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Exercise Makes Relationships Stronger, Too.

When couples exercise together they build shared experiences, deepen intimacy, and affirm commitment.
By Dr. Ken Fung

We all understand that exercising is an activity that is good for our physical and mental health. But not many people realise that it is also good for our romantic relationships. Using helpful terms from The Gottman Method, a renowned approach to couples counselling, let’s explore how exercise enriches and benefits relationships.

More for your Love Map

A Love Map is how much the you know about the inner life of your partner. It is the vast knowledge you posses about their lives: their hopes, their fears, their experiences and the minutiae that define them as an individual. You know that they love wiener dogs, hate tomatoes, and broke their ankle in sixth grade playing soccer.

This intimate knowledge helps build a solid foundation for your relationship by establishing a strong base of friendship and intimacy.

Choosing to exercise together will help you know more about your partner. For instance, what do they like to do best as exercise? Do they like indoor or outdoor activities? Do they prefer to exercise in the morning or evening? By asking these questions you may realise there is much more to know about your partner.

This will provide you with more details for your “map” of each other’s inner worlds. Furthermore, you can continuously build your “map” with them by exploring different exercises and activities together.

The more you know about your partner, even very tiny things, the stronger and healthier your connection will be.

Connecting over exercise

Paying attention to each other’s emotional bids is the secret of many successful, healthy romantic couples. A bid is any attempt from one partner to another to create connection; it can be for attention, affirmation, affection, or any other positive connection.

Bids comes in many different forms. They can be as simple as a smile or the lift of an eyebrow, or they can be more sophisticated like initiating a deeper conversation or asking for help. According to a study with newlyweds conducted by Dr. John Gottman, the same couples who remained together six years later were far better at making bids than those who had divorced.

Agreeing to exercise together can also mean agreeing to pay more attention to each other. Within that agreed timeframe for exercising, do not forget to connect, verbally and non-verbally, with your partner and attend to each other’s bids. Try complimenting them on their good form, point out a beautiful view from the hiking trail, cheer them on the court, and other positive efforts to connect.

Positive feelings about you

Exercise triggers our bodies to release endorphins, a chemical that generates feelings of euphoria and positivity. Furthermore, regular exercise not only improves our physical health, it can also help reduce stress, boost up self-esteem, improve sleep and reduce the effect of anxiety and depression. 

It follows that exercising with your partner can help generate a very positive environment for your relationship – both physiologically and psychologically. Your partner will remember the positive feelings that come with exercise and link it with you as their intimate partner, improving their perception about your connection.

Sharing goals

Establishing shared experiences is one of the most fulfilling aspects of a relationship. Shared experiences allow couples to feel happiness, disappointment, excitement, sadness, exhilaration, exhaustion, determination, pain and a sense of achievement together. The process imparts shared meaning to your journey, be it a negative or a positive one, and makes your relationship stronger in the face of crisis.

Exercising together is a very good way to enrich your relationship by giving it purpose, memory and meaning. Whether it is running a race together, playing on a co-ed team, meeting personal fitness goals, or losing weight, exercising as a couple can add a fulfilling and meaningful dimension to your lives.

“I like being with you.”

Trust and commitment require consistency and stability. Including exercise as one your regular routines can strengthen the connection of you two in a consistent way. Repeatedly participating sports together not only means that you enjoy exercising, it also signifies that you enjoy doing it with your partner, and implicitly means that you are committed to them. It communicates that they can continue to believe that your life as couple is meaningful and enjoyable.

Do you need extra help building connection in your relationship? Contact the BFDC. We can help.