The butterflies you feel at the beginning of a relationship can easily die if you don’t feed them, leaving you fumbling to rekindle your relationship later on. It’s why the honeymoon phase gets all the hype — it’s usually the time when both partners are actively making an effort to keep the other satisfied and happy.
But as the relationship matures, that effort to maintain a special connection can gradually diminish and the fire you felt at the beginning can slowly burn out. Things can become monotonous, and the excitement almost nonexistent. “Most couples fall into a comfort zone and typical routines with their partner. While this provides us feelings of safety and security in our relationship, it can reduce feelings of excitement, spontaneity and overall newness that brings a spark,” says Dr. Shelley Sommerfeldt, a licensed clinical psychologist and founder of the Loving Roots Project, a relationship coaching site.
If this sounds like your relationship, all hope isn’t lost. As long as both of you are motivated and willing to make an effort, it’s never too late to reintroduce that excitement, says Sommerfeldt. But it will require you to work through some issues you may have been avoiding. Lessening the distance that may have grown between you calls for communication, reconnection, affection and intimacy.
If you’re unsure how to start growing closer to your partner again, here are seven expert-recommended tips on how to rekindle a relationship.
1/Make time to talk
The beginning of a relationship is often motivated by the excitement that comes with making a new connection. So you find yourself doing things that might be out of character, like talking on the phone or texting for hours, even if it means missing out on sleep.
It comes from a desire to be “more present, in-tune, and engage in more active listening,” says Sommerfeldt. When you start developing feelings for someone you want to know everything about them, so you make an active effort to engage in conversation often. That effort naturally diminishes the longer you’re in a relationship.
“Oftentimes, later in relationships, we may not be as attentive and this can come off as dismissive and uncaring to our partners. In order to rekindle that love in a relationship, be sure to make time to really talk with your partner.” When you ask how their day went, actively listen. This also means taking these run-of-the-mill conversations a step further by asking for details such as updates about a work project they’d mentioned a few days before. Being present and mindful will send your partner a message of care and love, says Sommerfeldt.
2/Share gratitude and appreciation.
“We often pay close attention to validating and positively reinforcing our partner during the initial stages of dating or marriage,” says Sommerfeldt. However, as the relationship treads on this kind of effort fades into the background, which can often result in your partner feeling unappreciated.
Think about all the ways your partner contributes to your relationship. It could be anything from the fact that they fix you a plate when you come home hungry, use their handy skills to repair things around the house, or walk the dog in the mornings so you have an extra few minutes of sleep. You’ve probably always been grateful for these gestures, but haven’t actually articulated them since you’ve come to expect them at this point. The key to strengthening your relationship is saying so out loud, says Sommerfeldt. Let your partner know that you notice the many ways they show their love and always have.
3/Try something new together.
The start of a relationship often flourishes because you’re creating new memories with a new person. And while you may think your days of adrenaline-filled adventures are over, they don’t have to be. It’s totally possible to carve out opportunities for novel one-on-one time.
“While routines are helpful and create predictability and certainty in the relationship, having new and spontaneous activities can foster excitement and a much-needed change,” says Sommerfeldt. Now’s the time to try that new recipe you’ve had your eye on, invite your partner to take a dance class with you, or start a garden in your backyard. By doing something totally new, you’ll make discoveries about yourselves and each other that will bolster your connection.
TBH, your makeout sessions are probably not as intense as they use to be and that’s normal. But physical affection is one area you should really work at if you’re trying to rekindle your relationship.
“It increases chemicals in the brain, such as endorphins and oxytocin, which send signals of care, love, and safety,” says Sommerfeldt. And the more you do it, the more it becomes an automatic — but genuine — part of your relationship. Now, this doesn’t mean you have to straddle your partner when they least expect it. Start with something that feels natural — whether it’s reaching out and stroking their arm, holding their hand while you watch TV, or giving them a quick peck while you’re making dinner.
5/Plan date nights for some alone time.
Striking a balance between catering to your relationship and your other responsibilities is hard, especially when work schedules, caring for children, and life in general gets in the way. But it’s important to add some alone time to your busy schedule.
“Having some dedicated time to spend alone with your partner on a regular basis really is key to maintaining a strong connection,” says Sommerfeldlt. “During the honeymoon phase, we make an effort to have regular date nights. The same should happen in relationships that are more established.” Plus, planning dates where the two of you can camp out in the backyard or battle it out with board games is also the perfect opportunity to express gratitude for your partner and show some physical attention, too.
6/Shake up your sexual routine.
Your sex life isn’t exempt from falling into a routine either, says Sommerfeldt. Towards the beginning of your relationship, you’re just starting to get to know your partner sexually so everything seems sort of novel, plus you’re more open to mixing things up between the sheets as you become more familiar with your partner intimately. But once you’ve been in the relationship for a while, you can become so comfortable with your routine, you stop seeking ways to spice up your sex life.
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“It can be helpful to shake up your usual sexual routine by trying new positions, changing locations where you typically have sex or trying something different like candles, romantic music, sex toys, or massage oil,” explains Sommerfeldt. Changing up your usual pattern will bring back some of the honeymoon fun, while giving your intimate connection a boost.
7/Make room for healing and forgiveness.
Arguments and disagreements in a relationship are normal. They often don’t present themselves during the honeymoon phase because at that point we typically do not have criticisms or negative viewpoints toward our partners, says Sommerfeldt. But once the fighting starts, it can be easy to build up resentment and negativity towards your partner.
If this sounds familiar, take some time to reflect on what’s bothering you. Maybe write it out in a journal and include some possible solutions. Once you’ve organised your thoughts, sit your partner down and tell them how it bothers you when they speak over you, for example. Chances are, they’ll feel compelled to open up to you too. From there you can both make actionable plans to do better by each other.
If you’re having trouble expressing yourself the way you want to or you and your partner can’t seem to come up with realistic solutions to your issues, it might be time to bring in a therapist. This way you can better “facilitate healing and forgiveness,” says Sommerfeldt. “It will allow you to release some of these negative patterns and really focus on rebuilding of the love and connection.”
This article was originally published on www.womenshealthmag.com