Eight years of on and off dating. Public scrutiny at every step that would be enough to drive anyone batty. The daunting prospect of negotiating both a public and personal life together. And yet Kate Middleton hung in there with her real life prince. Finally, while the couple is on vacay in Kenya, Prince William pops the question. One wonders, what were the inner workings of the relationship that made it all work out? Just how did the couple go from casual to committed?
Here are four relationship tips that Kate may have used to snag one of the most sought-after bachelors in the world. They are based on my experience with helping thousands of couples come together to find lasting love. If you want to deepen your relationship and move forward to living together or getting engaged, give these strategies a try.
First consider this, all of my strategies are based on one cardinal rule: Avoid Seriousness and Drama. When things drag on in an uncommitted state it is easy to get frustrated, depressed and hopeless about coming together in a shared future. And then you might become serious, distant, whining, or bitching out in the relationship. Which only serves to push him farther away. Avoid this process like the plague. Instead get back to what brought you together in the first place: FUN.
Four kinds of fun are important in kindling and reigniting commitment: quiet enjoyment, humor, excitement and novel activities.
First, create situations and interactions where you are happy, content, enjoying yourself, and having fun, and he is, too. We’ve all seen Kate and William share activities like museum exhibits, plays, movies, parks, picnics, day trips or long walks. Think about setting up activities of quiet enjoyment that you can share. They could include cooking a new dish, preparing a feast for friends or family, playing card games, hanging out at a community pool, or lounging in front of the TV and watching an entire season of that sci-fi or comedy series you both love. These activities lead to holding hands, touching, looking at and appreciating each other, which in turn produce the hormone oxytocin—the bonding and attachment hormone.
Quieter activities for your downtime together are perfect for couples who lead stressed lives. If you want to really connect with a highly stressed guy, try not to run him around too much, and make gentle physical contact with him that tends to slow his motor down—rub his back, lie with your feet touching, or whatever works for him. When I interview these guys about their mates and why they chose them, they nearly always point to how they felt at peace around them. I’m not saying you should never go to a club and stay out all night or go bungee jumping. There’s a place for that as well. But for bonding, there’s nothing like being alone and hanging out doing something you both really enjoy.
The second type of fun is easy to incorporate into your routine. You could watch funny movies or more sophisticated cartoons together; go to comedy clubs; or share funny moments of teasing or clowning. Shared laughter is a great stress reliever and bonding agent. Humor can be used to validate the other person or for you to lightly make fun of your drama; these are both different ways of connecting. Laughter can also break through and soothe upset or bitter feelings. For all of these reasons, shared humor has been shown by research to be a key component of happy marriages.
I know you probably can’t go to Kenya like Kate and William. But you can have high times going crazy together over a high-voltage vid game. This type of fun gets your adrenaline pumping and simulates the speedy brain chemistry of falling in love. You could hit the amusement park, go bungee jumping, take a helicopter ride, hike a mountainous trail, scream yourselves silly at a basketball game or have a footrace at the beach. Studies show that people who are emotionally aroused by any feeling, including joy or fear, fall in love more easily. As two love researchers once wrote, “Adrenaline makes the heart grow fonder.”
The royal duo have been on some memorable trips and shared novel activities together. Novelty has been shown to be a key factor in developing personal and relationship satisfaction. It helps to produce dopamine, the neurotransmitter of pleasure. Change things up: where you make out or make love and where you go on vacation. Do something out of the ordinary, like taking a cross-country road trip or going camping at the beach instead of staying at a hotel.
If you want to go from casual to committed, share quiet enjoyment, as well as humorous, exciting, and novel activities. No matter who plans it, make sure the fun happens. As your partner feels good around you, he will want to spend more and more time with you. And your happiest-ever-after with your prince may be just around the corner.
Diana Kirschner, Ph.D. is a frequent guest psychologist on The Today Show & author of the soon to be published new book, “Sealing the Deal: The Love Mentor’s Guide to Lasting Love” (February, 2011) as well as the best-selling author of “Love in 90 Days.” Dr. Diana’s revolutionary work is the basis of her PBS Special on love. Connect with Dr. Diana through her FREE Relationship and Dating Advice Newsletter.