There’s a reason why “The Bachelor” contestants are whisked away on extravagant dates, often including frightening physical challenges, with the hope of bonding through shared experience. From ziplining to bungee jumping and horseback riding, reality TV show couples are encouraged to face their fears in the name of romance – a recurring theme designed to inspire connection through vulnerability. Beneath the guise of Hollywood production is a universal, grounded truth: Learning something new brings people together and keeps relationships fresh, happy, and fulfilled.
Do you have to risk your life jumping off a building? No. Simply choose a subject or activity that both partners are interested in learning, and challenge yourselves, together. Whether you’re in a new relationship, or are looking for ways to reignite the spark, working as a team to tackle a new challenge is beneficial for your brain and your bond.
Embrace Vulnerability for Enhanced Romantic Connection
The relationship between new learning experiences and human connection is rooted in vulnerability. In essence, if we never let our guard down and embrace the unknown, we will never grow as individuals, or as couples. When you choose to learn something new together, neither person is an expert in that field. It may feel scary to imagine putting yourself out there, with the potential to fail and the risk of feeling embarrassed, especially in front of your partner. That tension is the struggle between fear and vulnerability. Brené Brown is a research professor at the University of Houston and the supreme resource on this topic. “Vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy, and creativity,” Professor Brown explains. In order to connect on a deeper level through meaningful human experiences, we must embrace vulnerability.
Taking action to learn something new, together, is a great way to start.
The Risk of Routines for Relationships
If vulnerability is essential for growth and human connection, then comfort and routine can be defined as the pathway to siloed complacency. If an individual is not challenged at work, and not pursuing new hobbies or interests outside of work, life can lack the diversity and passion that are often associated with real fulfillment. Similarly, if two individuals are set in a static routine, year after year, the spark and bond may begin to fade. While it can be beneficial for partners to have their own hobbies and friend groups, there is risk when all that newness is outside the relationship. A couple can grow apart, rather than grow together. One reason people are scared to try something new is shame. Professor Brown says: “The culture of shame is driven by fear, blame, and disconnection.” If you feel space between you and your partner, the answer isn’t to recoil back into your shell; the answer is to honor vulnerability, mix up the routine, challenge your identities within the relationship, and try something new, together.
“A couple can grow apart, rather than grow together.”
The Joy and Excitement of Learning Something New, Together
Let’s not forget about fun! There is the purest joy to be found in challenging yourself and learning something new. The smiles and benefits double when enjoyed with your partner. There is science to back our theory that new shared experiences bring couples closer together. One study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology examined the lifestyle habits of couples in relationships spanning a few months to 15 years. After analyzing laboratory experiments and surveys, the authors concluded that “exciting” activities increased relationship satisfaction across the board. Additionally, the lack of shared activities influence the “decline of relationship quality after the honeymoon period.” And if you don’t have the time or financial resources to book weekend-long retreats, don’t worry. Couples in the study reported relationship connection improvement after an activity that lasted seven minutes. Just imagine what one hour per week can do!
- Ready to learn? Browse lessons to learn with your partner.
The Best New Activities for Couple Connection
The personal interests of each partner should always be considered when choosing a new activity to learn together. Where there is passion, there will be motivation. Are you indoor intellectuals, outdoor thrillseekers, or class clowns seeking a stage? Let your interests guide the process. Some examples of fun activities for couples include learning a foreign language, trying an improv comedy class, learning a musical instrument, signing up for cooking classes, or training for an outdoor adventure race.
- Learn a New Foreign Language: Don’t worry, we’re not suggesting you enroll in a lengthy and expensive college course. There are many ways to engage with foreign language learning in today’s high-tech world. Maybe you always wanted to learn French, and your partner has been itching to go on a European vacation. Challenge each other to learn French together at home, with the help of a web-based online teaching platform that you can design to fit your schedule. As you learn the language, reward your accomplishments with savings toward that dream vacation to Paris.
- Sign Up for an Improv Comedy Class: Do you have secret inside jokes and funny routines you perform around the house? Do you love watching stand-up comedy shows together on Netflix? Take the plunge to share your unique brand of humor with a new audience, and challenge your partner to conquer his or her fear of public speaking. You’ll gain self-confidence and a new community.
- Learn to Play a New Musical Instrument: Few things are as rewarding as learning to play your all-time favorite song on piano or guitar. And as a bonus, your partner is sure to love a romantic serenade. Choose to take music lessons learning the same instrument to stay in sync with a healthy sense of competition. Or, opt for complementary instruments and work toward creating the ultimate family band. Whether you’re more comfortable with online lessons or in-person instruction, there are a variety of methods for learning musical skills with your partner.
- Create Your Own Top Chef Competition: The art of cooking, eating, and gathering has brought people together for ages. Transform dinner into date night by signing up for cooking classes with your partner. You’ll learn new recipes from professionals in a fun and flirty environment. Keep the spirit alive at home by challenging each other to a weekly “Top Chef”-like competition. Take turns trying new recipes and daring to go way beyond your culinary comfort zones. You’ll learn, bond, and eat like kings.
- Train for a Fun Run or Adventure Race: If physical movement is more your speed, try mixing up your regular gym routine. Fitness, just like romance, needs variation for evolution. In every major city across America, themed fun runs and obstacle course adventure races are gaining popularity and momentum. If you and your partner typically work out separately, sign up for an outdoor challenge together. When you cross that finish line as a team, you’ll feel more united than ever.
Browse ideas for music lessons, language lessons, and more in your town.