In the United States, Labor Day weekend is a time for fun, friends, and family. It’s a time for camping trips, barbeques, and the kickoff of the college football season. Celebrated every year on the last weekend in August, it symbolizes the end of summer and the beginning of autumn – whether you’re ready for it or not. 

Today on The Gottman Relationship Blog, we share five ideas for using the upcoming three-day weekend to strengthen your relationship with your partner.

Examine Your Rituals 

Creating informal rituals when you can connect emotionally is critical in a relationship. How did you spend Labor Day weekend as a kid? How did your partner? Do you know? 

Most of us were raised in families in which some rituals were considered important. By making them a part of your life (or coming up with your own new ones together), they become your rituals as well and further your identity as a family.

Update Your Love Maps 

When is the last time you sat down and had a real conversation with your partner? Do you know what stressors they are facing at work? Do you know what their biggest accomplishment has been this month? What are their goals for the next year? Have they changed? 
Set aside time this weekend to update your Love Maps. No cellphones or television allowed.

Accept Your Partner’s Influence 

You want to go hiking this weekend, but your partner wants to stay home and make those repairs around the house that you’ve both been putting off. What to do? Why not both? If you have differing opinions of how you want to spend your three-day weekend, then we encourage you to accept each other’s influence. Get that housework done on Saturday so you are free to hike on Monday! 

Accepting influence is extremely important, especially for men. In a long-term study of 130 newlywed couples, we found that, even in the first few months of marriage, men who allow their wives to influence them have happier marriages and are less likely to divorce than men who resist their wives’ influence. Statistically speaking, when a man is not willing to share power with his partner, there is an 81% chance that his marriage will self-destruct. Click here to read more about the importance of accepting influence.

Express Appreciation 

Have you told your partner how much you appreciate them lately? If not, use this long weekend as an opportunity to do so. Write down five positive qualities about your partner. For each item, think of an actual incident that illustrates this characteristic. Then share it with them! This is called the “I appreciate…” Exercise and you can read more about it here

Expressing appreciation is a great way to build the fondness and admiration system, which is crucial to the long-term happiness of a relationship because it prevents contempt – the most dangerous of The Four Horsemen – from becoming an overwhelming presence in your life. The better in touch you are with your deep-seated positive feelings for each other, the less likely you are to act contemptuous of your partner when you have a difference of opinion.

Share a Six-Second Kiss 

You should already be doing this daily, but if you aren’t, use this weekend as an excuse to start. See if you can share a kiss each day this weekend that lasts at least six seconds, then carry it over into next week! 

Long enough to feel romantic, the six-second kiss serves as a temporary oasis within a busy day and creates a deliberate break between the on-the-job mentality (i.e., going to or from work) and a couple’s one-on-one time together. It releases oxytocin, which is the same hormone that is secreted when breastfeeding. Oxytocin is responsible for the comfort and connection that forms between mother and child and may explain the way kissing bonds us to another. A six-second kiss also releases dopamine, which triggers the same part of your brain that is stimulated by cocaine. Those butterflies in your stomach, they come from epinephrine and norepinephrine, which increase your heartbeat and send oxygenated blood to your brain. Some studies have even shown that kissing can cause a reduction in the hormone cortisol. Cortisol is a stress hormone, so a daily six-second kiss could help lower your blood pressure and prevent heart attacks. Click here to read more about the importance of kissing.

Michael Fulwiler is the Editor in Chief of The Gottman Relationship Blog and Director of Marketing for The Gottman Institute. A proud University of Washington graduate, Michael is an avid fan of love, live music, and Seattle sports teams.