important.

What can account for the increased marital satisfaction among couples who went on exciting date?

Much of it has to do with the way our brain works. When we first meet our partner and fall in love, the relationship is new and exciting. We have butterflies in our stomach before dates, and we can’t seem to keep our hands off each other. But, over time, our excitement dwindles.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with this decrease in passion, in fact, it’s completely normal. We begin to switch from the passionate stage of love and romance to the companionable stage of love. There might be less fiery “take-me-now” passion, but in its place grows a deeper bond and stronger ties of intimacy and lasting love.

However, we still crave the passion and excitement that we had when we were first dating, and that explains why the daters in Aron’s study benefitted from engaging in exhilarating activities together. When we engage in intense and thrilling activities like riding a roller coaster, our brain releases dopamine and adrenaline that mimics those feelings of butterflies and excitement that we had when we first began dating our partner.

Planning an exciting date night will not only bring more satisfaction and bliss to your bond, but it also will help to improve your sex life. After all, if you engage in a routine date night activity like dinner and a movie, you might find that your date night sex ends up being routine as well.

Instead, make 2013 a year of anything-but-routine sex. Plan date nights that feature activities like indoor rock climbing, cross-country skiing, or even taking a trapeze class! If you commit to being creative and uninhibited outside the bedroom, your passion will follow you in inside the bedroom as well.

Dr. Berman is the host of “In the Bedroom with Dr. Laura Berman,” which airs on at 9 p.m. Tuesdays on OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network.

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