keep the pass ion alive

How to bring the ro­mance – and the spark – back into a long-term re­la­tion­ship

Essentials (South Africa) - - CONTENTS NOVEMBER 2018 -

Keep­ing the pas­sion alive in a re­la­tion­ship is of­ten a del­i­cate bal­anc­ing act, and it’s nor­mal for long-term cou­ples to go through times when the spark seems to have di­min­ished (or even died al­to­gether). It can be a slow process fu­elled by is­sues like un­der­ly­ing anger and re­sent­ment, stresses at work or on the home front, or even one or both part­ners not putting the ef­fort in to help make each other feel spe­cial. ‘Avoid­ance – that’s when you avoid talk­ing about your prob­lems, be it any­thing from fix­ing the sink to the lack of in­ti­macy be­tween you – can re­sult in you avoid­ing the vul­ner­a­ble or height­ened states in a re­la­tion­ship, and that can di­min­ish pas­sion,’ ex­plains re­la­tion­ship ex­pert Saman­tha Kra­jina. ‘An­other big pas­sion idler is if one half of a cou­ple doesn’t know what brings them ful­fil­ment and goes on a search to find out.’

Sim­i­larly, if one part­ner doesn’t al­low the other to fol­low what ful­fils them, the pas­sion within the re­la­tion­ship can quickly fiz­zle. An­other pas­sion killer comes from, strangely enough, spend­ing too much time to­gether. Re­searchers at Columbia Univer­sity tracked hun­dreds of cou­ples over sev­eral years and found that be­ing too close could, in fact, be just as dam­ag­ing to a re­la­tion­ship as not be­ing close enough.

Psy­chol­o­gist Lily Tay­lor agrees.

‘ Stay­ing “en­meshed” as a cou­ple might mean also hav­ing some kind of im­plicit agree­ment that you’re not go­ing to change or grow. That could mean only so­cial­is­ing with one cir­cle of friends, and ex­clud­ing cer­tain peo­ple out of fear or threat to the re­la­tion­ship, or mak­ing ev­ery de­ci­sion to­gether,’ she ex­plains. ‘ But in do­ing this

we deny our part­ner’s con­tin­ued per­sonal growth, which is what helps to keep the re­la­tion­ship fresh.’ Saman­tha ex­plains that happy, pas­sion­ate re­la­tion­ships are cre­ated when we can strike a balance be­tween cre­at­ing an iden­tity as a cou­ple and main­tain­ing who we are as in­di­vid­u­als. ‘ I see cou­ples who tend to stay away from try­ing any­thing new or from in­di­vid­ual ex­pe­ri­ences – ev­ery­thing has to be with their part­ner or fam­ily,’ she says. ‘ But this has a rip­ple ef­fect – when you see your part­ner as an ex­ten­sion of your­self, the dan­ger is that you end up not know­ing what your part­ner wants. You as­sume they want what you want and I’ve seen that lead to re­sent­ment down the line.’

How to bring the pas­sion back to your part­ner­ship

Ro­mance and pas­sion should be the re­spon­si­bil­ity of both par­ties, says Saman­tha. ‘All re­la­tion­ships rely on in­ti­macy and ro­mance to stay alive and to stop you fall­ing into the rou­tine of just liv­ing day to day. This isn’t hard early on in a re­la­tion­ship but as time goes on, the en­ergy to do this and the cre­ative ideas tend to wear thin,’ she says. ‘Many peo­ple also think if they com­mu­ni­cate ro­man­tic de­sires to their part­ner it will elim­i­nate the el­e­ment of sur­prise, when it can ac­tu­ally do the op­po­site.’ If your re­la­tion­ship needs a pas­sion boost, try one of these ideas:

1. Scare your­selves

A study pub­lished in the US Jour­nalof Per­son­al­ityandSo­cialPsy­chol­ogy found that when cou­ples did scary ac­tiv­i­ties they wouldn’t nor­mally do – like rid­ing on roller-coast­ers or watch­ing hor­ror movies – it boosted brain chem­i­cals as­so­ci­ated with de­sire. The more ex­cit­ing the ac­tiv­ity, the big­ger the boost. Saman­tha says it’s about ac­tively re­claim­ing that sense of fun and ex­cite­ment you shared when you were dat­ing. Sign up for The En­ter­tainer App ( R495 for Joburg & Pre­to­ria) and check out all the ad­ven­tures you can do to­gether; it’ll give you heaps of ideas and you’ll save money too.

