How to Make Romance Last in a Long Term Relationship

When you see the word “Romance,” what images does your brain conjure? Perhaps you see ‘Romeo and Juliet’ (just before they die) or you think of ‘Pride and Prejudice’ and the dreamy Mr. Darcy. While both tales are romantic to a point, they’re certainly nothing to base real life upon. They were both written ages ago, and both were quite dramatic!

Now we meet our husbands and wives on the internet or even dating apps, in bars or through mutual friends. No more do we hear about feuding families and the thrill of breaking rules. So why do we continue to think we can make our romance last if we watch another Nicholas Sparks movie or read a steamy novel?

According to the authors of a 2009 study, companionship love, which is what many couples see as the natural progression of a successful relationship, may be an unnecessary compromise. “Couples should strive for love with all the trimmings,” Acevedo said. “And couples in a long term relationship and wish to get back their romantic edge should know it is an attainable goal that, like most good things in life, requires energy and devotion [1].

Love is really hard because…

Do you remember how it first felt to be with your long-time partner? The butterflies, the anxiety? Where did it all go? Now it’s grocery shopping and splitting utility bills. The only night out you get is the one resulting in an empty fridge. Sound familiar?

As time goes by, we get so used to each other, we can predict the others’ response and behavior. We know what makes them tick and what they love. While this is a great thing on some level, it’s certainly not exciting. And if it isn’t exciting, most couples don’t consider it to be very romantic.

While this is all very normal, it doesn’t feel good. We feel bad for being bored with our significant other and we can’t quite pin-point the moment things changed. But there are a few reasons we feel less romantic over time [2].

Disappointment: it’s normal to feel that the passion seems to have gone

People and relationships disappoint us over time. At first, everything is new and shiny. We are put on a pedestal and feel attractive and desirable. Then our partner becomes more and more human, as do we, and we become less excited and enthusiastic about each other.

Hurt happens, even if we don’t want it

Hurt happens. Some things hurt worse than others, like forgotten anniversaries or an especially ugly argument. But often times, we shut down when we get our feelings hurt instead of discussing what happened. When a wall is built, it’s difficult to overcome. This can lead to everything but romance.

Taking each other for granted

This one probably hits home the most, right? At the beginning of a relationship, we feel so honored to be loved by our significant other, but after years of being together, marriage or even a family, we forget that we still have choices. If either party wanted to, they could call it quits. Instead, we feel that we did all the hard work we were supposed to, and the romantic feelings that were once so strong feel more like emotions amongst roommates and companions.

Never, ever give up on romance! You don’t have to compromise

Remember that study on Companionship Love I mentioned earlier? Well that same study found that those who reported greater romantic love were more satisfied in both short and long term relationships. Companion-like love was only moderately associated with satisfaction in both short and long term relationships. And those who reported greater passionate love in their relationships were more satisfied in the short term compared to the long term.

So what does all this mean? Well, it means you need to find a partner who is really there for you and feels like a teammate. Romantic love has the intensity, engagement and sexual chemistry that passionate love has, minus the obsessive component. So if you are confident with your partner, and feel that they contribute to the relationship (and of course you are both physically attracted to each other), you’re on the right track.

Bring the romance back. For good!

When you feel like the spark is dying, or even extinguished, it doesn’t mean you should leave the long term relationship. There are steps to take that can bring that feeling back!

Think of 5 positives for every negative thing in the relationship

Yep, it’s a real thing. While the “itch” or desire to leave/cheat can happen around the third year, it seems the worst around year 7. To help avoid those feelings, consider the 5:1 ratio [3]. For every one negative thing between you and your partner, there should be five positives. While you two have a household to run and maybe even kids to raise, your relationship should still be fun and kind-hearted.

Add something new to reignite the passion

Sure, the early feelings of constantly wanting to undress your partner fade after about a year. After all, new and exciting can only stay new for so long. But things can still be thrilling! Passion, romance and sexual desire/intimacy are essential to any long term relationship. So engage in new activities together! Whether intimate or casual, break out of your comfort zones [4].

Forget about the routine. Do something spontaneous once in a while!

Instead of sitting around and getting depressed about how “bored” or “boring” your partner seems, do something spontaneous! Don’t make your typical plans to see a movie Friday and do brunch sunday; live in the moment! If you’re together right this second, drop what you’re doing and go to a theme park or aquarium.

Seek arousal-producing activities to create that adrenaline rush again!

Do an activity together that creates an endorphin and adrenaline rush! When those feel-good chemicals rush to your brain, that state of heightened arousal can be transferred to your partner and relationship. Whether it’s an intense workout, a scary movie or a roller-coaster, give it a try.

Give yourself enough time to think before leaving

While the feeling of a non-romantic relationship can make you want to call it quits, it’s actually best to ride the wave. When those feelings fade and we start to question if we even want to stay in the relationship, it’s really just because we are no longer caught up in the initial “chase” we loved so much in the beginning. Give yourself some time when those doubts creep up and don’t immediately exit the relationship. But if the doubts come back and the attraction and romance do not, then it may be time to assess the situation [5].

Know that the romance is still there somewhere

All of these points combine to make this one: the romance is still in there somewhere. We get so used to each other and that can lead us to take each other for granted. So plan a spontaneous date night, flirt with each other like you did when you first met. See where it takes you. And above all, communicate and be open to the feeling of romance or lack-thereof. You two fell in love for a reason. Remember that.

Featured photo credit: Freestocks.org via stocksnap.io

Reference

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