You’ve been with your partner so long you can’t even remember what you talked about last night at dinner or what he was wearing this morning. You’ve heard all his stories and jokes—most of them many times. Lately, you’re feeling the need to spice things up—to get out of the humdrum daily routine together that you both fall into so naturally. Is he feeling this way too, you wonder?
When you and your longtime partner reach the point where there are few surprises, and life together feels ordinary and maybe even a bit boring, it’s time to take some action. What you need to do is get together again, to reestablish and rediscover your connection.
The simplest way to get together is to just do so. This is so obvious, yet too few couples make the effort. We tend to become lazy, unconscious, and allow other activities to take precedence, and soon the time for having closeness unravels. Specialness disappears into the mundane. Tasks get done, but the sparkle of the relationship fades.
Allowing this to continue unaddressed can lead to real stagnation in a long-term relationship. You can fix it before it gets to that point.
Here are seven guidelines to help you broach the subject with your partner, and set up togetherness time in a way that works well for both of you.
About the worst thing you can do when you’ve been in a dry spell with your partner is to blame yourself or him. It’s not a matter of who is guilty or to blame. It’s more that couples don’t know how to keep the precious thread of their love alive. No one teaches us, or we learn dysfunctional ways from family, culture, and friends.
Friends tell us that loss of passion and infrequent lovemaking are to be expected. After all, they say, a long relationship can’t expect to have the same excitement as when you first met. “Just deal with it,” or “This is as good as it gets,” is the usual advice. Don’t settle. Why not expect more and learn to develop a connection between you and your partner that is as alive, thriving, and fully developed as you are?
We call making time for one another other each week a “date,” but it’s really consciously setting aside time to be together and focusing on the needs, wants, and desires of yourself and your partner. This takes mindfulness and mutual caring. It’s quite a bit more profound when one defines it this way.
Make it easy.
You don’t have to go the most spectacular event or participate in something expensive or elaborate. Simple and quiet is often the ticket. A weekly walk is a great way to spend time together. So is a weekly TV show that you both love and look forward to watching together. When we ritualize ordinary activities, they become important to us as times to de-stress and unwind together.
Invite feelings on your date.
Use the time together to share your feelings. Check in with your partner: What are his biggest stressors these days? How’s he feeling about work? How’s he feeling about his health? Agree to spend some time on his and your emotional well-being (but not the whole time). Share what you feel and need. Listen to your partner.
Notice positive qualities.
Make a mental note of your partner’s strengths and admirable traits. Bring up what pleases you. Express what you see that has changed and that you like. Don’t ignore the problems, but support and affirm those qualities about your partner and the relationship that are working.
Do something out of the usual.
Routine dates are great. But it’s also essential to keep an element of surprise in the relationship. Commit to putting some effort into your time together. Try to come up with some new ideas, together and separately, that sound fun and exciting to both of you. Taking small risks together is good for the health of your relationship.
Psychoanalytic psychotherapist Daniela Roher PhD and Jungian analyst Susan Schwartz PhD are coauthors of a new book, Couples at the Crossroads: Five Steps to Finding Your Way Back to Love.