It will probably come as no surprise to you, but relationships take a lot of time and work in order to grow and ultimately be successful. I often see clients who are in a relationship standstill or rut. They’ve been with their partner for years and each can anticipate what the other will say before they even say it!
When you get to that point, or feel like you’re teetering on the edge of it, what can you do to reignite the spark that brought you together in the first place? This post explores many of the ways in which you can bring some spice back into your love life.
If we were to believe all of the Hollywood date-night movies, Love (with a capital L) would always be outwardly displayed by some grandiose gesture, hot air balloon rides, and endless candlelit dinners surrounded by rose petals. But those of us who live in the real world know that love is a combination of lots of little things: holding the door open for your spouse, emptying the dishwasher, waking up in the middle of the night to clean urine-stained sheets from your little ones. Every day, our partners do little things for us because they care. Are you making sure to appreciate and acknowledge the little things your partner does for you? One way to practice appreciation is to keep daily list, either on paper or in your head, and at the end of each day, tell your partner one of the things you are appreciative of from earlier in the day. This little gesture can go a long way. And who knows...maybe they’ll start their own list of “appreciations” and begin the practice, too!
Similar to sharing the little things you appreciate about your partner and what they do for you, I also encourage my clients to talk about the small things. What are the “small things?” Well, there’s always the classic example of a man leaving the toilet seat up. Maybe she takes spoonfuls of peanut butter right out of the jar to eat, and it kind of grosses you out. Whatever it is, it won’t do either of you any good if you bottle up those little annoyances. Gently bring these small annoyances up to your partner. Don’t be accusatory (because remember: there are probably a few things that you do that annoy your partner!) but let them know that some certain behaviors or actions are a bit annoying to you. Opening up this line of direct, thoughtful dialog tells them that you want to be honest with them and that hopefully by talking about it, the two of you can come to an understanding or agreement about these annoyances.
That said, there is also virtue in letting some of these small annoyances go. Really. Some things may just not be worth bringing up, especially if it is a lifelong habit of your spouse, or you know that they truly get a lot of joy from whatever action it is that annoys you. The trick here, though, is to actually let it go. Do what you need to do to get over it and not let it bother you any more.
Talk, Talk, Talk!
Notice a theme in the first few tips to a healthy relationship? Communication is King. Small things, big things, middle-of-the-road things. No one wants to be that couple who eats an entire meal together in silence because they have nothing to talk about any more. It doesn’t matter if you’ve been together for 4 or 40 years, keeping your dialog open, fresh, and fun is one of the keys to relationship longevity.
What to talk about? Anything! Talk about your partner’s hopes, dreams, even disappointments. Is there anything that they’ve done that they regret? Perhaps there are things you can talk about that bring new ideas to light that are energizing and invigorating to your mate. Talk about doing something together that may be out of both of your comfort zones. Again, don’t let things fester in silence. Bring things up into the open and have honest, thoughtful conversations.
spend time together
If you and your partner share a lot of the same interests, one thing that can reignite the spark and take you both a bit out of your comfort zones is taking a class together. Find something that interests you both, but that neither of you considers “a strong suit.” For example, if you find yourselves eating out a lot, try signing up for a cooking class. There are tons of options out there ranging from cooking basics to region-based fare (think Mediterranean, Chinese, Mexican, etc) that are designed for couples to learn together.
Another option is taking classes in outdoors activities such as sailing or rock climbing. Perhaps this is something you’ve both wanted to do for a long time, but things like work, kids, time, etc have gotten in the way. Don’t put it off any longer! When you both learn something together, you’re creating new memories and often, the playfulness, the joking, and the fun that sparked your relationship in the first place bubbles back up to the surface.
No matter what you end up doing, relationships take work. But like all things that come with hard work, the rewards are incredibly valuable. When you and your partner overcome relationship hurdles together, you forge stronger, more enduring bonds that will take you years into the future together.