By Stanley Joseph

Is that guy you snuggled with all winter starting to look like a bed bug? Doe-eyed lovers beware: Valentine’s Day is over. As the weather gets warmer, you might feel your relationship beginning to cool off. And while some of us will be giving/getting the boot, others will look to turn their seasonal flings into long-term relationships. Of course, like everything in life, there is a wrong way to go about doing this. Instead of cementing this exciting occasion in relationship mistake history, put down that whip and cap that KY! Here are four fun and effective ways to get closer to the one you love (that don’t require a safety word).

Cook a meal. So you just learned how to boil water, and you’ve somehow managed to burn spaghetti once or twice. That’s just fine. Find a recipe within your skill set that you both agree upon and get cooking. It might not turn out the way you like. It might not even be edible. But as you work side by side, you will begin to establish a team mentality. Just remember to go Dutch on groceries. It’s easy to play your part in outdated courting rituals but you have to know where to draw the line. Yes, men should open doors and it’s always nice to see a woman in a skirt, but no one should get stuck doing all the dishes alone.

See a really terrible movie. You may have already done this one, but the idea is that you see something that is laughably bad (not just some B-/C+ movie because your less-than-average taste has let you down yet again). This will serve as a way to break down that boundary between boyfriend/girlfriend and friend and you’ll begin to cultivate a taste for likes and dislikes together. It will run you $20 plus whatever overpriced snacks you buy, but the Mystery Science Theater 3000 effect will be worth it.

Learn a Second Language. No hablo espanol? No problemo! There’s nothing more frustrating than learning a second language. You will console your partner, poke fun at each other and fumble through it. By learning a language, you create a new way to relate to one another as you begin to communicate and express yourselves differently. Not only will you bond, you will have something to do on Thursday nights besides the same old dinner and a movie. Because believe me, that can become mundane.

Read a book together. We all have different taste in books. You might be a little more Jane Austen while your boyfriend is a Vonnegut guy, but finding a good book to read together can be a beautiful thing. The sole act of committing yourself to read a book for someone else, means something. It requires a willingness to sit down and find time to read. You also have to commit the energy it takes to become involved in a novel that isn’t necessarily up your alley. It’s a gesture. By reading a book of your partner’s choosing, you get to learn a little more about him. Even if you don’t like it, at least you’ll have something new to talk about.

The prospect of making a relationship work can be daunting. With these four non-abrasive tips, you’ll be on the road to a healthy relationship in no time. Hopefully you’ll make it to summer. But if you try all of these and the relationship still fails, at least you can give him the boot in Spanish.

Originally published June 2009
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