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A Simple Hack to Help Keep Passion Alive

Trips don't even have to be especially long or frequent.

Key points

  • Couples that had more new vacation experiences reported more sex, passion, and relationship satisfaction.
  • One or two vacations per year with a partner are linked to lasting benefits for your romantic relationship.
  • Solo vacations did not have the same benefit.
Edward Eyer/Pexels
Source: Edward Eyer/Pexels

Coauthored by Moji Shahvali and John K. Coffey

Passion, kissing, and sex are core elements in a romantic relationship. However, as time goes on, it can be challenging to keep that initial spark. Without the right practices, intimacy and passion tend to decrease. As routines become common, sometimes relationships become more like two roommates living together, managing chores and finances, and reaching goals, together.

But no need to worry! In a new study, we found a hack to keep passion alive: shared experiences away from home as a couple. Emotional connection through shared adventures can pave the way for a lasting physical bond. In fact, just taking one or two vacations together each year can make a huge difference even after vacations have ended. Read on to see how.

Most couples in our studies reported about their last one or two leisure vacations (work trips did not count). While these vacations lasted about 3 to 10 days, some couples experienced significantly higher rates of sex, passion, and relationship satisfaction many months after the vacation was over. So, what type of vacations together are most beneficial?

Self-expanding vacations taken together

The key is to engage in new, interesting, or challenging activities while vacationing together. The more self-expanding experiences you have as a couple, the better. Building on ideas from the Self-Expansion Model (Aron et al., 2022), these experiences help you to connect and learn more about your partner and yourself, all while creating enduring memories.

Importantly, these new activities do not need to be costly or complex, nor do they have to be extreme and maybe overwhelming for you or your partner—unless that is what you both enjoy. For example, during a trip, this could be as simple as trying a new type of food or restaurant (skip the usual standbys) or having an interesting conversation—perhaps inspired by listening to a new podcast together or reading the same book as you try to figure it out together.

Additionally, the vacations were only beneficial when couples traveled together, not when only one went on vacation.

This conclusion is drawn from our two studies involving more than 400 Americans in relationships spanning from four months to more than 30 years. Importantly, more or longer vacations didn't significantly impact the relationship quality. Instead, what mattered most was the extent to which partners reported experiencing higher levels of self-expansion (from doing more new, challenging, or interesting activities) during their vacations together.

Asad Photo Maldives/Pexels
Vacationing together
Source: Asad Photo Maldives/Pexels

Adding novelty to the vacation

Even vacations to favorite places or to see family can provide opportunities for such expanding experiences by making small changes. Find simple ways to mix things up—for example, including new or challenging hikes, making new friendships with strangers, navigating language barriers while grocery shopping, and improvising to make a new dinner. These can work in daily life, but vacations can offer a lot more opportunities and make them more novel (just by being somewhere less typical) and at a bigger dose.

Embrace adversity

Even as you try something new, it's about the journey not about the outcome. In other words, if things don't go as planned or you experience some adversity, these are opportunities to learn more about ourselves and our partners. Eventually, these may be some of your best memories even if they are not fun in the moment. For example, surviving the night in a rain-soaked tent (chance adversity) or getting temporarily lost while exploring a castle can give couples something to laugh about long after the vacations are over.


We now have scientific data to indicate that couple vacations are not just good for vacation sex but also sex and passion after the vacation. Deliberately stepping out of your comfort zone to try something new or partake in challenging activities can benefit relationships and spark up your sex life. Even when things don’t go as planned, and even when they bring up some negative emotions, couples can learn about each other and grow. The personal growth and the sense of shared accomplishments that come from these challenging shared experiences foster a deeper bond and intimacy between partners.

This discovery is particularly important, as in our studies, similar to some others, partners reported lower sex and physical closeness as their relationships aged. Surprisingly, partners also expressed less interest in engaging in self-expanding activities as their relationship matured, despite the benefits. So, are you not happy with your sex life? Take more vacations with your partner with a lot of new and challenging activities!

Dr. Moji Shahvali is a social scientist at Breda University of Applied Sciences in the Netherlands who researches the role of leisure in forming, maintaining, and enhancing relationships.

Facebook image: simona pilolla 2/Shutterstock


Aron, A., Lewandowski, G., Branand, B., Mashek, D., & Aron, E. (2022). Self-expansion motivation and inclusion of others in self: An updated review. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 39(12), 3821–3852.

Coffey, J. K., Shahvali, M., Kerstetter, D., & Aron, A. (2024). Couples vacations and romantic passion and intimacy. Annals of Tourism Research Empirical Insights, 5(1), 100121.

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