A Little Nostalgia Could Make Your Relationship More Loving

Nostalgia helps partners feel more connected.



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My husband and I just celebrated a milestone wedding anniversary. Recounting the fun we had on our wedding day—as well as some of the funny mishaps—felt like a great way to connect and amp up the romance of the evening.

Still, I can imagine friends rolling their eyes at that idea. Engaging in nostalgia may seem overly “cutesy” to some, while others might worry about it backfiring. After all, when you look back on the early days of your romance, you might feel bittersweet realizing how much has changed since those early, heady days.

But recent research suggests that feeling nostalgic about significant past events from your relationship can actually benefit it - whether you reminisce alone or with your partner.

How nostalgia and romance interact
In one study, some participants in a romantic relationship were prompted to write about a nostalgic experience they’d had with their partner or to listen to a song that made them feel nostalgic about their relationship, while others wrote about an ordinary experience they’d had or a song they liked (as a basis of comparison).

Afterward, people reported on their overall feelings, as well as how close and committed they felt to their partner, how satisfied they were with their relationship, and (in the music group only) how much compassionate and passionate love they felt for their partner.

After comparing the groups, the researchers found that those primed to experience nostalgia felt closer, more committed, and more loving toward their partner, and were more satisfied with their overall relationship. This was true even when accounting for other emotions, like happiness, that might affect our views of others.

“Our conclusion is that experiencing nostalgia temporarily enhances perceptions of relationship quality,” says lead researcher Nicholas Evans of the University of Manitoba in Canada. “People report more closeness, commitment, and relationship satisfaction after listening to a nostalgic song or writing about nostalgia.”

To look at how this might work in everyday life, Evans and his team asked another group of participants to fill out diaries for a couple of weeks, noting every evening how much time they’d spent with their partner and whether or not they’d experienced any romantic nostalgia during the day. They also reported on how connected they felt, how optimistic they were about their relationship, and if they’d had any thoughts of leaving their partner that day.

Again, those who experienced nostalgia in everyday life felt better about their relationship, regardless of how much time they’d spent with their partner that day.

“In our daily lives, when we experience romantic nostalgia, we can experience positive perceptions of our relationship that go above and beyond just spending time with someone,” says Evans.

The limits of nostalgia
While past studies have found that feeling nostalgic brings meaning to one’s life and helps people feel more socially connected, the use of nostalgia in romantic relationships, specifically, had not been tested before. Evans believes this is an untapped resource for couples.

“Nostalgia definitely could be one of many tools to help enhance relationships,” he says.

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