Is the winter weather starting to wear on your relationship? The cold, the snow... everything can seem just a little harder, including your relationship. If you've been stuck in the house together and you need a boost, social psychological research says you don't need to look very far. The winter day ahead of you could be an opportunity to boost your own relationship happiness

1. Be the one to shovel. The snow shoveling has to be done, so why not do it before your partner gets the chance? Prosocial acts within romantic relationships are generous gestures designed to improve the wellbeing or happiness of a partner. When done in the spirit of a gift (not a burden), these types of relationship maintenance behaviors improve relationship satisfaction and stability (Canary, Stafford, & Semic, 2002). If your partner has the shoveling job, you have a different job: expressing your gratitude. Gratitude galvanizes an array of positive relationship emotions and cognitions (Algoe, Gable, & Maisel, 2010).

2. Say yes to hot chocolate. Recent research shows that human psychology is connected to the ways in which the physical body is sensitive to temperatures and the environment. Holding a warm cup of coffee, as opposed to a cold beverage, has been shown to induce feelings of closeness (Ijzerman & Semin, 2009). Especially on a cold day, a warm drink can provide psychological relief and feelings of warmth that extend beyond the physical heat induced by the hot beverage itself. This is consistent with evidence suggesting that holding a warm drink predicts more positive judgments about others' personalities (Williams & Bargh, 2009). Hot chocolate may be the perfect relationship-warming solution to a cold day.

3. Let your partner sleep in. Evidence shows that sleep quality predicts aspects of marital quality, such as harmony and attachment (Troxel, Robles, Hall, & Buysse, 2007). While the pathway connecting marital quality and sleep quality is likely bidirectional, releaving sleep deprivation can influence mood. Sleep deprivation has a powerful effect on mood, stronger than on cognitive performance (Pilcher & Huffcutt, 1996). A gift of sleep, given or received, can benefit your partnership.

4. Take a snowy adventure. Snow can add a level of excitement and create an air of spontaneity; why not let this air of spontaneity into your relationship for the day? Couples who experience new and interesting activities together keep the spark alive, growing closer with increased feelings of relationship satisfaction (Aron, Norman, Aon, McKenna, & Heyman, 2000). Using the time to cook something new together, to take a walk in the winter wonderland, to build snowmen with the kids… Fun activities that take you out of the norm and let you play together is a wonderful way to feed the fire of your relationship.

5. Cuddle up. It's snowy and cold outside, and from a social-psychological perspective, given the power of touch, it's the perfect opportunity to cozy-up with a partner in front of a fire or with a good movie on TV. Engaging in non-sexual touch is a powerful bonding tool in romantic relationships. Cuddling is typically viewed as a positive, nurturing behavior, the enjoyment and frequency of which relates to other positive aspects of relationship quality including sexual behavior (van Anders, Edelstein, Wade, & Samples-Steele, 2013). So as the snow is falling and schedules are changing, when you give some time to cuddling, you are actually giving the kind of important attention to your partner that will enhance the quality of your relationship.

References

Algoe, S. B., Gable, S. L., & Maisel, N. C. (2010). It's the little things: Everyday gratitude as a booster shot for romantic relationships. Personal Relationships, 17, 217-233.

Aron, A., Norman, C. C., Aron, E. N., McKenna, C., & Heyman, R. E. (2000). Couples' shared participation in novel and arousing activities and experienced relationship quality. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 78, 273-284.

Canary, D. J., Stafford, L. & Semic, B. A. (2002). A panel study of the associations between maintenance strategies and relational characteristics. Journal of Marriage and Family, 64, 395–406.

IJzerman, H., & Semin, G. R. (2009). The thermometer of social relations mapping social proximity on temperature. Psychological Science, 20, 1214-1220.

Pilcher, J. J., & Huffcutt, A. J. (1996). Effects of sleep deprivation on performance: a meta-analysis. Sleep: Journal of Sleep Research & Sleep Medicine, 318-326.

Troxel, W. M., Robles, T. F., Hall, M., & Buysse, D. J. (2007). Marital quality and the marital bed: examining the covariation between relationship quality and sleep. Sleep Medicine Reviews, 11, 389-404.

van Anders, S. M., Edelstein, R. S., Wade, R. M., & Samples-Steele, C. R. (2013). Descriptive experiences and sexual vs. nurturant aspects of cuddling between adult romantic partners. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 42, 553-560.

Williams, L. E., & Bargh, J. A. (2008). Experiencing physical warmth promotes interpersonal warmth. Science, 322, 606-607.

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