According to new research, looking at past photos of your partner can actually increase loving feelings and overall satisfaction within your relationship. Remembering and reminiscing over the good times is also known as “romantic nostalgia,” and according to Gabriela Reyes, LMFT and Chispa App’s Resident Relationship Expert, those memories help bring back a rush of feelings you may no longer feel as easily with your romantic partner.
“[Romantic nostalgia] can also really make couples feel motivated to bring some of those good feelings back,” she tells Lifehacker. “Planning a trip to revisit the bungalow where you first said ‘I love you,’ going to the restaurant where you had your first date, etc. Strong feelings are powerful. If we can bring them back with something as simple as a memory, we should take full advantage of that.”
Why romantic nostalgia is particularly powerful when it comes to connecting with your partner
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As we fall further into a romantic relationship, it’s normal for us to become more comfortable with each other. But many couples complain about a missing ‘spark’ and intense connection that was once prevalent at the beginning of their relationship. How do we capture it? Enter: romantic nostalgia.
“Research has shown that people have a deep need to belong, and romantic nostalgia helps fulfill that need by reinforcing your connection to your partner,” Saba Harouni Lurie, a licensed marriage and family therapist, tells Lifehacker. “It helps to highlight your shared history, reminding you of all you’ve been through together that has only brought you closer. Reflecting on these moments can also strengthen your commitment to one another.”
Romantic nostalgia can also allow partners to see how much they’ve grown together as a couple, says Lurie, and acts as a reminder of all the positive changes made to the relationship over time can serve to solidify their bond. “Especially when couples hit bumps in the road, romantic nostalgia can help remind them why they chose their partner and what they value and appreciate about their relationship,” she says.
Romantic nostalgia is different for everyone
It’s important to note that what will stir up these feelings from romantic nostalgia will be different for everyone, including your partner. According to Reyes, this is mainly because we remember things differently from others and we keep those memories that meant the most to us close to our hearts and top of mind. Which means that maybe you treasure your first kiss more than your partner does, but they cherish your first vacation together more than you do.
Ask these questions to elicit romantic nostalgia
The best way to discover how romantic nostalgia works for you, says Reyes, is to think back to your favorite moments in the relationship. “Asking yourself or your partner the right questions can bring about those same feelings of closeness, love and attraction,” she explains. “I use romantic nostalgia in my sessions with couples often. In the very beginning of our time together, I like to have them describe how they first met and what they thought of each other at that time. You can very clearly see how they feel about each other with how they respond to certain questions.”
These questions include:
- When did you realize you were in love with me? “This will have them very specifically think back to a time where they felt overwhelmed with a feeling of love for their partner,” Reyes says. “It can sometimes bring up new information we didn’t know about our significant others. We know when they first said ‘I love you,’ but do we know when they first felt that love? Learning something new in a long-term relationship is difficult. Romantic nostalgia can work with that.”
- When do you remember feeling most loved by me? This one is great for two very different reasons, says Reyes. “It may make the partner answering the question feel nostalgic while giving the other person some insight,” she explains. “The partner listening now has a blueprint of how to make their partner feel loved. The one answering the question is thinking back to a moment where they felt loved and grateful for their partner.”
- What were some of our most romantic moments? “Aside from the romantic nostalgia, this can be an easy way to get ideas of things you can recreate to reignite that spark,” Reyes says. “While romantic nostalgia can create that spark, we have to take action to keep it lit.”
- What do you think the sexiest night was in our relationship? According to Reyes, this question is threefold. “It can spark conversation about intimacy, which isn’t easy for everyone to speak about openly,” she explains. “It can also bring about romantic nostalgia that’s on the sexier side. Most importantly, it can remind you or even inform you of ways you made your partner feel aroused.”
What are some examples of romantic nostalgia?
If you’re looking for examples on how to walk down memory lane with your partner, Lurie shares her favorites to help get you started.
Shared playlists/songs. “Any collection of songs that are meaningful to a couple and denote a significant time in their relationship can evoke romantic nostalgia,” Lurie says. “Music has an uncanny ability to conjure up memories or emotions and can instantly bring someone back to a particular moment in time. People can create playlists of important songs to them and their relationships for a quick and easy way to share fond memories.”
Love letters. “Love letters are written correspondence between partners that express deep feelings and intimate connection,” Lurie explains. “They can be typewritten or handwritten, but there is something about the personal touch of a handwritten letter that can inspire deeper emotions for the recipient. The same can be true of revisiting early correspondence from a relationship, even early text messages or the first messages exchanged on a dating app.”
Anniversary celebrations. “Celebrating the anniversary of a special event, like a wedding or a first date, can bring about feelings of romantic nostalgia because it serves as a milestone to signify the commitment that two partners make to each other,” Lurie says. “Planning an anniversary celebration with your significant other will allow you to reflect on your shared history while also making space to create new memories and traditions with each other.”