It might be hard to admit, but relationships take work. Once all the ‘firsts’ wear off, sexually, mentally and externally, it’s up to both of you to fan the flames in other ways. But, you know what? When you love someone, it’s a pretty easy fire to light and entirely worth it.
Here’s how to do it.
Don’t sweat the small stuff
In the beginning of a relationship, chances are you want to rip each other’s clothes off every time you lock eyes. It’s hard to
believe that, a couple of years or so on, it’s possible to think nothing other than, “why didn’t you take the garbage out last night?”
It’s generally the sad result of living together in so-called domestic bliss, only to find you’re filled with expectations about how that should look. You nag, criticize and blame each other for all the little things in life, which results in seeing your relationship as little more than a partnership in work, chores and mundanity.
Think about this – is it really worth losing your precious spark, just because one of you leaves the toilet seat up? Not sweating the small stuff is about looking at the bigger picture and realising that, though it’s important to compromise, domestic bliss just doesn’t exist.
Actually, even saying the word ‘domestic’ conjures relationship boredom. Accept each other’s little flaws and try your best to take your focus off them. Remember, that even if you always have to wash his breakfast dishes, chances are he’s making up for it in other ways.
The trick is to always keep your eye on the overall picture, rather than the crusty cereal bowls.
Communicate with more laughter and less stress
It’s easy to use your partner as a sounding board, especially when times are tough at work, with family or anything else that causes stress and unhappiness. Support for each other is a necessary, beautiful thing. Taking your stress out on your loved one is not.
There’s a big difference between communicating issues and passive-aggressively unleashing them because of a bad mood or anxiety. You’re on each other’s sides, so communication needs to remain respectful of normal boundaries. That’s not to say fighting isn’t a healthy part of a relationship, as it’s often one of the best ways to learn about each other. So long as the fight is relevant to both of you with regards to relationship growth, rather than a one-sided battle because someone has a bad day.
Be there for each other as you would for your friends, with humour, empathy and understanding. Talk about silver linings and laugh about the absurdity of life. Most of all, if you find yourself saying something you’d never, ever say to a friend or family member, you’re probably crossing boundaries that’ll put you firmly on the path to extinguishing the spark.
Take care of yourself
Hanging out in your tracky daks on the couch is comfy, fun and often the perfect way to spend a rainy Sunday. There’s nothing wrong with being yourself and letting your partner see the real you, without the need to impress them with makeup, clothes and perfect hair, like you might have done in the beginning.
Problems start when one or both of you let go of appearances completely, due to thinking you no longer have to make any effort. Apart from lowering your own self-esteem, it’s pretty hard to feel turned on by someone who’s seriously overweight and unhealthy or can’t be bothered changing their undies on a regular basis.
To keep the spark alive and maintain your own confidence, make an effort with yourself, at least on a semi-regular basis. It’s fun to look at your partner and think, “wow, he looks so hot”, not to mention a total turn on. Visuals are a huge part of daily stimulation, so it’s a big mistake to take your exclusivity for granted, to the point of slob-like living (unless you’re both really into that kind of thing).
Practice daily gratitude
How often do you thank your partner, for all the little things he does to make you smile? Maybe he opens every door for you, kisses your forehead and tickles your back before you sleep or cooks your favourite food on Sunday nights. On the flip side, do you feel constantly appreciated for the things you do for him?
Positive energy is so important in a relationship and practising daily gratitude is one of the best ways to foster it. Instead of focusing on flaws, find things to compliment each other about, every single day. Say thank you for all the little acts and actually take a moment to really feel gratitude for them.
Always remember that, no matter how long you’ve been together, your partner doesn’t actually have to do things to make you happy (that’s up to you), they’re doing it because they love you. Nothing stokes those flames like feeling appreciated, wanted and confident that your partner notices how much you give.
Invest quality time
With work, friends, family and hobbies, your relationship is often the first thing to take a back seat to all the busyness of life. Before you know it, you’re conversations revolve around who has time to fit in the grocery shopping, rather than stimulating topics that keep you both engaged and involved in life together.
Quality time means alone time each week, putting each other first when it matters and making an effort to enjoy life together, instead of letting routine take over. If you have to schedule dinners, trips away or cosy nights in because one or both of you is tackling study, work or a big project, prioritise doing so. Presumably, you were attracted to each other because you love spending time together. Not doing so only serves to drive a wedge through your connection, killing the spark as it goes.
Give each other space
On the opposite end of investing in quality time, is suffocating the relationship by being joined at the hip. Often, this happens when one or both partners start feeling needy, insecure or wholly dependent on the other. A relationship is about two, individual people weaving through each other’s life journeys, not merging into one long, boring road on the way to resentment, boredom and feeling trapped.
Maintaining your own hobbies, kicking separate goals and expressing your unique personalities is just as important as doing things together. In fact, this is why interest sparks in the first place, because it’s exhilarating being around someone who’s confident and in charge of their own life.
Spice up your sex life
It’s a harsh reality, but, no matter how much lust you once felt, having sex with the same person – over time – can get monotonous. The thing is, it really doesn’t have to. Sure, you’ve found all the best positions, discovered each other’s wild side and know all the right spots to trigger orgasms.
However, sex really is a never-ending journey of exploration, as long as you put in the effort to keep it fresh. First things first, no matter how tired, busy, stressed or frustrated you are, make sex a priority. It keeps your emotional connection and intimacy alive. Plus, even if you don’t feel like it, once you start you’ll soon remember what you’re missing out on.
Spice things up by deliberately turning each other on. Send sexy texts or pictures throughout the day, be teasingly affectionate when you’re doing everyday things, be cheeky and playful, dress up, role play and have sex outside of the bedroom. Want him to throw you up against the wall in a fit of lust, like he did at the beginning? Ask for it. It’s not likely he’s going to say no to spicing up your sex life.
Keep spontaneity alive
Everyone loves free-spirited people who live life spontaneously, saying yes to adventure and defying boring routines. While you may love the idea of settling into domestic bliss, it’s the routines that go along with it that eventually – and inevitably – kill the spark.
While you may love the idea of settling into domestic bliss, it’s the routines that go along with it that eventually – and inevitably – kill the spark.
Personal growth is the only thing that keeps you moving forward towards evolving, instead of sinking into a rut. Just like those times when you hate your job because of mundane tasks, long-term relationships fall into the trap of pre-conditioned behaviours, repetitive arguments, boring patterns and narrow-minded perceptions.
Make a point of escaping everyday life together, by travelling overseas to a new place, taking weekend road trips, socialising in new circles, learning something or even just thinking up little surprises, to make your partner smile.
Be best friends
Isn’t it nice to feel like your partner in life, crime and housework is always on your side? Best friends are often much less judgemental, more sympathetic and eager to work through problems than couples because the expectations of the relationship are different. The key here is, they don’t have to be.
Nothing kills a spark more than your once beloved sex god or goddess, picking on you, instead of accepting, helping and supporting you. Being best friends means dropping notions of what relationships are supposed to look like, and feeling curious about your partner and the individual path they’re on. You want to encourage them to grow and learn, rather than hold them back because of your own opinions, desires or expectations.
Never lose sight of the fact that your bodies, minds and souls connected, before all the rubbish of life piled on top of the fire. Focus on that and view each other as friends, lovers and teachers, not a fixed pair of non-changeable zombies. Most of all, stay present and engaged every time your eyes connect.
Not only will the spark stay alive, it’ll catch light and glow even brighter than before.