Long-term relationships are difficult beasts.
At the start, everything’s new and fascinating. It’s also tense – and exciting – as you carefully reveal yourself and handle every situation to maximize the romance, the togetherness and the spark. In short, you bring your A-game every time and so does she.
Fast forward a few years and the mystery is gone. It just is. It’s not like you’ve exhausted the relationship, not even close, but neither one of you is trying to weave an image to seduce and captivate the other. Which isn’t a problem; it would be exhausting and false: a real, loving relationship is one where you can be your true self, not just the best possible image of you.
But you still can’t escape the face that the frenzied passion of old has given way to a sense of stability, of being part of a unit or a team. It’s a comfortable, safe, warm feeling… but so is nestling into your long-worn ass-groove on the sofa – and that is not what’s going to keep a relationship going. Sooner or later, you’re going to get a sofa with some more bounce in the ass department and your partner might just do the same with you.
So, how do you stop a stale sofa relationship in its tracks? It’s easier than you think
1) Be Surprising
Life is full of routines: commute, work, gym, sports, nights out. Sooner or later, your relationship has become part of that routine. You know what you like, what works for each other, and you fall back on it. One night snuggling up with a cheeky glass of wine and NetFlix has become the same damn thing you do every day.
So mix it up. Be spontaneous and try new things, go to new places, have different experiences together.
On a simple note, turn a boring day into an impromptu date by booking a table for dinner at somewhere you’ve never been before. This is not a planned thing. Don’t talk about it. Just do some sneaky research or ask a friend for a recommendation and make it happen that night. Afterwards, travel home in a different way than usual, stopping to appreciate your surroundings and each other.
If you’re not foodies, swap out the restaurant for a gallery, sports game, cocktail bar, jazz club, cooking class, craft workshop, wine tasting, city bus tour – the only limit is your imagination. The point is to take charge and break the routine.
On the other end of the effort spectrum, organize and book a weekend away, especially if it’s hard to get time together. In the run-up to departure, surprise her with a designer jewelry box with the details of your trip inside and a special necklace or pair or earrings to wear while there.
2) Be Thoughtful
Pay attention to the details of her life and show that you care. Importantly, don’t make the signs that you care just part of your routine.
Example: you know she’s got an important meeting at work. You might say something encouraging before she leaves. You probably know you’re going to hear about it that night whether you ask or not. But that’s not thoughtful, that’s a choice of conversation in your daily routine. So break the routine by texting to wish her good luck again after she’s left or call her during her lunch or right after work to ask how it went – show that you’re interested.
For bonus points, never underestimate the power of cards. Here, a good luck card would be appropriate but the same is true of birthday cards, anniversary cards and even get well soon cards. As your relationship goes on, it can be harder to find new words to express the same feelings but the right card with a short, heartfelt message will always be a simple, inexpensive and tangible display of affection.
On that note: remember key dates (or program them into your online calendar) and details of events. You’ve hopefully got her birthday and your anniversary covered but what about her parents’ or best friends’ birthdays? Or the details of your last holidays together? What did she get you for Christmas last year? Paying attention to these simple details shows that you’re still invested and interested in her life and your relationship.
This last one’s the simplest but also, often, the hardest. With two hectic lives as well as your shared life, too much can get in the way of the quality time you spend together. It’s important to have some distance between you – different interests, different friends – to keep bringing new elements and experiences into your lives but it’s crucial to know when to step in.
If she’s going a through a tough time, whether that’s at work, school or with her friends or family, you probably don’t see it; you hear about it. It may sound like a small, ongoing pity party to you but it’s a big deal to her. This is the time you need to be there: listen to her and show her your support.
Every day, try to understand where you’re needed and be there. You can’t protect her from everything or fix her challenges, but you can give her your strength and support to remind her she’s special.
A stale relationship is a sign that you’ve settled into a comfortable groove but stopped really noticing or appreciating each other – something that came so easily when you were falling in love.
Sparks become comfort become relationship death when you’re sitting alone on the sofa wondering what went wrong.
But you have the power to stop that, to keep your relationship fizzing with excitement, surprise and the deeper support of a mature relationship. Just be surprising, be thoughtful and be there.