Countless couples complain of losing the “spark” in their relationship. Some chalk it up to evolved differences, a slow growing apart, or sheer familiarity. The wave of “deadness” that can submerge a relationship after the first thrilling months or years have caused many couples to lose hope, and even look elsewhere for the excitement of new found intimacy.
Letting yourself go physically or mentally – When we reach a level of comfort in a relationship, we may tend to care a little less about how we look and how we take care of ourselves. We may be more likely to act out without regard or consideration for the ways we not only hurt our partners but ourselves. We may gain weight or engage in unhealthy habits, drinking more or exercising less. These habits aren’t just acts of comfort. They are often ways of protecting ourselves from sustained closeness. They often serve to shatter our self-esteem and push our partners away. They also tend to have a deadening effect on our relationship, weakening our confidence and vitality.
Failing to share activities – Early on in our relationships, we are often our most open, excited to try new things and share new adventures. As we fall into routine, we often resist novel experiences. We become more cynical, skeptical, and less willing to do things with our partners. It is important to take our partner’s passions and interests into account and to engage in activities that we really share. Love doesn’t exist in a vacuum. As psychologist Pat Love has said, “You have to show up.” Slowing down and taking time to relate is essential to sustaining intimacy. Consistently doing things that your partner perceives as loving will also help keep the spark alive.
Less personal relating – When you do take the time to relate to your partner, do you still talk about anything meaningful? Have conversations become more practical or less friendly? It’s important to be open and share our lives with those we love. In doing so, we really get to know them. We feel for them as people, independently from ourselves. This helps us to stay close to each other on a real level as opposed to out of obligation. It helps us to form and strengthen a friendship that allows us to be less critical when giving feedback and less defensive when receiving it. All of these efforts nourish our loving feelings, overthrowing cynicism and upholding our attractions.
Harboring anger – When we are with someone for a long time, we tend to catalog their negative traits and build a case against them that leads us to feel cynical. Try to notice if you’re harboring anger or resentment. Are you acting this out in subtle ways? Dealing with problems directly from a mature and open stance will save you from stifling your feelings of compassion and love. Honest communication can be tough, but it helps you to truly know your partner, rather than seeing him or her through a negative or critical lens. When we get into the habit of swallowing our feelings and turning against our partner rather than stating how we feel, we are skating on thin ice. Even when we start to feel close, we will often be quick to become critical the minute our partner does something that rubs us the wrong way. When we feel free to directly say the things that annoy or anger us, we are better able to let them go. The more we develop our ability to do this, the more emotionally close we feel to our partners. The advantage of voicing your thoughts is that you stop viewing your partner through a fog of cynicism. When we face the degree to which each of us acts out the above patterns, we can start to challenge them.
Reigniting our relationships can be as simple as carrying out those small, caring acts that make our partners feel acknowledged and loved for who they are. Taking steps each day to counter these habitual patterns leads us down a path that is much more fulfilling, much braver, and much more real.