10 January 2012, 12:15
Photo by Karin Mathilda.
When you’re in a long-term relationship of any degree of seriousness, it’s easy for the magic to fade away. Repeated conversations about the regularity of your new puppy’s bowel movements, the seemingly unsolvable leak in the roof & profound discussions about the purchase of new appliances can suck the romance out of any pair of star-cross’d lovers!
What you really want to prevent, though, is becoming “one of THOSE couples” — the dreaded curse. It’s that feeling of being locked down into a relationship with someone who you love, but with whom the honeymoon is very much over. Comfort becomes routine, routine becomes monotony & before you know it, you’re spending every night together eating takeaways in front of the television. This is NOT living!
There are no excuses for your relationship to lack spark or fireworks. No matter whether you’ve been together for thirty years, or you’re planning on getting married, or you’re both feeling the sting of the economic downturn… All of these things are irrelevant. There is no reason why your relationship should make you want to go to bed early!
I am not an expert on this — I don’t know if it’s something anyone can be an expert on. Keeping the sparkle is an ongoing process & an exercise in daily improvement, as well as something the two of you need to do together. There’s no value in one of you trying to perform magic tricks for the other when your lover is more interested in playing games or hanging out with their friends! However, sometimes it just takes one of you to start making the initial improvements, & soon your sweetheart will catch on & follow suit.
Here are some ideas & suggestions for a relationship which is dragging its heels.
It’s so very easy to spend every night watching television. It’s right there, & many of us have been programmed to think that a night in front of the box is “the done thing”. I would like to propose that it should NOT be the done thing. Sitting next to your squeeze & watching television together is not bonding. It really isn’t. You’re sitting there, not looking at one another & not really talking. You might as well be on a bus beside a stranger!
Of course, if you want to start switching up the routine, this will require forethought & planning. If a large portion of your relationship has revolved around watching T.V. together, it might be tricky to remember how it feels to be spontaneous. Don’t worry, this is easy to fix!
Grab an event guide for your city or area, & either make a list or tear out the things which interest you most. See if you can strike a balance between the things which are more your area of delight & the activities which thrill your lover. Then go out & DO them!
I don’t mean to get all heteronormative on you, so apologies to my queer women in the audience — this paragraph may not apply to you. It has been my experience that men can be difficult to motivate, especially when you ask them to have an opinion about some kind of activity.
“Do you want to go out to dinner?” you’ll ask.
“Eh. Maybe,” they respond.
‘Useful,’ you think.
However, if you actually PLAN things & ask them to make the time available, it’s a different case altogether.
“We’re going to dinner on Thursday with Victoria & David,” you say. (Beckham, of course.)
“Okay,” he replies.
So try that one. It works!
How was the beginning of your relationship different to the way it looks now? Did you used to spend hours just making out? Did you have a shared interest that you both explored with gusto?
If there was something which brought the two of you together at the start, why not pick that back up again? Just because your patterns as a couple have changed, don’t lose hope. You can always alter a routine!
It doesn’t really matter why those things have fallen by the wayside, but what does matter is that you take action — IMMEDIATELY! — & start to change the course of your relationship. The longer you put it off, the sadder & more desperate you will feel about your situation. The actions you take TODAY could actually SAVE your relationship! So, organise something as soon as you’ve finished reading this article! Start making a list NOW of ways you & your partner could reconnect, & when you’re done reading, make it happen. Pick up the phone, Google that little bed & breakfast you heard so much about, make an appointment. Go Team Romance!
When you fall in love with someone, your brain chemistry goes crazy. Your brain gets flooded with dopamine & norepinephrine, & the effects last about 18 months. After that, though, the levels of these chemicals decrease, & so then you start to settle into that comfortable, relaxed phase. It’s sweet, & it feels good, but it can make you wonder what the hell happened to your relationship which once seemed so exciting!
The great news is that you can easily kick these chemicals back into production by simply doing something NEW together as a couple! It’s that straightforward!
This new thing you do doesn’t have to be dramatic, it just needs to be something you’ve never done before. Fantastically, the world is FULL of amazing experiences that you’ve never sampled! From radical new sex positions to jumping out of planes, from degustation restaurants to racing go-karts, there is literally NO limit to the fun & wonderful things you can do as a couple.
A good way to work out these things you could do together is to sit down & make a bucket list. I started one a little while ago, & it contains items such as, Ride an elephant which will give me a shower with its trunk & Visit Iceland! The point is, the activities can be as exotic & dramatic — or sweet & simple — as you like. So sit down with your sweetie & make some lists. Compare, contrast, then go forth & conquer!
This term is thrown around so much that it’s almost a cliche, but it is so true! You need to have a date night & you should make it mandatory. Non-negotiable! Once a week, every week, create a night that is just about the two of you.
I really do think that it’s a lack of special, focused, shared time which causes people to take one another for granted & forget the reasons they fell in love in the first place. Date night is an excellent way to regain all those things.
