Becoming comfortable with someone in a relationship can encourage both of you to feel less insecure than when you were first dating. Getting too comfortable, however, can lead to a lack of progress that is essential to growing together as a couple. This lack of progress can cause you to act more like friends, as you fall into the friend zone. Comfort is not the equivalent of complacency, and comfort should be a mutual goal for your relationship. Complacency, in contrast, is the catalyst for a relationship that devolves into a friendship.
Schedule regular "dates" such as dinner or a favorite activity, once a week or as your schedules permit. After you have been dating for a while, it becomes easier to forget how much you enjoy your partner's company. Encourage continued closeness by cooking dinner together, going for a long walk or watching a sunset. Engaging in activities that are often a part of the initial period of dating can be forgotten, but they can help you stay out of the friend zone.
Communicate your feelings regularly. Deepening levels of communication draw people closer in a relationship. Tell your partner the things you appreciate about him and discuss positive aspects of your relationship. Adding in some talk about a possible future can let him know that you see your relationship as more than a friendship. Encourage your partner to also discuss his feelings about the relationship, but don't force him to do so. Your regular expressions of your feelings may make you a role model for him to begin to communicate his own feelings.
Show signs of your affection often, such as holding hands, cuddling, kissing and hugging. These are the behaviors you typically share in abundance initially in a relationship, but they often wane over time. According to "Routine Maintenance Behaviors: A Comparison of Relationship Type, Partner Similarity and Sex Differences" published in the "Journal of Social and Personal Relationships," maintenance behaviors, which also include shared tasks such as eating a meal, watching a movie or even doing the dishes together, reinforce the bonds in a relationship. In addition, being honest and open about your affection also reinforces your relationship and represents a reminder that you feel more than just a friendship.
Suggest steps toward a mutual future. No relationship can move forward unless you envision a future. The plans you make for the future reinforce your commitment to continuing to grow past friendship into something deeper. Planning a future doesn't have to instantly include a house with a white picket fence and children. Instead, visualize and discuss smaller steps toward those larger-scale goals. This can include discussing where you what to live, the possibility of moving in together and spending shared holidays with each other's respective families.
- The University of Texas at Austin: Building Healthy Relationships From The Start
- Kansas State University: Healthy Relationships
- University of Oregon: Healthy Relationships
- Better Health Channel Victoria, Australia: Relationships and Communication
- Journal of Social and Personal Relationships: Routine Maintenance Behaviors: A Comparison of Relationship Type, Partner Similarity and Sex Differences
- Tufts University: TuftsNow: How Can I Make My Relationship Happier and Healthier
- Understanding Research in Personal Relationships: A Text With Readings: William Dragon
- Photodisc/Photodisc/Getty Images