Anyone who has been in a long-term relationship knows that it is easy to fall into a rut. Weeknights seem to follow the same old routine: come home, have dinner, talk about work, watch some TV, go to bed. After a while, even date nights can start to look a little too cookie-cutter: out to dinner, talk about work, catch a movie, go home to bed. While this routine can be comfortable, it can also sap the energy out of your relationship.
After months of the same old routine, it is normal to long for the excitement and romance of those first few months together when everything was new, and each date brought opportunities to learn about your partner and grow closer together.
We are all susceptible to relationship ruts. The good news is that just because a relationship has gotten a little stale doesn’t mean it’s doomed. With a little effort, you can break out of your relationship rut and get back to growing together. Here are a few ideas.
Try Something New Together
Have you ever noticed that sharing a new experience can bring people together? Trying something new forces you out of your comfort zone and provides an opportunity to learn more about each other. Whether it’s something simple, like trying out a new restaurant or type of food, or more structured like taking a class together, experiencing something new with your partner can pump some fun into your routine and create new, shared memories to leave you feeling closer than ever.
We all know that exercise releases endorphins — which means that by getting active with your partner, you get an extra jolt of feel-good brain chemicals that are sure to leave you feeling great about your time spent together.
But neurochemicals aren’t the only benefit; getting active can also mean getting unplugged — away from the TV, computer, or phone that usually keeps you tied up and stressed out. Try going for a long walk or hike. Keeping it low impact makes it easier to talk together, while still getting that great endorphin boost. If you’re feeling the need for a more intense workout, try hitting the court for some tennis, one-on-one basketball, or racquetball. While these activities may keep conversation minimal, they give you a chance to engage in some friendly competition.
Dedicate Some Time for a Random Act of Kindness
Long-lasting, healthy relationships are built on more than feelings; they require a series of daily choices we make to actively care for our partner. One way to cultivate this is by doing something kind for your partner, with no strings attached. A selfless act of kindness not only makes your partner feel cared for, but also helps to grow your own bond to your partner.
Keep in mind that this only works if it is truly selfless; if you’re only helping out to get something in return, you may feel resentful if your kindness isn’t reciprocated. This may require you to do a little extra thinking: Is there a chore or project your partner has been needing some help with or hasn’t had the time for? Is there something you know would make your partner feel extra special? If so, is it something you’re willing to do without the need for something in return?
Set aside some time to help out and/or care for your partner. For example:
- Treat your partner to a night of relaxation. Surprise her with a long back rub or bubble bath (together) to help her de-stress.
- Spend a night doing something your partner enjoys (even if you don’t). Surprise him with tickets to that concert he’s been talking about or join him for a night at the batting cages.
- Make dinner for your partner AND clean up the messy kitchen, without being asked.
Change the Conversation
Even the greatest date can be drained by the same old, routine conversation. Always wind up talking about work? Banish it from the conversation for one night. Have kids? Take the night off from talking about them. Running out of things to talk about? Make a list of topics to randomly select together. Want to make it more romantic? Spend the evening sharing what you appreciate about each other.
Romance can be the first thing to go when you’re stuck in a relationship rut. Cultivating intimacy is an important part of keeping any relationship healthy and growing. While romance can be spontaneous, more often than not it takes a little planning and a lot of intentionality.
Make dinner together and enjoy it by candlelight, or have a movie night in — complete with popcorn and cuddling on the sofa. You might also enjoy a sunset picnic. Scope out a nice viewing spot and bring along a light dinner. Spread out a blanket and enjoy the view and the fresh air together. Stick around long enough, and you can stargaze, too. Just be sure to set aside time to be alone together, talk about your relationship, and get intimate.
Don’t Forget to Date Yourself
Remember the single you? The guy or gal you were before your partner came along? That person had his/her own interests, friends, and routines going on. While it is inevitable that you change a bit during the transition from singledom to coupledom, don’t underestimate the importance of continuing to do the things that make you feel like you.
So spend an evening with your friends without your partner, or treat yourself to a coffee date with a good book or some journaling time. Pick up that hobby you used to love but never make time for anymore. Caring for yourself in these ways gives you more energy to give to your relationship, and helps you avoid losing yourself in your partner.
Photo credits: I Made Yanuarta DPY, grietgriet, Mart1n and asterisc21.