engagement photo couple walking together

Photo: Amanda Abel Photography

The engagement period is an exciting one—you’re planning your wedding, and you and your partner are gearing up for a lifetime of togetherness. While you might be on cloud nine just thinking about all of the wonderful things you’ll get to enjoy over the next year or so, the engagement period is also a great time to focus on ways to improve your relationship. After all, once you walk down the aisle, party to your heart’s content with friend and family and, of course, send those thank-you notes, it’s just you and your spouse.

As stressful and time-consuming as the wedding planning process might be, marriage is when real life challenges slowly take their course. For this reason, relationship experts agree that it’s wise to start creating every day habits that keep the two of you close and intertwined through all of life’s obstacles.

Here are some of the small ways to improve your relationship while you’re engaged.

Touch and kiss often

You might not be the type to get down with PDA, and that’s totally fine, but showing affection to each other, even behind closed doors, is one of the most important ways to improve your relationship. “At the beginning of a relationship, couples often enjoy deep kissing and touching, but that often subsides with relationship duration,” warns Rachel Needle, Psy.D., licensed psychologist and certified sex therapist. For this reason, she recommends making an effort, especially while you’re engaged, to hug, kiss and snuggle. “Being close physically is an important component of a healthy relationship and will increase the likelihood of remaining sexually active with your long-term partner.”

Have sex often

When you’re clocking late hours after a long day of work to get everything done in preparation for the big day, having sex might fall off your daily agenda. While it’s totally okay to have dry spells once in awhile, don’t make postponing sex a habit. “Sexual satisfaction contributes to overall quality of life,” Dr. Needle says. “Be sure to plan time to engage in sexual activity with each other and write it in pen in your datebook.” The thought of planning sex might sound mundane, but Dr. Needle explains that even for married couples sex doesn’t have to be spontaneous. “Life can get busy and things can get in the way of being physically intimate with your partner,” she adds. “Planning ahead can build anticipation and excitement—and ensure getting busy together happens, too.”

Plan time together

Especially if you live together, factoring time to “hang out” might not be on top of your to-do list. But there’s a big difference between sitting side-by-side together on your couch watching Netflix and going out to dinner or apple picking. Date nights or days are one of the best ways to improve your relationship. Dr. Needle recommends switching up your activities. Sign up for a cooking class or a language course, for example. “Trying something new can strengthen your relationship and bond and making lasting memories that you both will hold dear.”

Check in with each other daily

With your busy schedules on top of wedding planning, it can be easy to forget to touch base on the simple things, like asking each other how you’re doing. But Dr. Needle reminds her patients that connection doesn’t just happen or remain—it’s something that happens when you check in with each other on a frequent basis. “Set aside 10 minutes to talk, spend undistracted time together and just connect over deeper topics,” she says. “This allows you and your partner to reconnect, enjoy being with each other and focus your attention just on each other.”

Express gratitude

Another habit that easily slips through the cracks when you’re schedules are overloaded is the simple phrases and expressions of gratitude. If you’re marrying this person, chances are, you’re thankful that he or she is in your life. But when was the last time you told them that? “The appreciation can be specific or general, but telling your partner something you appreciate about them each day can lead to feeling appreciated, positive feelings, and can foster connection,” explains Dr. Needle.