Re-Energizing Your Romantic Relationship
Food For Thought
No matter how many times we’ve seen this, it never fails to dismay us: a couple, seated across from each other at a restaurant, barely interacting, scant eye contact; basically disengaged. Yes, it’s possible that we’ve just caught them on an “off” night, but the general sense of dead air between them is a giveaway that this relationship has veered off course and badly needs a shake-up.
If you lose your sense of curiosity and wonder about your partner, you’ll start to slide into complacency, believing that you know everything there is to know about each other and have said everything that could have been said. If this happens, it’s easy to find yourself feeling bored and unstimulated, with a gnawing sense that this can’t be all there is.
Let's Get Real, Shall We?
Rather than bore you with the typical “7 ways to re-energize your relationship”, let’s take a realistic look at the nature of the longer-term relationship.
Chances are years of living with the same person have stripped away the illusion and mystery that your partner once held for you. Those endearing qualities that he or she once possessed, i.e. charmingly disorganized, social butterfly, or mysterious loner are now re-interpreted to your annoyed brain as an inconsiderate slob, blabbermouth, or dull recluse. We find ourselves criticizing our once magical lovers, and being criticized ourselves for our own questionable traits.
Shake Up the System
So, how to address the typical cycle of criticism-->defensiveness-->counter-attack mode that so many of us fall into in our relationships? Instead of instantly refuting your partner’s criticism of how you never shut the cabinet or closet doors all the way by rattling off his latest infraction, “Oh yeah? Well, I’ll shut the closet door all the way when you stop leaving me little gifts of your used Q-tips on the bathroom sink”, shake up the system by going against every instinct in your psyche to defend yourself, and try responding: “You’re right. I never seem to notice I do that. That must drive you crazy”.
Not only does this instantly halt the mutual bitch-session, you’re actually acknowledging that your behavior must be annoying, letting your partner know that you’re willing to listen to their feelings. Not playing score-keeper about who is driving the other craziest will be a huge relief to both of you.
Put some Mystery Back In It
Have you fallen into the habit of squeezing into your Spanx, flossing your teeth, and putting on your Queen Helene Mud Mask in front of your partner? STOP IT RIGHT NOW. A sense of romance does not include letting it all hang out. We know one passionate couple into their 7th year of marriage who get dressed and undressed in the bathroom, not because of modesty, but because they like to keep their nudity more exciting by associating it with bedroom activities. (And regarding those bathroom activities? They make doors for a reason!)
Take the Pickles Out Of Your Ears
One of the biggest sources of resentment in a relationship can be the perception that no one is really listening to each other, or rather, that you are not hearing each other. Sometimes it’s tempting to just half-listen or assume you know what the other person is going to say. After all, you’ve been with this person for a long time. Depending on your past listening behavior, your partner may be hesitant to open up to you about anything more than surface stuff for fear of feeling dismissed or having their feelings minimized.
An act of kindness and a true attempt to shift the dynamics can include sitting the person down with a glass of wine or a cold beer, or handing them the vegetables to chop next you at the counter as you’re prepping dinner, and ask them to tell you about the most challenging or interesting thing that happened to them today.
Listen, without interrupting, with the exception of asking the occasional clarifying question that shows that you’re truly engaged and want to know what’s happening in their life. Do this often enough so that it becomes a pattern, rather than the exception, and 10-to-1, your partner will start doing the same. If they aren't much of a communicator, don’t push, but continue to try to lead by example. If he or she doesn’t get it, it’s OK to tell them that you’d like to be able to share your thoughts and feelings with them since they’re the most important person in your life.
It’s Weird Science
We’ve all heard the Try Something New suggestion from every popular blog or magazine, but it turns out that brain science backs this up. Surprisingly, it’s not just trying something new to break up monotony that helps a lagging relationship--the act of engaging your brains as a couple in a new and somewhat exciting activity appears to stimulate and recreate the brain’s chemical surges, which incidentally go hog-wild during the early more passionate phase of relationships. So get out there and do something more than hitting the latest foodie paradise!
The Best For Last: Let’s Get Physical
You thought we were going to talk about sex here, didn’t you? Let’s deal with one of the roadblocks to sex first: being out of shape and low on energy.
This is not a fat-shaming statement. Feeling uncomfortable with your body can make you feel decidedly un-sexy, and less likely to initiate sex. Even individuals who don’t struggle with body issues are frequently low on energy as a result of lack of physical activity. Getting over the hump of beginning any physical movement or work-out program is the hardest part, but it can made more do-able and a bonding experience if done together. Hint: whisper in his/her ear that you think that you’d feel more energetic and into SEX if you could do this as together, or at least get their support to do so yourself.
And if the sex train has seemingly left the station, for Pete’s sake don’t give up. If your sex life has taken on a cycle of approach-rejection, work on the intimacy issues addressed above, and start building comfort by scritching his head while watching Netflix, or reaching out for her arm as you walk the dog. And if you have to be that couple in the restaurant who isn't talking, at least look her in the eye, reach over, and hold her hand.
Want more tips on couples? Check out our piece 30 Signs Your Relationship is Getting too Comfortable