The “spark” two people feel at the beginning of a relationship can quickly grow into a roaring fire with patience and care. Many people are attracted to the “honeymoon phase” in the early stages of a relationship because this is usually when both partners are actively putting in the effort to maintain the relationship and keep the other person satisfied and happy.
As time goes on, you might fall into a routine and your relationship may become stagnant, or the fire starts to dim. Going to work, tidying up the house, or walking the dog, can all become monotonous parts of a daily routine. At a certain point, you might feel like you’re spending time with a roommate or friend rather than your romantic partner. And if you’re someone in recovery, it’s especially crucial to form meaningful relationships with your boyfriend or girlfriend – a relationship that’s balanced and supports you in being the best version of yourself.
Follow the tips below to learn about rekindling the “spark” in your relationship:
1. Improve Communication
In long-term relationships, it is important to work on open and honest communication about wants and needs. When people feel that their love is fading, this is often rooted in getting stuck in a rut around mutuality. If you are familiar with your partner’s wants and needs, there may be hesitation or fear around bringing up desires outside of the ‘mold’.
For example, if I know that my partner is “not artsy”, I may never share my dreams of doing a pottery class together in fear that they won’t approve. This unmet desire can turn into resentment, likely evoking anger or pain at myself and my partner. Share your desires that have yet to be explored with your partner. Bring up new ideas and allow stepping out of your relationship’s comfort zone to create new experiences that lead to growth.
This concept has broad applications. It might look like having more honest conversations about one’s intimate desires, new activities to do together, and finding more opportunities for quality time such as starting a new bedtime or morning routine together. These honest conversations could also help you share thoughts about how to improve the levels of connection, excitement, and closeness within the relationship.
2. Try New Experiences Together
Aligned with the previous point, falling into a routine is great for a sense of stability but not for keeping the flame alive. Although stability is important, there is always room to step out of your comfort zone. Boredom is not conducive for spark in any relationship. Break free of your regular day-to-day actions and carve out time to explore new things and adventure together. Bring spontaneity back into the relationship to rekindle that romance in a way that works for you, such as planning an exciting date or a weekend getaway.
3. Create Some Separation to Better Connect
Similarly, familiarity can influence a lull in relationships. Esther Perel (in her book ‘Mating in Captivity,’ which I would highly recommend) speaks about how in relationships, the separateness between two partners is what allows them to connect. I find that to be a brilliant and often overlooked point.
Our culture often pressures you to be “one” with your partner. However, that intention is often counterproductive for intimacy and the “spark” that exists. Instead, do things for yourself; stand on your own two feet as an individual alongside your partner doing the same. You may find that having more balance between your individual wants and needs and the relationship’s wants and needs, leads to more excitement and rekindling of the relationship. It is nearly impossible for one partner to meet all the other person’s needs. Asking them to do so may be a big part of the decline in spark and passion.
4. Work on Differentiation of Self
In family systems theory, the term “differentiation of self” refers to the skillset needed to balance the two opposing forces of individuality and togetherness. This is achieved through balancing all parts of the relationship and seeing them as separate yet equally important. There are three components in a healthy relationship between two people: me, you, and we. Differentiation is about allowing enough time and space for all 3 of those parts to prosper.
One application of differentiation that I notice a lot in working with couples is balancing coregulation and self-regulation. Coregulation is when one partner goes to the other person for soothing when they are struggling. Whereas self-regulation is the ability to acknowledge and move through one’s challenging feelings independently using a self-initiated coping skill. For example, if I go to my partner with every hardship I am experiencing, I may be suffocating the relationship by putting pressure on them to always be the one to hold me up. That’s too much me and not enough you or we.
On the same note, if I am always the one calling with a problem and the conversation is consistently about me and my needs, that denies my partner the space to share their unique feelings, wants, and needs. Therefore, it’s important to build a diverse support system. There are things I bring to my partner, but also things I can work through with a friend, therapist, or on my own. Doing so can generate balance, lightness, joy, and excitement, as well as rekindle the spark in long-term relationships. Make sure all 3 parts–me, you, and we–feel prioritized.
5. Prioritize More Alone Time
Things like raising a child and focusing on a career can create natural wedges in partnerships. Let’s consider the shift from partner to parent. The focus turns from one another to the adorable and fragile being that is quite literally crying out for all the attention. This naturally means less couple-focused quality time, often meaning less romance and intimacy, leading to less “spark”.
Once both parents adjust to having a child, this may create more opportunities to shift back towards one another. Take advantage of these moments. Maybe the kids are old enough now to be more self-sufficient. If that is the case, this is a perfect time to “fall back in love again” and “date again” to rekindle the relationship. There can be similar shifts due to a busy career, where early into one’s career there is pressure to focus on achievement through hard work and long hours. If there is now a sense of stability in the career, setting boundaries for better work-life balance can prompt more time and space to focus on one another.