Everyone says that being in a long-term relationship takes work. But what do they actually mean by that? Why would something that is supposed to bring you happiness require work? The reality is that everything we love in life — including our romantic, long-term relationships — needs to be nourished.

Keeping a plant alive, keeping a fitness routine going, or staying strong at the office — all wonderful, aspirational goals, really — need to be nurtured through both action and words. Naturally, this also applies to your partner (and you!). Sometimes, the kind of nourishment a relationship needs changes over time.

No matter what kind of relationship you’re in — be it a marriage, casual dating, or exploring open relationships  — the bonds we form with one another get stronger and more meaningful when we experience new things together, display respect and trust for one another, and find gratitude in the everyday. From the mundane to the extra special, there are so many things we can do to sow the seeds of a healthy, sustainable relationship.

Here, we’ll look at some of the things we can do — both daily and in the long-term — to make the sparks fly throughout your long-term relationship.

Show Gratitude

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Simply say ‘thank you’ to your partner more often — and do it with intention.

According to gratitude expert Stephen Yoshimura, PhD, professor of communication studies at the University of Montana, gratitude can go a long way in any relationship: “A number of studies show that gratitude goes along with feeling good about how your life is going, and with lower levels of depression, anxiety, and envy than others sometimes have.”

In a relationship, we can simply say ‘thank you’ more often — especially for the little things. Show gratitude for their ideas, favors they do for you, or kind gestures they show.

Give What You Want To Receive

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Treat others — a.k.a. your partner — as you want to be treated.

Loving someone comes with all sorts of nuances. You bring your traumas, quirks, fears, and insecurities into the mix — along with your love, passion, kindness, and generosity. Sometimes, all of those layers makes it hard for you to ask for what you need or communicate clearly. Sometimes, according to relationship expert Richard Matzkin, “You must first be the way you want your partner to be.” In short, as he says, “Give the love you want to receive.”

Take A Big Risk Together

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Yep. It may sound crazy, but switching up your life in a big way can help strengthen your bond with your partner.

According to a piece highlighting couples’ insights in Business Insider, one of the best ways to bond and create a closer connection is to do something risky, like move to a new city, state, or — heck — a country. Says one woman to Business Insider, “It sounds dramatic, but it boils down to choosing to face risks together. Every time we are faced with a difficult choice, we pick what scares us most and grow through it.”

Have Date Nights

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No, seriously — schedule them!

Between work, kids, friendships, activities, and other extracurricular life stuff, you may think that date nights sound extravagant or unnecessary. After all, you’re already together, right? Wrong. Date nights are dedicated times for you and your partner to connect and simply have fun together — minus all of the stuff you have to do, bills you have to pay, and plans you have to make. Even if you can’t go out and spend money or do fancy outings, stay in and watch a movie. Just have FUN.

Talk About What You Want In The Bedroom – Outside Of The Bedroom

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Talking sexy can make you feel sexy.

Studies have found that engaging in a conversation about sex can actually make you feel more sexy and more satisfied in the sack. Sometimes, when partners avoid chatting about sex — what they like, what they want, and what they fantasize about — it can lead to stagnation in the bedroom. Trying new things and making space for your partner’s (and your own) thoughts about sex can be an aphrodisiac.

Travel Abroad

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Get out of town — so far out of town that you only have one another.

When you’re abroad, you likely can’t speak the language, you probably don’t fully understand the culture, and you’re lost — literally — without your Google Maps (if you even have access to it). This may sound challenging — and you’d be right. Together, though, you’ll be navigating this cultural experience as a team. This sort of experience helps to keeps your long-term relationship fresh and exciting.

Learn A New Language Together

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How do you say, “I love you” in….?

When you are in a long-term relationship, you both have your own lives to focus on in addition to your time together. But what about adding something entirely new to the mix? By learning a new language, it’s a private project for just the two of you. And because you always have to study, you consistently have a fun new thing to do during your regular, day-to-day activities.

Get Deep

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Go past the surface-level chit-chat.

We’re not talking about, “Do you like that couple we met at the gala?” or “What sort of color should we paint our bedroom?” We’re talking about consistently asking the deeper questions — about death, desire, dreams, childhood, trauma, fears, religious beliefs — the heavy, revealing stuff you only learn after being in a long-term relationship. The more open and curious we are  (of course, while being respectful) the more we connect on a deep level, explains psychologist Dr. Arthur Aron.

Spend Time Alone

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Yes, without your partner.

While we’re all about incredible quality time and fun date nights, the time spent with yourself is equally important. That’s because when we spend time alone reading or learning or out on adventures, we can bring back all of that knowledge, wisdom, and self-reflection to our partner. According to Suzanne Degges-White Ph.D., “Self-reflection also helps you reconnect with the person you are (or were) when you show up in relationships. Have you ever asked yourself the question, “Am I someone that I’d want to be with?”

Offer To Do Things They Like To Do

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Even if it’s not really your thing.

Whether they like to go golfing or swimming or shopping, you should go from time to time. Unless there’s a reason that you can’t take part in the activity, it’s nice to take part in what your partner is interested in. Be open-minded, graceful, and generous with your interest. Even if it bores you to death, your partner will feel appreciated and you will both feel closer.

Get Scared

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Seriously, jump out of an airplane together or something.

According to a study, people who experience fear, anxiety, or a heightened state — say, during a thrilling adventure like rock climbing, skydiving or swimming with sharks — tend to actually find one another attractive. It sounds weird, but do something risky together. Be safe, of course, but plan a trip or experience that pulls you out of your comfort zone. If you aren’t much of an adrenaline junkie, a spooky movie can also do the trick.

Get Touchy-Feely

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Go ahead, indulge in a little PDA.

According to Men’s Health, physical contact is a big deal. Now, you might think you already do that — you’re dating, after all! — but maybe you could add an additional kiss here and there? Or maybe you could play with one another’s hair more? Touching actually triggers a release of oxytocin, the happy and in-love chemical. Depending on what level of touch you both like, this may help keep things loving and fun in your long-term relationship.

Don’t Be Jealous

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Acting jealous is not a cute — or trusting — look.

The thing about a little bit (keyword: LITTLE) of jealousy is that it can make us feel special, wanted, desirable. But mostly, jealousy is toxic to a relationship, and it can make you or your partner feel watched, untrusted, and disrespected. If you’re jealous, work on nixing it. There is nothing sexier than confidence. Be communicative with your partner, do some introspective work, and treat yourself with compassion in the process.

Have More Sensory Experiences

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Prepare to try out some new things in bed.

According to a couples’ therapist Gary Brown, engaging in a specific, sensory-focused type of foreplay can lead to a deeper connection (and sensuality!). How does it work? “The giver’s only job is to figure out all the different ways they can make their partner feel good without resorting to the go-tos you usually use during sex.” Play with this sort of foreplay every now and again and bask in one another’s sensual prowess.

Host More Parties

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And watch how people interact with your partner.

Sometimes, when we are “used” to the person we’re with, we see them only through our own eyes. They become predictable. We love them, but we don’t see what others see — and sometimes that can help us keep our desire on our toes. So, have a party and watch how other people interact with your partner. Do they make people laugh? Are they super-smart? Fall in love with them through the eyes of others.

How do you keep your long-term relationship fresh?

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