One of the many things that is challenging about long distance dating is the actual “dating”–spending time together hanging out, enjoying meals, or doing something fun and new.
When you’re in a long distance relationship it is harder to do all those things we typically associate with dating—share experiences, build memories, and do fun new things together.
It’s harder, but it’s not impossible.
This week we’re bringing you the first in a new series of blog posts on long distance dates. Once a month, we’ll post a new LDR date idea for you–things for you to read and consider before your date, and then things to do. Hopefully, these will help you branch out and find new, creative, and fun ways to connect and share with each other.
During my second year at university, a friend decided to have her birthday party at a local Indian restaurant. I groaned. Despite having spent two years of my childhood in Bangladesh (or, maybe because of that) I was not at all keen on Indian food. I only went because she was a good friend, and sometimes you have to suck it up and go the extra mile for good friends.
But, you know what? I loved it.
I loved it so much that place became my new favorite restaurant. I even booked my own 21st birthday bash there a couple of years later. Indian still remains one of my favorite cuisines today.
This week we’re all about trying new things. Your mission will be to go on an adventure, but before we get into the details, let’s look a little more at some of the benefits of branching out in life and trying new things.
What’s so great about trying new things?
Trying something new is a risk. It can definitely make you more miserable in the moment. A new restaurant or dish can disappoint, singing karaoke can result in public humiliation, a movie or a play can bore us silly (Shakespeare’s A Winter’s Tale, anyone?)
However, experimenting and trying new things can make you happier overall. Research by psychologist Rich Walker suggests that people who engage in a variety of life experiences are more likely to retain positive emotions and minimize negative ones than people who have fewer experiences. Here are a couple of other ways that novelty can breed happiness…
1. Trying new things can introduce you to new pleasures and passions
Trying something new—like my reluctant foray into Indian food—can introduce you to new pleasures to savor. And taking small steps into new realms can help you discover things that capture your imagination, fire up your passions, and help you envision new possibilities in your life.
2. Novelty causes your brain to release “reward chemicals”
When we explore and try something new, dopamine gets released in our brains. Among other thing, dopamine helps regulate motivation—it encourages us to act to achieve something (a pleasurable reward) or avoid something (a painful experience). Trying something new can often give us a positive boost because dopamine tends to make you feel more excited, energetic, curious, and positive.
3. Trying something new forces you to grow
Doing something new forces you to learn and change much more quickly than doing something you’ve done many times before. New actions can lead to new skills. A new experience and situation can broaden your worldview, change your perspective, and teach you new things.
Consistently facing new challenges also helps shape your general attitude towards life—it can keep you curious, humble, and open to new ideas. And trying new things (even if they don’t go well) can boost your self-confidence and your belief in your own ability to meet challenges, rise to the occasion, and bounce back after failure.
Over time, a “novelty habit” can be good for your relationship
Seeking out new experiences is good for you as an individual. As it turns out, it can be good for your relationship too, especially over time.
In the early stages of a new relationship you are flooded with dopamine and other neurotransmitters that all contribute to that intoxicating feeling of falling in love. The early days of a new relationship are a time of intense and rapid change as you absorb details about your partner. As you grow closer during this charged period, your sense of self expands as you take on your partner’s perspectives, stories, and experiences.
Over time, the “rush” and sense of intoxication of new love fades and is replaced by a quieter brand of committed attachment. However, research suggests that couples who embrace novelty after a relationship is well established—who explore new places and try new things together—tap into a dynamic similar to the one operating when we first fall in love. The excitement and learning engendered by novelty also tends to boost commitment.
Interestingly, doing different things early in a relationship (when you’ve been together a year or less) has almost no benefit. The relationship itself is intense and novel enough. But after the relationship is established, the relationship benefits of doing new and challenging things together are significant.
If you’re currently in a long distance relationship then chances are you won’t be able to do something new and exciting together this week. You can, however, do the next best thing—find something new to do yourself and then compare notes with your partner afterwards. So your mission this week is to…
Your mission this week is to have a new adventure. Go somewhere new or do something new in the city where you live. Take photos of the experience, and then discuss it with your partner. If you’re not sure where to start, trying on these suggestions:
- Pretend you’re a tourist and visit a part of your city you’ve never visited before
- Visit a museum or an art gallery you’ve never been to
- Try a new restaurant or order a new type of food, something you’ve never eaten before
- Volunteer for a local shelter or charity organization, or visit a local nursing home and spend some time reading to residents
- Learn something new, and then find a way to put your new knowledge into practice
Talk over your adventure with your partner. Here are some questions to get you started:
- What did you do?
- Did you enjoy it? Why, or why not?
- Would you do it again?
- Do you generally like doing new things or do you prefer to stick to routine?
- We all seek out novelty in life to some extent—even routine-lovers. So what types of new experiences do you tend to seek out most (E.g., do you often branch out and drive different routes or cook new dishes? What topics do you tend to learn new facts about easily? What types of new skills or activities do you tend to seek out?)
- What is something new you’d like to do together someday?