2. Do new things

Just like fun, thrilling ac­tiv­i­ties, new ex­pe­ri­ences that you share to­gether can also reignite pas­sion – whether it’s some­thing like eat­ing at a new restau­rant or do­ing a pasta-mak­ing work­shop, says Saman­tha. ‘ Rou­tine is one of the big­gest re­la­tion­ship killers and it’s re­ally hard to be un­pre­dictable – es­pe­cially if you share a joint bank ac­count, know each other’s daily rou­tines back to front and spend all your spare time to­gether. You can break that by do­ing some­thing new that brings you to­gether. You see it in cou­ples who de­cide to train for triathlons or other sport­ing events to­gether – sud­denly they can’t shut up about their new pas­sion, which in­fuses the re­la­tion­ship.’

3. Take ‘me’ time

Cre­at­ing dis­tance can ac­tu­ally make you more at­trac­tive to one an­other, ac­cord­ing to a study pub­lished in Psy­cho­log­i­calS­cience that looked at what’s called the ‘scarcity prin­ci­ple’. Mak­ing your­self scarce some­times, say the ex­perts, gives your part­ner the chance to miss you, so don’t do ev­ery­thing to­gether. Choose a hobby or week­end work­shop – and go and have some solo time. ’Dis­tance gives a re­la­tion­ship its fresh­ness, and a bit of in­trigue,’ says Lily, ‘and the knock-on ef­fect is more de­sire.’ When you go off and have an ex­cit­ing ad­ven­ture apart, you can come back and share ex­pe­ri­ences af­ter­wards, which will in­vig­o­rate the re­la­tion­ship.

4. Make sex fun again

Any long-term cou­ple will tell you it takes work to keep pas­sion alive in the bed­room – es­pe­cially when kids come along and you’re over­taken by par­ent­ing. Saman­tha says, ‘ It’s im­por­tant to get back to be­ing friends and lovers, and turn­ing sex into a game can help. Role play, for ex­am­ple, forces you to tap into your in­di­vid­u­al­ity and get out of your com­fort zone – which can be hot!’

5. Don’t as­sume

All cou­ples suf­fer ‘com­mu­ni­ca­tion gaps’, and in long-term re­la­tion­ships we can fall into the trap of in­ter­pret­ing our part­ner’s ac­tions through our own fil­ter. That’s be­cause the closer you are, the more you as­sume, says Lily. ‘As­sump­tions can re­ally bring re­la­tion­ships un­done. We need to get into the habit of ask­ing open-ended ques­tions of our part­ners, such as, “Let me know what you think about that” or, “This is how I feel about X, how do you feel?”’

6. Stay cu­ri­ous

Do your eyes glaze over when your part­ner launches into an anec­dote you’ve heard a mil­lion times? In­stead, pay­ing at­ten­tion and be­ing in­ter­ested in what they have to say ig­nites more in­ter­est­ing con­ver­sa­tions – like the ones you had when you first met, sug­gests Saman­tha. It’s about ask­ing new ques­tions, even about old sto­ries, and not fall­ing into the mind­set that you know ev­ery­thing there is to know about your part­ner. ‘ We all change over the years but if you stay cu­ri­ous you’ll get new in­sights into who your part­ner is, which can in­ject new pas­sion and ex­cite­ment into the re­la­tion­ship,’ she says.

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