Keeping a long-term relationship alive takes a lot of work.
The beginning phases of a relationship are often thought of as the best. Every conversation and each touch leaves us wanting more and more — and it’s all so effortless.
After a while, those feelings of giddiness and excitement are replaced with less enthralling day-to-day.
Sometimes, it can make you wonder whether you’ve lost that attraction or desire, and maybe even make you question your bond entirely.
But, there’s nothing wrong with this new attachment phase and with a little effort and determination, you can spice up your relationship.
The best part? The more often you do it, the easier it will become.
Here are 4 things to know about keeping a long-term relationship alive.
1. Both people in the relationship should be doing the work.
We grow up in a world that tells us that if we’re with the right person, love, attraction, and sex are going to be easy.
But, while Hollywood rom-coms and our social media feeds are filled with these images, relationship and sex therapists like myself see what others don’t.
We see the couples who are struggling with building a connection. The couples who feel like something is missing because they’re not having sex. The couples who’ve stopped looking at each other lovingly.
There’s nothing wrong with a relationship that feels a little lackluster — it just needs a boost. Once this is acknowledged, injecting a little life into your relationship doesn’t have to be so hard.
2. Working on your relationship can be fun.
Once you’re on board with being proactive about your relationship, you can set to work doing things that infuse it with fun.
A few things to try include reminiscing about fun memories, surprising each other with date nights, and trying something new in the bedroom.
If you’re specifically looking for ways to connect on a deeper level, the “36 questions” are an excellent resource. Based on a research experiment, the 36 questions were designed to create a connection and, possibly even love, between complete strangers.
The questions range from the simple to the vulnerable, and include things like, “Would you like to be famous? In what way?”
Or “If you were to die this evening with no opportunity to communicate with anyone, what would you most regret not having told someone? Why haven’t you told them yet?”
3. It helps to know each other’s love languages.
When it comes to keeping a long-term relationship alive, addressing the five love languages can be an important part of the equation.
Created by Dr. Gary Chapman, the five love languages showcase the different ways in which people experience and show love.
Usually, everyone has one preferred way of expressing love and it’s not always the same language for both people in a couple.
Due to the differences in your preferred love languages, communication difficulties can arise, leading to a less-than-happy relationship.
Understanding your own love language and that of your partner’s is like uncovering a shortcut to better communication and therefore, more love and intimacy in your relationship.
The five different languages are:
Words of affirmation: Receiving compliments or hearing someone tell you they love you is the best way for you to experience love.
Acts of service: When someone does something for you, like throws away the rubbish or cleans the bathroom, you feel loved.
Receiving gifts: Thoughtful presents really show you you’re cared for and loved by your partner.
Quality time: You feel the most loved when your partner makes an effort to spend time with you and give you their undivided attention.
Physical touch: Hugging, cuddling in bed, or just being stroked on your arm is your preferred way of being shown love.
4. Attraction and desire can be re-awakened.
Don’t just focus on the physical side of attraction and sex.
While you might have been drawn to your partner because of the way they looked, attraction is often multi-layered and depends on lots of different things.
For some, it’s about the way their partner sounds when they laugh, for others, it’s about the way they smell, the jokes they tell, or the way they shower them with attention.
By focusing on the very things you used to find attractive, you may very well start to feel that pull towards your loved one again.
This is also a great way of getting out of a negative spiral where all you can see is your partner’s annoying qualities.
Other times, stronger measures are needed in order to experience that lusty feeling with your partner again.
Relationships need your attention and energy in order to remain fun and fulfilling.
Once they get this, the attraction and connection of the early days can be relived, not all of the time (there are only so many hours in a day!), but enough to keep you happy and satisfied.
And now that you know about the four ways of keeping a long-term relationship alive, make a note in your calendar of which one you’re going to start with and stick to it.
Leigh Norén is a sex therapist and writer with a Master of Science in Sexology. She’s been featured in Thrive Global, The Good Men Project, Elephant Journal, Glamour, The Minds Journal, and more. For more relationship advice, visit her website. To increase intimacy in your relationship, download her free resource: The Guide for Intimacy.
This article was originally published at LeighNoren.com. Reprinted with permission from the author.