How to Keep Romance Alive…
Everyone loves the feeling of being in love and why wouldn’t we? It’s exciting, fun, and full of potential. There might be romance, spontaneity, not to mention our brains are releasing all kinds of chemicals that make us feel really good. Well, what happens when that slows down as inevitably happens in long-term relationships? How do we work to hold onto that elusive “spark?”
In working with couples, for marriage counseling, couples therapy, and premarital counseling, we often talk through the struggle to maintain chemistry and connection, especially within long-term relationships. It can be hard to keep romance alive. Now, there are a lot of reasons for this (one being it’s tough work, and life somehow has a way of becoming extraordinarily busy and complex!). However, I find there are a few common misconceptions that couples are often holding onto, that can hold them back from bringing some of that sizzle back into their relationship.
Misconception One: I know everything about my partner, and things feel boring!
The Reality: We as humans are typically excited by “new” things. It makes sense that as the “newness” wears off and we shift into a more comfortable pattern of being with our partner, it becomes more challenging to hold onto the excitement. Here’s the thing- You may know A LOT about your partner, but challenge yourself a little…do you really know everything? We’re constantly changing and so is our partner. This means we can make room to get to know our partner as they continue to grow and change.
Try This: Approach your partner with genuine curiosity and no, I’m not just talking about asking them how their day was (although this is a good place to start). What I mean by this is practice deepening conversations and place assumptions about how your partner might respond to the side. In doing this, you make room to experience your partner differently. This, in turn, might put a little excitement back into your relationship.
Misconception Two: If romance were going to happen, it just should, organically.
The Reality: It’s easy for romance and spontaneity to become lumped together. Often newness and surprise illicit feelings (and even hormones) we’d associate with “the spark.” Here’s the thing, romance can be planned and it doesn’t have to take a whole lot of time. For many people, life becomes so busy and it can feel “awkward” to schedule time for the relationship. However, actively creating time and space to connect with your partner is critical. It’s nearly impossible to reconnect if you don’t make time to do it.
Try This: Create a schedule and routine that will be conducive to spending meaningful time together. For example, schedule 10 minutes to check-in with your partner at the end of the day. Reflect on what has created romance in the past and actively seek ways to re-integrate this into your current circumstances. Remember: romance does not have to be equated with spontaneity or be something totally elaborate — make romance work for you!
Misconception Three: They should just know (what I want/need/feel).
The Reality: This is probably one of the most common statements I hear in working with couples counseling clients. Of course, we’d love for our partner to be so well attuned to us, they automatically know what we think, feel, and need. Here’s the kicker that really throws a wrench in that expectation — no one is a mind reader. Your partner will not inherently know your needs (as much as we’d like them to).
Try This: First, think about what can you control? What you can control is yourself. This means you have a couple options. You can either continue to communicate as you are (i.e., not communicate) and hope your partner will eventually catch on OR you can directly communicate to your partner about what you need whether that’s a date night or a kiss goodnight. Think about what makes you feel loved and let your partner in on the secret!
When giving your partner feedback try to provide specific, action-oriented feedback (e.g. “When you take time to check-in with me, I feel connected to you. Can we work together to make that happen more often?”). Reframe this as an opportunity to teach your partner how to love you, in a way that’s meaningful.
The “spark” that ignited your relationship, although exciting, often tends to flicker in and out and requires minimal work to maintain. What does require work is to maintain the flame that erupted because of that spark. My hope is that in dispelling some of these misconceptions you can begin to work toward throwing some kindling on that flame and reignite the enthusiasm and excitement in your relationship.