Have you ever encountered a couple in your life who just seemed to never leave the honeymoon phase? How do you attain a relationship like that?
If you’re reading this, you’ve probably experienced some form of a relationship ending or you may be in a relationship that feels like it’s heading that way. Now, sometimes this isn’t a bad thing. After all, not every relationship can be the one. Some relationships must end in order for better relationships to form.
However, even some of the best relationships can fall into trouble. If both you and your partner are committed to making the relationship work, how can you keep that spark from going dormant?
In this article, we’ll talk about five steps to help get your relationship back on track. Keep in mind that these steps might not work for every couple. Both people have to be invested in the process for the relationship to heal fully.
Step 1: Personal Healing and Growth
Before you can hope to have a healthy romantic relationship, you must process and work through your own past and traumas. Trauma doesn’t necessarily equate to abuse or violence —trauma can include everything from strict parenting to a childhood bully. Working through these traumas will be difficult, and in some cases, a therapist may be the best person to guide you through this process. The end goal, however, is to achieve forgiveness — both for the people who hurt you and for yourself and the mistakes you made.
Now, forgiveness is no easy task, especially when dealing with someone who gravely mistreated or abused you. Again, this is a long process that can be significantly aided with therapy or counseling. As it concerns your relationship, forgiveness can also include letting go of any grudges you hold against your previous romantic partner. Bitterness towards an ex-partner is not a unique experience. In order to be fully invested in your current relationship, you have to let go of your old one. If you don’t, you are sure to bring this resentment into your current relationship and weigh both you and your partner down with unnecessary emotional baggage.
This healing step also involves being comfortable alone with yourself. Several people fall into the trap of seeking romantic relationships out of fear of being alone. This can cause you to view a potential partner as compatible when that may not be the case in reality. Take time to spend alone and get comfortable in the quiet solitude, and encourage your partner to do the same. This will allow you both to work on personal growth while not looking to the other one for happiness.
Step 2: Make New Memories Together
It is no surprise that life can get quite busy at times. Whether it’s work or school or your personal life, it can be easy to neglect this step in the face of your busy schedule. However, it is critical that you make time to create new memories with your partner to keep the relationship feeling fresh and fun.
These memories don’t have to be an elaborately planned road trip or anything extravagant. For your relationship, it could be as simple as going out to dinner together or watching a movie or trying a new dinner restaurant. Making new memories with your partner can be almost anything, as long as you are both intentionally investing time into the other.
Step 3: Sex and Communication
As most people know, sex is a vital component of maintaining a romantic relationship. Though it is certainly only a part of the larger machine that is romance, sex allows you to grow closer to your partner on a level that only the two of you share. Not to mention it’s fun, and what’s life without pleasure?
Physical touch plays a big role here. Studies have shown that affection increases the brain’s production of oxytocin, which is known to promote feelings of trust and bonding. Life can get busy for both you and your partner, so it is not always feasible that you have enough time or energy to have sex with your partner. In this case, just holding hands or hugging for a little bit longer than normal can go a long way.
Of course, a great sex life with your partner doesn’t just happen. As cliche as it sounds, communication is the key to a successful relationship. While communicating about sex specifically may be an uncomfortable subject, it is vital that couples embrace conversations like these to ensure both parties are happy.
One of the biggest misconceptions about sex and relationships is that if you have to bring up the topic with your partner, something is not right. There is this misconception that if you are compatible, sex should always be awesome, and there should never be any problems. This is simply not the case. Dr. Emily Mores shares:
If you are anxious about having this conversation, you’re not alone. Thankfully, Human Sexuality Doctor of 15 years Dr. Emily Morse has outlined an easy way to approach this topic with your partner without scaring them off. She uses her “Three T’s” approach here to navigate opening this topic up.
When you approach the sex topic with your partner can be the most important aspect of all. Dr. Morse recommends using the acronym H.A.L.T. to decide when to bring up the sex talk. When starting this conversation, make sure you are not hungry, angry, lonely, or tired. Be in a good headspace and plan what you will say rather than springing the topic on your partner out of nowhere. This will ensure the conversation leads to a healthy place rather than leading to a fight or misunderstanding.
Next, be sure to approach this with your partner with a collaborative and positive tone rather than an accusatory one. The last thing you want to do is evoke a defensive response from your partner before you have even discussed anything. Keep your tone light, and avoid assigning blame. Instead, use words like “we” so that your partner knows this is a shared discussion and so they do not feel cornered. Make your partner aware that this is not about solely meeting your needs and that it’s about understanding where they’re at as well.
Now that you’ve figured out the when and the how, it’s time to decide where you want to have this conversation. Dr. Morse emphasizes the importance of having this conversation somewhere that isn’t in the bedroom. It’s better to have this conversation somewhere outside or during an activity when you do not have to maintain constant eye contact with your partner. This will reduce the awkwardness for both of you and keep your partner from feeling like they have made some mistake or are in trouble.
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Step 4: Adjust Your Expectations
It is no secret that everyone has flaws. There is no perfect person out there for you to date, so make sure you do not hold high expectations over a potential partner. Though it’s great to have a rough outline for what you are looking for in a romantic companion, having a strict set of expectations will only lead to disappointment in the end. This will also place weight on your partner’s shoulders and will likely leave them with a lasting feeling of not being good enough. Unfortunately, many relationships hit rough patches because of unsaid expectations.
Step 5: Falling Back in Love
Even if you are certain that your partner is the one, it is normal to go through periods of uncertainty or doubt concerning the longevity of your relationship. However, if you truly want to fall back in love with your partner, it all starts with navigating your critical inner voice.
The Critical Inner Voice
After the honeymoon phase of infatuation comes to an inevitable end, you may find yourself putting your partner and their actions through a magnifying glass. You may become irritated at small things that they have likely always done, but you are just now noticing them. It is common to think that because of this change in attitude towards your partner, you are falling out of love and perhaps weren’t ever truly infatuated with them to begin with. In reality, only you can be the judge of whether or not you truly love someone. If you do, chances are that these newfound criticisms are coming from your critical inner voice.
Your critical inner voice stems from traumas you have experienced from a previous partner or even your parents. It is common for your critical inner voice to project negative traits that you have seen in your parents onto your partner. It is even common for your critical inner voice to provoke your partner in a specific way that will cause them to react negatively as a sort of justification. Think of it as if it is saying, “See? You knew they would let you down in the end; they’re just like my father/mother.”
While your partner may certainly have flaws, your critical inner voice is not there to help you rationally work through these flaws healthily. Its goal is to isolate you from everyone else and tear down your self-esteem, frequently targeting yourself and the people closest to you. The best course of action is to listen and ignore the advice of your critical inner voice as its only goal is to destroy your relationships — your own personal self-saboteur.
This does not mean ignoring any actual shortcomings of your partner and never holding them accountable for their actions. It merely means learning to recognize when your critical inner voice is speaking and then ignore it. Instead of focusing on your partner’s insignificant flaws, intentionally seek out the things that make you smile, laugh, and bring joy. The voice of gratitude will always beat your inner critic and will help you fall back in love in no time.
Say Goodbye to Stagnancy!
Feeling stagnant in a long-term relationship is nothing to be ashamed of. Maintaining a healthy relationship with your partner requires effort and a listening ear. Even those relationships that look perfect on the outside have gone through their fair share of hard times. However, by following these steps and listening to what your partner has to say, you are well on your way to leaving stagnancy in your relationship behind.