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Online Dating Magazine > Columns > Office Hours with Dr. Jim > Keeping Partner Interested

Office Hours With Dr. Jim
by James Houran, Ph.D

In this column, "Dr. Jim" honestly and candidly answers your questions about dating, love and sexuality. He doesn’t tell you what you want to hear – he tells you what you need to hear. Dr. Jim is committed to offering you guidance based on responsible clinical practice and hard data from the latest scientific studies. Send Dr. Jim your questions today for consideration in an upcoming issue.


How to Keep Your Partner Interested

I'm hoping you can help me. How do you keep your partner interested and the relationship hot?


It’s important to know that keeping a partner interested starts before you even become a couple. You see there are two parts to creating and maintaining a “hot” relationship.

First, you must meet the right person.

Second, you must nurture the relationship as it goes along.

Finding the right person for a passionate relationship…
Let’s start with the meeting the right person. Researcher Andrea Baker (2002,“What makes an online relationship successful? clues from couples who met in cyberspace.” CyberPsychology and Behavior, 5, 363-375) examined the question of what factors differentiate successful and unsuccessful couples who first met online. She concluded from a qualitative analysis that four general variables signaled a couple’s capacity for long-term “compatibility:”

  • Where they meet: the overlap of specific interests as represented by the type of site they enter for a first encounter online signals long-term compatibility.

  • What they will do to be together: obstacles of distance, jobs and finances, and other relationships are negotiated so that past attachments are diminished and at least one partner will relocate.

  • When they interact: taking a lengthy period of time to get to know each other online before meeting face-to-face and postponing sexual involvement promotes longevity of relationships.

  • How they communicate: learning to handle each others’ styles of communication even when conflicts occur online enhances online and then offline satisfaction and cooperation.

My interpretation of Dr. Baker’s findings is that prolonged and non-superficial contact helps counter the inherent drawbacks of “hyperpersonal communication.” This term reflects the unique characteristics of online interactions and communications, which have been argued to be fundamentally different from other forms of interpersonal (e.g., a mutually involved co-participant) or mass (e.g., a relatively unknown and unresponsive element of a larger audience) communications. In particular, individuals in chat-rooms and newsgroups have much less information about other participants (i.e., highly restricted verbal and nonverbal cues) with which they might make attributions or form impressions of the other. But, applying the principles identified by Dr. Baker can help to ensure that the impressions you form about a potential partner are accurate. In turn, this goes a long way in establishing trust and realistic expectations when you meet someone offline and take a cyber-romance to a new level. Legitimate compatibility tests and online social networking tools (e.g., coaching tools on can also bridge the gaps between two online daters in highly meaningful ways.  

Fueling passion once you’ve found it…
Now that you’ve met the right person, the trick is not to allow the relationship to “coast.” There are six secrets to fueling passion or what you might call the “Joy of Six” (bad joke, I know). I present these secrets here as a toolkit  A couple should strive to use all the tools in the toolkit to maintain the stability and vitality of the foundation that they’ve laid in the relationship. 

  1. Routines undermine romance. People are creatures of habit, but habits can undermine relationships via extreme boredom. In fact, one of the best ways to feed passion is to feed controlled excitement in the relationship. New and stimulating activities or experiences actually promote the same brain chemistry that induces feelings of euphoria that come with being in love. Therefore, couples should strive to tackle new experiences together – and ones that get the heart racing. Consider, taking dance lessons, mountain biking, river rafting, sky diving, cooking classes or whatever fits your time and budget constraints. Remember this principle: “adrenaline makes the heart grow fonder.”

  2. Physicality. The brain chemistry of sex is fascinating. It seems the more sex and physical affection we have, the more we want. Indeed, physicality produces a snowball effect and this can be excellent for relationship health. Sex and physical interactions produce chemicals that induce feelings of romantic love and strong emotional bonding and attachment. This said, don’t neglect your physical needs or it will undermine the relationship. Remember this principle: “They call it ‘making love’ for a reason.”

  3. Small surprises that keep you at the center of your partner’s attention. Even the most loving couples need affirmation that a partner loves and adores them. Both men and women need to feel they are the emotional center of their partner’s life. A great way to do this is the constantly remind your partner of how important they are. And you don’t need grand gestures; small ones work just as well. Remember this principle: “Constantly mark your ‘territory’ with small gestures of affection and interest towards your partner.”

  4. Maintain personal hygiene. When courtship is over, it seems that attention to personal appearance can too. However, being too comfortable with your partner can mean letting yourself go. This kills romance. Show respect to yourself and your partner by trying to look and act your best at all times when your partner is around. Remember this principle: “Make sure you maintain yourself the way you want your partner to maintain him/herself.”

  5. Be a catalyst in your partner’s life. Besides maintain a great appearance, hygiene and attitude for your partner, you must also maintain a positive and consistent presence. The old saying “absence makes the heart grow fonder is not true.” Instead, always take the initiative to be present and the most central figure in your partner’s life. You can do this by regularly asking advice on daily matters (men love when women do this because it makes them feel respected), stay involved in leisure activities, learn well your partner’s nuances and even visit your partner at work on occasion for lunch. Use your imagination and stay involved. Remember this principle: “Plan to be visible or plan to be miserable.”

  6. Maintain boundaries with extended family. Another saying that undermines relationships is that “blood is thicker than water.” Get your priorities straight and put your committed relationship at the top of the list. Nothing kills romance, a sense of respect and a feeling of solidarity faster than putting giving your time, attention, affection and accommodation to your extended family rather than to your nuclear family. This doesn’t mean neglect your parents or siblings, but it does mean that they shouldn’t take precedent over your partner. Remember this principle: “Keep family at bay, so romance won’t go away.”


Dr. James Houran's "Office Hours with Dr. Jim" column is published every Monday.

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