After the honeymoon phase, the feel-good neurochemicals may wear off, but that doesn’t have to mean the end of your romance.
It’s natural for relationships to shift in stages. The initial passion that made it hard to keep your hands off each other isn’t sustainable in the long term — you’d never get anything done, right?
Over time, it alchemizes into something deeper: An intimate bond that reflects how much the two of you have been through as a couple.
But if you miss the fizzle, you’re not alone. There are many ways to reconnect with your partner to keep your relationship alive and thriving.
In short, life gets complicated.
“Couples tend to take on more responsibilities as years go on,” says Marina Rosenthal, PhD, a clinical psychologist in Minneapolis. “So, in addition to being lovers and romantic partners, they need to serve as a unified financial team, parents, caregivers of elderly relatives, and so on.
“These roles generally don’t fuel romance, though they can create a sense of intimacy and trust,” she says.
How you view your partner may change as well. Couples often undergo a polarization process in which differences start to seem like problems, says Rosenthal.
“For example, in a relationship where one person’s spontaneity balanced the other’s cautiousness, over time the partners may start to think of each other as reckless or boring,” she says.
In between your busy schedule and endless to-do lists, it’s still possible to steal moments of romance. Here are some tips to try.
Even if you’re an established couple, try to pencil in date night. Dress up. Reservations. Intimate eye contact with sly footsie under the table—the whole 9 yards.
If going out is not an option right now, consider cooking an intimate dinner at home and creating a restaurant ambiance with candlelight and soft music.
“Many couples spend a lot of their time together trying to make decisions and solve problems, so try to plan some dates where you will definitely not solve or decide anything,” says Rosenthal. “Instead, share what you’re thinking and feeling about different aspects of your lives.”
While you’re out and about, you may find it helpful to ask each other thoughtful questions from the book “Questions for Couples Journal.”
Bring in the apps
One of the joys of being in love in the 21st century…there’s an app for that.
Take on a beginner’s mind
Try to pretend you don’t know anything about your partner. Then, you can explore their interests like it’s a brand new relationship — and that includes in the bedroom.
Surprise your partner
“Try to appreciate your partner and show your love,” says Shagoon Maurya, a psychotherapist in Adelaide, Australia. “Surprise them with small gestures, like taking them out for a date or have a movie night together.”
Amp up the ambiance
Try to turn everything into a sensory experience. Consider making your dinner atmosphere more inviting by adding candlelight. Try rose petals in a shared bath. A little extra effort can set the mood.
Consider creating a sense of adventure and excitement in your relationship by visiting new places together, says Rivkah Slatkin, a marriage counselor and co-founder of The Marriage Restoration Project.
“Traveling is a great way to recharge your relationship,” she says. “Besides providing much-needed time away, it returns you refreshed, invigorated, and hopeful that you can establish new patterns to avoid getting sucked back into the humdrum of everyday living.
“You need not travel across the ocean,” she adds. “Even a short overnight trip can do the job.”
Try to find one day a week to power down your devices and enjoy each other’s company without distractions.
Learn something new together
Whether it’s an art class or a couple’s yoga workshop, you can find new ways to bond.
“When the brain learns something new, it not only creates new neural pathways, it also brings about more joy and excitement,” says Slatkin. “Now, do it together with your spouse, and the positive energy is compounded. It also provides a fresh new experience that you can share together.”
Stoking the fire to prevent it from going out is easier than building a whole new one, right? Relationships work the same way.
Try to learn your partner’s love language
We all like to express and receive love in different ways.
“Learn about Dr. Gary Chapman’s five love languages: Words of affirmation, quality time, receiving gifts, acts of service, and physical touch,” says Slatkin.
“While you may feel loved when receiving a gift, your spouse may prefer you driving carpool or giving them a hug,” she says. “Knowing your spouse’s love language may help you make sure that you’re not just practicing caring behaviors, but that the intended results are achieved — your spouse actually feels cared for.”
Consider working with a couple’s therapist
Couple’s counseling may benefit you in various ways, regardless of the nature and the severity of the problem, says Maurya.
“Couple’s counseling can help you understand your partner and their needs, leading to effective communication,” she explains. “It can help your decision making skills and negotiation habits. It also can improve the lost intimacy and ‘spark’ in the relationship by helping you reconnect with your partner at a deeper level.”
You may find it helpful to find a therapist using our search tools.
It’s natural for relationships to become less passionate over time.
To help combat this, try new activities, get away from familiar surroundings, and remember all the reasons you fell in love with your partner in the first place. It may also be helpful to work with a couple’s therapist.
Books can also be a valuable resource as well. You may find it useful to dig into some of these therapist-recommended titles:
No matter what, there’s no reason to lose hope. Consider trying different strategies. With some solid intention and effort, it’s possible to recapture some of that early excitement.