As with most things, this is an activity best shared between the two of you. It shouldn’t be your responsibility to organise the dates every week — after a while, you’ll start to feel resentful that you’re the one making all the effort while your beau or ladylove is the one who reaps all the benefits! You can arrange the first one, & your beloved can sort out the next one.
If you have children or rambunctious pets (!!!), see if you can have someone else look after them so that you can have uninterrupted “adult time”. Spend some time together & you’ll remember why you found your lover so dazzling, charming & appealing in the first place!
Firstly, let me clarify: this is absolutely not about changing who you are to “suit” your partner! They got into this knowing who you were, & if you start to shed all the parts of your personality to become who they think they want, they might realise they actually liked you as you are…
No, this is more about being considerate & thoughtful. For example, I am not very domesticated. (Understatement.) I don’t cook. I hate to do the dishes. I don’t vacuum very often & sometimes I leave food dishes on my desk. It makes my boyfriend — you know him as The Dish, but his name is actually Michael — crazy. He likes a clean house. I understand this.
Now, I can defend myself all I like. “I work from home! I’m WORKING! I don’t have time to clean! I’m deep in thought, I’m busy being BRILLIANT, I can’t do these menial things you ask of me!” I can spout off whatever old shit I like. But ultimately? I just need to clean up after myself. Would it kill me to take the garbage out when I notice that it’s full? No, it wouldn’t. So I need to just DO it. It reduces the stress on our relationship, it makes my boyfriend feel less like my maid, & I don’t have to deal with him nagging me about it. We all win.
What is something you do which makes your partner froth at the mouth? Is it something you could change? Are there are tiny, incremental, teeny-tiny adjustments you could make which would make your lives happier? There probably are. Give it a shot. See what happens.
When Mike & I cancelled our cable television subscription, it quickly became one of the BEST things we have EVER done for ourselves as a couple. Suddenly, we were sitting on the couch FACING one another, & talking, as opposed to facing forward & letting the advertising trickle all over us! We were laughing & talking about important things, & getting in some real “quality” time. It was so great!
Basically, I am all for anything which removes the barriers to conversation. I love to go for long walks with him too, because the activity lends itself so well to excellent dialogue. There’s plenty of stimulus, you’re getting some exercise, you’re filling your lungs with fresh air & all the blood pumping around gives you flashes of inspiration & brilliance.
If I had my way, we wouldn’t have a television at all… But for now, the reduced amount of time spent watching it suits me just fine.
Taking a class together — or just learning how to do something as a couple — is a fantastic way of strengthening your relationship. It also keeps things fresh & interesting!
Learn how to cook Italian cuisine, renovate your entire apartment, start a small business together, organise to bring your favourite group to town & put on a concert… Whatever it is you want to do together, just do it!
You discover so much about one another when you’re both starting out as beginners. It can be very revealing & puts you both at a place of vulnerability, which can be rare. There will be stumbling blocks & challenges, but ultimately, it should bring you closer together & give you both a sense of renewed purpose!
With any problem, it can be really helpful to get extremely specific about what it REALLY is that bothers you. This is something I learned when I started practicing EFT — the more specific you can be about a problem, the easier it is to solve. While you can absolutely use EFT to help with relationship problems, learning how to be really precise about an issue makes it about three trillion times easier to solve.
So, if your relationship is feeling stagnant & muggy, work out exactly what it is that’s upsetting you. Is it that you feel like you’re spending too much time at home? Is it that you only ever go out together & you never get any alone time? Is it that your time together is always spent with his friends or only indulging his interests? Is it that you feel like he doesn’t show enough interest in your life? When you can get specific about what it is that you think is missing, you can take steps to resolve it.
I always find it easiest to nut out my problems when I can put them on paper. I have had some massive realisations just from writing letters I never planned on sending — it’s simply the way my brain works best. We all have a preferred problem-solving technique. You might have all your best ideas in the shower or while working out. Regardless, once you’ve worked out what the real issue is, devote some time to thinking about how to solve it.
While you can talk to your friends about it, I often find that that muddles my thinking. They can only speak from their own experience, after all, & while sometimes that can be valuable, the older I get the more I realise that I already have all the answers inside me anyway. Listening to your intuition — & even further than that, actually ACTING on what it’s telling you — is so valuable, & it will never steer you wrong.
It’s always best to start off with a conversation with your lover. Let them know what you think is missing — & phrase it in a way that is less, “You did this wrong!” & more, “I think we could work on this!” See where it goes from there.
I already went over this, but I’ll say it again because it’s important to me. My definition of spending time together is actually doing things while LOOKING at one another & talking! So, by that token, watching television together is not spending time together. You may be sitting next to one another, but the other person doesn’t really need to be there in order for the experience to occur. Do something which actually requires interaction!
