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After many months of working at home, living through the pandemic, and having a limited social life, many couples feel their relationship needs a boost. Norwegian psychologist and relationship expert Thuen has created a small packing list of great tips on how to make the most of your holiday – and each other.

"Everyone knows that a holiday creates new memories and gives you more time together. I guess there's nothing better than packing your bag, escaping the everyday grind, and exploring together," says Thuen.

“When you are on holiday, you have the opportunity to reconnect, for example by doing activities together that you both like, or by relaxing enough to show each other care and gratitude,” says the psychologist, who is an expert in family relationships. The goal is not only to have a nice holiday together, but also to rekindle your everyday life.

Sam and Stephanie from London are one couple who are experiencing challenges in their relationship. That's why Thuen is here to help as they embark on a romantic holiday to Southern Norway.

Watch the whole documentary series on how their trip went and get some expert tips that can boost your own relationship:

1. See each other in a new light

The fridge light on an early Tuesday morning isn't exactly as flattering as the sun sparkling on the ocean, or candlelight while enjoying a luxurious meal. Changing your surroundings can make you see your partner in a new way.

"Do an activity together that you've never tried before," urges Thuen.

Sharing new experiences enriches the relationship. Don't hesitate to try a slightly challenging activity. Research shows that this both speeds up your own body's happiness hormones – and creates new ones between the two of you! You can then support and cheer each other on, and experience a sense of fulfilment and mastery together. Not to mention that it's also exciting, of course! It's a great way to bring you together and create a sense of belonging.

2. Rediscover common ground

What did you love to do before—together? Do you love art? Food? Hiking? Or maybe you love discovering secret little gems? Finding your way back to the interests you share also means rediscovering yourselves a little.

"In everyday life, the focus quickly shifts to ourselves and our own path. But on holiday you have common ground all the time. Remember the interests and pleasure you have together and take the time to cultivate them during holidays," says Thuen. This is what determines the strength of your bond.

For those who want to take it a step further, a holiday can also be a great opportunity to sit down together, perhaps on a mountaintop overlooking the sea, or on a peaceful quayside, and really talk, according to Thuen.

"Zoom out. Where do you stand together today? What would you like to have more of in the future when you are back in your everyday life?"

3. Start every day with kindness

"Make the decision to start every day of your holiday by showing consideration! It could be a compliment or coffee in bed," urges Thuen.

In a busy everyday life, small, kind gestures can quickly disappear in all the work, cooking, and laundry. But on holiday you have the time to nurture your relationship, especially if you decide to do so before you depart.

Think: I’m going to be a good partner who shows consideration and gratitude. Starting the morning with a little extra love and care can work wonders for the rest of the day.

4. Learn to listen

This tip is for those who really want to take their couple's vacation seriously, according to Thuen. That is what can clearly make the relationship better in the long term, even after the holidays. There are three different ways you can deal with your partner in difficult situations: face them, turn away, or attack.

“Ask yourself how you usually respond to your partner if he or she brings up something difficult or criticizes you. Do you withdraw, lay blame, or are you open and responsive?” asks Thuen.

Many people have a habit of either becoming passive and retreating to avoid confrontation, or getting angry and responding in kind. If this becomes a pattern, it can cause problems in the long run. Unsurprisingly, it is the couples who meet each other halfway that are most successful, according to researcher John Gottman.

Thuen believes that a holiday can be a golden opportunity to examine your own patterns and learn to listen to each other. Because maybe it's over a fine meal with a lovely view that you will be relaxed enough to see how you can improve together...?

5. Improve yourself

"In a relationship, we often think, ‘what's in it for me?’. But try to turn that question around," says Thuen. Why should your partner hang out with you? What do you have to offer?

Although it can often be more natural for us to look at our own needs and desires, Thuen points out that you can get a lot from being introspective once in a while.

"Talk together about what you need from each other. It's just as important to ask ourselves what's best for us. Think of the relationship as a separate person with its own needs," advises the psychologist.

6. Put your phone away

We've all sinned here, haven't we? Being together with others, but then suddenly finding yourself sitting there staring at your phone?

Our phones may be what we are most often ‘unfaithful’ with. Although you should really be spending time with the people you're with, you instead fall into a different reality. On holiday, this can put a solid dampener on the moment – which should really be shared with the ones you're with.

"Try to free yourself from your mobile during holidays," advises Thuen. Instead, focus on being present for your partner, and taking in all the new impressions and experiences together.

He suggests agreeing on some mobile-free hours during the day, when you can both be fully present with each other and have 100 percent focus together. Instead of looking at phones, appreciate the beautiful views, listen to each other without interruption, and enjoy every bite of your food. Instagram doesn't eat first!

If you really want to take pictures, why not bring a digital or disposable camera?

7. Once you are back home

One of the most important things about a holiday is coming home again, full of new experiences and, hopefully, some new energy.

You've experienced new things together; you've felt your blood pumping and your stress subside. And then it's home to everyday life. Sad? Maybe a little, but the most important thing about a holiday is what you bring back to your everyday life.

"The majority of life consists of weekdays. A holiday can give you enough distance to enjoy the little things you have at home," he says.

He believes that one of the best things about being away is looking forward to coming home again. And with new memories in your luggage you can look back on with great pleasure, your holiday will last longer than your first day back.

"And if you've had time to nurture each other and your relationship, a holiday can really boost the romance."

Change the view, not your partner

Living together in London, Sam and Stephanie found out they had some issues in their relationship.

"Sometimes you feel that you're not being listened to, and that can sometimes come across as uncaring," says Sam.

"And I think the same. We both think that we are not listening to each other," says Stephanie.

Sam thinks Stephanie spends an awful lot of time on her mobile phone. "That can be a bit annoying, because you are in one of the most beautiful places in the world, and she’s not in the moment," Sam continues. 

"What he really wants from me is to be present, and to listen more. I love him, but I think he wants to feel it more," says Stephanie.

Visit Norway invited Sam and Stephanie to the south coast of Norway, convinced that experts tips and beautiful surroundings could help them boost their relationship.

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