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Climbing into bed may signal to you that it's time to have sex. But our experts say there are a few other things you should work into your bedtime routine that will bond you even more.
1. End your day with gratitude.
If you worry you don't say thank you enough in your relationship, this ritual is for you. "In relationships, showing appreciation fosters further closeness, connection and love," explains Rachel Dack, licensed clinical professional counselor and relationship expert. So before you nod off in bed, tell your partner up to three things he or she did for which you're grateful. "This ritual sets up a daily time for couples to express thankfulness, and sets the tone for positive mood, relaxation and the future expression of gratitude," she says.
Marissa Nelson, licensed marriage and family therapist and certified sex therapist, says your expressions of gratitude can be as simple as, "'Thank you for putting gas in my car,' or, 'I appreciate you picking up dinner tonight.'" Saying even these simple phases, she says, "puts you in that habit of giving and receiving love and validation. Feeling appreciated and not taken for granted drastically improves relationship satisfaction, and this small nightly ritual can make all the difference in your connection."
2. Turn off technology.
Before you slip into bed, make a rule that phones and other electronic devices go off. In fact, Nelson recommends going tech free up to two hours before you get your shuteye. "I see so many couples that have challenges turning off the day and being 100 percent present with their partner," she says. "Use those two hours you would normally be scrolling through your social media feeds, watching videos or reading articles, and instead really focus on your partner."
Without a glowing small screen stealing your attention, you'll have uninterrupted time to connect to each other "and engage in the present moment before saying goodnight," says Dack. "This time also serves as an opportunity for each partner to share about his or her day and for the other partner to listen attentively and actively."
3. Cuddle, without letting it lead to sex.
Says Dack, "Non-sexual touch is an important way to express love and affection, and is important for relationship health." Why? It breeds intimacy, Dack explains. Plus, says Nelson, "making a ritual around being affectionate and cuddling before bed each night can make such an impact on your sleep and relationship. Research shows that it takes five to 10 seconds of a hug or loving embrace to release the bonding chemical called oxytocin, the warm and fuzzy feeling that makes you feel close to someone and will also give you a cozy sleep."
Unlike some other bedtime rituals you may make tradition, this one doesn't have to be done tech-free. "This ritual can be done while talking or watching TV," Dack says. "The key is to fully enjoy and experience touch and cuddling without the pressure of sex. Partners can try stroking hair, holding hands, giving back rubs, and more."