What do you do if your relationship is just ok?
That is, nothing is horribly wrong, but it’s also not great. Is this an inevitability in every long-term relationship? Are we all eventually doomed to this ho-hum existence?
Fact is, the initial passion that is present in (at least most) brand-new relationships does tend to fade. Kids, careers, illnesses, financial stresses, life just get in the way. Also, the intense emotions we initially experience aren’t sustainable (or even desirable) indefinitely from a biological standpoint either.
So does all this mean that, yes, all relationships are eventually doomed to become lackluster and boring? Absolutely not.
While relationships will inevitably wax and wane, and change through time, it doesn’t mean that couples can’t sustain continued love, passion, and romance. In fact, all of that is entirely possible- it just requires time and effort. Relationships are like many other things in life- the more you nourish them, the more they flourish. On the contrary, neglected relationships do tend to wither and die. One of the biggest enemies of happy relationships, then, is complacency. As soon as we feel confident and comfortable in our relationships, we often turn our focus to other areas of our lives, assuming that our partner will always just be there. Before we know it, we no longer know each other, and we end up as roommates, co-parents, or just two people leading parallel lives under one roof.
So how do we maintain the new relationship shine? Or is it possible to find it again once it’s been lost? While maintaining something is generally easier than, in essence, starting over, it is most definitely possible for couples to rediscover the passion and intimacy of their early days together. Here are five suggestions to try, for anyone who’s looking to reconnect to their partner or just ensure that their connection stays strong.
This one is crucial. We can’t feel close to someone emotionally if we are never physically near one another (and the rest of these steps would become much more difficult to accomplish). So go on dates. They don’t need to be elaborate or fancy- just a way to spend time together and show each other that you still matter. Bonus points for doing something new and/or slightly frightening during these times- these can increase feelings of closeness even more.
And listen to the answers! Remember, in the beginning, how you couldn’t get enough of each other, and you wanted to learn every little thing about each other? At some point, we start feeling like we know each other. And then we often stop asking questions. However, everyone is always growing, learning, and changing. Once we stop talking to each other about (and asking each other about) our hopes, fears, goals, preferences and the like, we may find that we no longer know the person we’re with. We know only the person they used to be, and find that we’re now in a relationship with a virtual stranger.
Again, remember the days when you were “wooing” your partner? You made sure to bring out your best side, you let the little things go, and you went out of your way to do things to let the other person know you care. Eventually we tend to stop this. Again, blame it on complacency. So fill up the car, bring the coffee to bed, or write your spouse a love note. Stop thinking about what you want (and perhaps feel you aren’t getting) from the relationship, and start thinking about what you can BRING to the relationship.
One of the things that sustains a relationship through tough times are the joint memories of good times and a life shared. Talk about them. Look at photos. Tell stories. Your first date, your wedding, a trip you’ve taken, the births of your children- relive those times. Also, the more you follow #1, the more stories you’ll have for this step!
For many couples, when the relationship starts to sour, physical touch is the first thing to go. In fact, often couples in distressed relationships go out of their way to avoid accidentally touching each other. Try, instead, to consciously find ways to touch- hold hands, give a shoulder rub, hug… A good start for couples for whom touching has become unfamiliar is to hug twice a day, at least eight seconds each time. You’d be surprised at what a difference this can make! So for anyone who is currently in a relationship, whether it’s still good and you want to maintain it, or it’s already become strained and you’d like to find your way back to each other, follow these tips. Even start with just one (any one) and give it a try. Then add in others as you grow comfortable with the previous one- just continue to do that one as well!
Relationships do take work, but it’s worth it. You truly do reap what you sow here as well. Happy connecting!