“Love is a temporary madness. It erupts like an earthquake and then subsides. And when it subsides you have to make a decision. You have to work out whether your roots have become so entwined together that it is inconceivable that you should ever part. Because this is what love is.”
― Louis de Bernières, Corelli's Mandolin
We get it, and we’ve been there: your relationship has grown so comfortable that you seem to have misplaced the spark. Silver lining? It’s not the worst problem to have—if you still love each other, you can probably find your way back, as long as you’re both on the same page and equally prepared to put in some extra work. Let’s break it down into actionable steps (listed in no particular order).
Don’t underestimate the importance of touch
You’re probably past the point of wanting to rip each other’s clothes off every time you’re alone in a room together. You might even be to the point where you barely kiss, save for the hello/goodbye peck as one of you walks out the door. That’s not enough, and you know it! Get back to touching each other—each physical contact releases chemicals in your brain that make you feel good. A 20-second hug, for example, can trigger the release of oxytocin, otherwise known as the “cuddle drug.” One of the easiest ways to repair your bond is to hug your partner for at least 20 seconds, 2 or 3 times a day.
Additionally, try sleeping closer together! Spooning at night also releases oxytocin, serotonin, dopamine, and all those feel-good brain chemicals. Even if just for a few minutes as you both fall asleep, all physical contact is good physical contact when it comes to bonding with your partner.
Try an hour of phone-free time every single day
It’s easy to come home from work (or log off and migrate to another room) and immediately lock into your social media scrolls until it’s suddenly 10pm and sleep is calling. That leaves very little room for one-on-one time with your partner, which is essential in rediscovering and/or strengthening your bond. Make a no-phone rule every night around dinnertime, for at least an hour. Help each other cook, talk to each other while you eat, and then hang out a little after dinner. This is the perfect time for a daily check-in—thoughts, feelings, what could be better, what’s going really well.
Get out of town
Most often, the issue at hand is too much routine. Plan a trip (or for bonus points, be super spontaneous) to get away and break up the monotony. It doesn’t have to be a big expensive endeavor—sometimes a 2-hour drive away from home base is more than enough to feel refreshed and renewed. Try implementing your no phone rule for much longer (a whole weekend??), and do some activities you both enjoy, like hiking or playing card games. Creating an opportunity to explore a new place together, and spending real, quality time together will help remind you why you fell in love with this person in the first place.
Don’t forget to show your gratitude
Feeling taken for granted had to be in the top ten for worst feelings ever—especially if it’s by someone you love. Chances are, the biggest culprit here is your routine that has developed over the years; you’ve been doing things for each other over and over, to the point where it is totally normalized. Try not to forget to call out the effort that is put forth, even for the smaller things, like filling up the Brita or giving the stove an extra scrub. If you want to take it a step beyond just telling your partner why you appreciate them, leave them notes thanking them for the small moments and favors. A little note goes a really long way.
To keep your gratitude at the forefront of your mind, try keeping a journal. Each day, add three things you’re grateful for. If there’s someone else involved in a gratitude entry, ask yourself if you’ve told them lately that you’re grateful for them. While it may be obvious to you because of your internal monologue, remember that nobody can read your mind, and open communication is essential.
Make out more!
Making out is the best! Why’d you stop?? This is real science—an Oxford University study found that frequent kissing is even more important than sex when it comes to the quality of and satisfaction in a long-term relationship. Kissing for a minimum of 30 seconds triggers the release of oxytocin, which is responsible for that warm & fuzzy feeling that we know and love. Swap out the quick pecks for mini makeout sessions, or if you want to really level up, try making a rule in which you can’t take it further (i.e. make out like teenagers without being able to have sex until hours later). With this little game, communication is key—tell your partner the plan in order to avoid potential feelings of hurt or rejection. Frame it in a way that makes you both excited for the built-up anticipation—just like the good old days.
Compliment each other
This one should feel easy, and goes hand-in-hand with showing gratitude. Remember when you were still in the courting phase, putting a lot of effort into trying to impress each other? Peacocking, if you will. Just because you’re comfortable with each other and well aware of all the things the other excels at, doesn’t mean you should stop reminding one another why you find them so impressive. Let your partner know what you love about them, from physical to intellectual and emotional. Speaking positively about one another will edge out any negativity that tends to creep into longer relationships, and remind you both why you’re in this for the long haul.
Remember what you love, individually
Don’t let yourself fall into the shadow of your partner, or vice versa. This behavior tends to lead to resentment further down the road—a realization that usually comes way too late to salvage. Hold onto the hobbies and activities you love all on your own, and keep trying new things that interest you independently. Then, come together and support one another within these areas of interest—whether its support from the sidelines or teaching each other how to do these specific activities that make you happy.
Don’t resort to passive aggression
For the love of whomever and whatever you believe in, you must communicate openly and honestly. Being passive aggressive has never in the history of humanity solved anything or salvaged a relationship. If something’s bugging you; if you feel like you do more of the cleaning or grocery shopping, if you’re feeling unwanted because of a lacking sex life, if you’re feeling any type of way at all—please bring it up. Ask to talk, sit down without distractions, and speak with respect and empathy. For best results, don’t condescend, and don’t raise your voice.
Set a weekly or monthly date night
A baby version of “Get out of town” is just setting aside one-on-one time that feels special. When you first met, you were dating! Get back to those initial feelings by getting back into the act of dating. Give yourself a reason to put some extra effort in and get dolled up for each other. Revisit all your favorite spots from the beginning, and explore new places together. Weekly date nights are ideal, but if monthly is more realistic for busier schedules, that’s certainly better than nothing.
Bonus: Activity time!
On small trips of paper, write down reasons why you fell in love—could be tiny little moments, could be major romantic gestures, could be physical, intellectual, or emotional traits that you’ve discovered over the course of your relationship. Designate two jars, one for you and one for your partner, and drop these pieces of paper into its respective jar. This is an ongoing activity—add things when you think of them, and pull one out when you need a warm & fuzzy reminder.