It probably wouldn’t kill either of you to take a day off work & spend a day doing things together. NOT running errands, NOT cleaning the house, NOT feeling obligated to go to the bank/post office/whatever. Go out & have an adventure!
As wonderful as it is to spend quality time with your paramour, it can be extremely strengthening for the relationship to NOT spend every hour of every day together.
Having separate interests & lives is so important, & can really help the two of you get along. It also helps give you perspective! Your boyfriend may be driving you nuts, but a few hours spent with your best friend & her new love interest may give you renewed appreciation for the woman or man waiting for you at home!
When couples get together, typically the time they spend together increases & increases, until it gets to the point where you’re seeing each other EVERY night & not doing much else. Once that becomes routine, regular & expected, the dazzle starts to die down. The sizzle is less… scintillating. You start to look at each other & get a bit, Is that all there is?
So, GO OUT! ALONE! Remember that yoga class you loved? Or that book club which forced you to use your brain in new ways? How about those French lessons or the afternoon tea dates you used to have with your aunt? Revive those things! Go & do the things which make you happy. Get out of the house & learn how to enjoy your own company again. Your relationship will be so much better for it!
It’s my belief that relationships are about a million times more fun & satisfying for everyone when you’re having exciting sex — & often! There are reasons you’re together, after all, & one of them should be that you find each other attractive! (If you don’t, you might as well just be friends! Right?)
It can be easy for sex to fall by the wayside, especially when you’re both working hard, you have children, you’re stressed out about the problem du jour, etc. etc. etc. But I don’t believe in excuses, & I think instead of spluttering around the topic, you might as well just take your clothes off & have a good time!
If sex has become a bit boring or routine for the two of you, there are lots of ways you can spice it up. Introduce sex toys to your playtime, put on a saucy costume, drop some dirty talk or just decide to get it on in a new location. Buy a great sex book & go through it together. See what interests you! You might be surprised.
Some of my favourite sex books are The The Guide to Getting It On, Sex Is Fun!: Creative Ideas for Exciting Sex & Moregasm: Babeland’s Guide to Mind-Blowing Sex! I promise that they will not disappoint!
From singing each other songs in the supermarket to misbehaving at someone else’s wedding, there are a million ways to bring some vim back into your everyday life. You’re friends, after all, so act like it! Life doesn’t have to be serious all the time!
Falling back in love doesn’t have to be expensive or difficult, either. Even if you’re both unemployed, your city is full of fantastically cheap (& even free!) things to do. Looking at the stars costs nothing. Going for a long walk & making out on a wharf is free. Holding hands & talking about your future is… Yeah, you get the idea!
It can even be helpful to rethink the way you interact & speak to one another. Nothing could be more boring than speaking to each other as if you work together. Why not re-instigate the tried & true technique of FLIRTING? Put the monotone out to pasture, & give sultry a spin! Wink! Flip your hair! Pretend you’re in a Victoria’s Secret commercial if you have to! You are a gorgeous, sexy thing! Show it!
Something that can really keep a couple together — & help you through the less-than-thrilling times — is having a shared goal or purpose. Maybe you want a big house & a family, or perhaps you want to start an animal shelter together.
Whatever it is, don’t just get caught up in your daily responsibilities & the average humdrum. Talk about what you want to achieve together in the future, & work out plans so you can make it happen. Take steps towards your dream & set new goals when you’ve triumphed over the old. Celebrate your progress!
Keep your eyes on the horizon & work together to make your dreams a reality. There’s no better feeling!
When my man comes home from work in the evenings, he is exhausted from dealing with people all day, & generally just wants to chill out. When I finish working, I have been alone all day, cooped up in the house, & I wanna go OUT! I want to get dressed & go out for a meal. Sometimes, he can’t think of anything worse. So you have to be sensitive & thoughtful about it, & you can’t (or shouldn’t) force anyone to do what they don’t want to do.
If you’re a party girl & your lover is more of a retiring type, you may have to just suck it up & go out without him or her. Take your best friend instead! Your life doesn’t have to stop just because you have divergent interests.
Your differences can be the glue which holds you together. One of the reasons I love my husband so much is that in some ways, we are polar opposites. He is extremely rational & grounded, where I am a bit floaty & silly! We balance one another out — I remind him not to take life so seriously, while he keeps me accountable & on track! We appreciate one another in that way.
If we were both exactly the same, we would surely drive one another crazy! Learn to accept your lover for who they are, & your life will be much more peaceful!
Life can be frantic & fast-paced & sometimes, the time we spend together just feels like a brief respite before moving to the next thing on our ever-growing to do list. But it can be really valuable, even healing, to spend some time together where you breathe deeply, soak in the moment & put your responsibilities on the back-burner.
Never stop making the effort. Love is worth fighting for!
P.S. How To Make Your Relationship Succeed… Or Fail is brilliant! Have a read.