It’s easier than you think.
In every relationship, there comes a point where things start to feel less fiery and more friendly. The truth is, all relationships start to lose their luster at some point or another.
The problem? People tend to get passive. “Relationships grow stale generally because the couple avoids confronting the issue,” says Franklin Porter, Ph.D., a psychotherapist in New York. According to relationship experts, falling in love, or back in love, is an intentional act. In other words, there are plenty of things you can do with your partner to turn things around when a relationship is starting to feel meh.
Here, experts offer the seven best ways to fall back in love with your partner.
“When two people feel their relationship has gone stale, it may feel to them as if they’ve grown apart. But very often the problem is they’ve failed to grow apart,” says Stephen Snyder, M.D., sex and relationship therapist and author of Love Worth Making. The exciting feels you get when you’re first falling in love with someone stem from the idea that you’re getting to know someone who’s totally new and different, he says. Taking that journey together is exciting. “Once you’ve become a couple, the next big risk is to become two separate people,” Snyder says. “It can be quite relationship-enhancing when you pursue a passion that your partner has absolutely no interest in. This gives your partner a chance to truly see you as ‘other.’” Take the cooking class your partner was never interested in, solo. Sign up for a Crossfit gym even if bae is a die-hard yogi. If there’s someplace you’ve always wanted to go that’s not on your S.O.’s travel list, bring your bestie instead.
Speaking of traveling, “there is nothing like a vacation, away from work, family, and the stress of everyday life, to bring couples closer,” says Porter. “Sharing new experiences and adventures, or revisiting romantic places shared from the exciting days of the relationship, can go a long way towards reminding the couple what attracted each to the other.” Even if it’s just a quick weekend stay at a fun Airbnb an hour away, putting yourselves into that fun, stress-free environment can do wonders for a lagging sex life, Porter adds.
Checking emails at the dinner table and bringing your phone with you to bed isn’t just bad for your own mental health, it’s bad for your relationship. “It is important to establish a clear line of demarcation between work and home, and where at all possible, leave work at work,” Porter says. It’s okay to vent to your spouse about the stupid thing your tyrant boss did this time, but you don’t want complaining to be the focus of all your conversations with your partner, he adds. “That suggests at least part of your energy is elsewhere.” Instead, make more of an effort to focus on things you’re both interested in talking about at the dinner table.
Rather than going on and on about your own life, one of the keys to falling back in love is—you guessed it—listening. “Spend some time talking together in a different way,” says Snyder. “One talks, the other just listens. As the listener, see if you can stop yourself as much as possible from merely formulating your own responses. Instead, just listen.” It may feel a little strange at first to be so intentional about your daily conversations, but that means you’re doing it right, says Snyder. “That strangeness is where all the good stuff happens.”
When you’re dealing with the daily grind, it’s easy to stop noticing your S.O. Sure, you see them every day but are you really seeing them? Paying more attention can help you fall back in love. “Noticing your partner, complimenting his or her appearance or making random gestures of appreciation, will make the other feel more attractive and desirable, and likely increase desire,” says Porter. In other words, bring back some of the flirty texts and extra-long stares you shared when you were first dating.
“Another opportunity to enhance your separate identities in a relationship comes about when the two of you fundamentally disagree about something,” says Snyder. Again, it may seem counterintuitive, but a good old-fashioned disagreement can help you remember that your partner is his or her own person with distinct thoughts—not just an extension of yourself. “The process forces you to think as a couple while making sure each of your real needs are taken into consideration,” says Snyder. “You’ll also most likely discover new things that you never would have considered on your own.”
Sometimes all it takes to help you reconnect is scheduling a date night—no kids, no friends, just the two of you. To make it more fun, Porter suggests taking turns planning the evenings and keep the details under wraps. “There can be a common agreement that each partner will be totally open to the other’s idea of a date for the evening,” says Porter. That way, you both get to take part in the surprise and get excited about planning something special.