Has your once-happy relationship devolved into bickering, resentment or just ignoring each other? If so, read five ideas to help you put the spark back into it.
Remember when you and your partner were first dating? At one point, you may have torn your eyes away from each other and watched other couples staring silently at their plates across a candlelit restaurant table. ‘Look at that couple not talking’, you may have smugly said to each other, ‘We’ll never be like that.’
Roll on a few years and kids later, and how are things going for you? According to statistics, as many as 42% of marriages in England and Wales end in divorce. So probability says that at least some of you reading this have become that couple, ignoring each other across the restaurant table, or simply having run out of things to say.
But what can you do to halt the steady decline in a relationship, and put the spark back into it? If anyone has a real insight into marriages in trouble it’s a divorce lawyer. And to help you identify ways you can try to put the spark back into yours if you need to (and even if you don’t these suggestions are great habits to get into), Barrie divorce lawyers Galbraith Family Law share their advice.
Five ways to put the spark back into your relationship
Over the years, we’ve seen hundreds of marriages suffering and falling apart due to busy schedules, kids and just plain old familiarity. (If familiarity doesn’t breed contempt, we can tell you that it definitely breeds a stagnant relationship.)
But that doesn’t mean the spark in your in your marriage is dead! What it means is that you’re going to have to work on relighting your fire and jumpstarting your marriage engine.
We believe that it is possible to get that spark back in your relationship, and fall in love with each other all over again. And here are five ideas to help you do it.
1) Be attentive to each other
It’s easy to get into the habit of ignoring your partner and taking them for granted. But one of the best things you can do to help reignite the spark in a relationship is to start being attentive to each other.
This doesn’t mean making a special effort to go out to dinner, or even to start cooking dinner and cleaning the house every night. It simply means talking (and really listening) to each other.
Try to avoid the obvious topics of kids and work. Instead talk about things you each love – the kind of conversations you may have had when you first started dating. You could chat about movies you’ve seen, mutual friends, hobbies each of you enjoys… anything to reconnect with each other.
Why will this work? Because when people are married or in a long term relationship, they tend to forget about each other’s day to day desires and interests, focusing on the ‘important’ stuff like money and work. This often leads to a disconnect between each other, and as you become increasingly more like strangers who live in the same home, the spark can die away.
By reconnecting with each other, you can not only remember exactly what it was that attracted you to each other – your zest for life, way of looking at the world, sharp humour, shared love of silly movies – but you will feel treasured and loved in the way you cannot help but feel when someone genuinely shows an interest in you.
2) Flirt with each other
If you’re married or in a long term relationship with someone, you don’t need to flirt with them any more, do you? Wrong! Flirting is as much an important part of a relationship years in as it was when you first met. Maybe even more.
A little mutual flirtation can go a long way toward improving your marriage – replacing grumpy resentment and the day-to-day grind of family life with playfulness and lightness.
There are a lot of different ways to flirt with your partner, so take your pick! You can leave notes for each other to find, make an effort to look attractive for each other, share secret in-jokes, or just plainly let your partner know how attractive you still find them.
After all, who doesn’t want to feel that they’re still desirable? It’s a pretty heady feeling and can turn around a pattern of negative communication and replace it with a much healthier style of interaction – and can certainly put the spark back into your relationship in all the right places!
3) Have more sex
Often, as the spark dies in a relationship, so does your sex life. After all, you need to at least like someone to want to have sex with them, and if you spend most of your day resenting your partner, you’re not going to be itching to jump into bed with them!
But sex is a vital means of connection between couples. In fact, especially if you have children, it’s one of the few things that’s just ‘yours’. And when the sex dies away, so can much of the intimacy in your relationship.
So it’s important that you have more sex, not less, if your relationship is struggling. And don’t just wait until you’re in the mood for it (you may have to wait a while!). Even if you have to plan it around picking up the kids from football practice and early morning meetings, make an effort to start making that time for each other.
It may feel stilted and lack a certain amount of passion in the beginning, but as this couple (who committed to having sex EVERY DAY for a year) found out, once you start doing it more, you start seeing a wealth of benefits, and you naturally start to want it more.
And if all that hasn’t convinced you, this is what Dr Geoff Hackett, a leading expert in sexual medicine and former chairman of the British Society for Sexual Medicine says about sex in relationships:
“All the evidence points to the fact that an active sex life keeps couples together. It promotes intimacy, reassurance, the realisation that both parties are wanted and needed. It is hard to find researched evidence, but most surveys point to the fact that a lack of sex in a relationship is a leading factor in break-ups.”
The good news is that you don’t need to jump into bed every day to reap the relationship rewards of a reignited sex life. As Dr Geoff Hackett goes on to say:
“Once [couples] rediscover their sex life it is extraordinary how quickly many other issues are resolved. Sex is the vital component in a functioning relationship, but it doesn’t have to be incredibly frequent. A couple just need to know they have those moments of intimacy which only they share, and which bond them together.”
4) Plan dates
When you first met your partner, the chances are you used to go out on dates – doing lovely things just with each other and enjoying being together. But with all of your responsibilities as a couple – especially if you have children – it can be a little hard to get out on the town for a night of fun.
But as difficult as it may be to find time together, it’s important for the health of your relationship. So if you can, try to plan a date with each other once a week or fortnight, even if you need to be creative about what a ‘date’ means!
If you can’t go out, plan a candlelit dinner. Can’t manage even that? Try some wine and cheese and a good movie once the kids are asleep.
If you have children you should also make sure you capitalise on those free days or nights you didn’t know you had. Sleepovers, surprise birthday parties and even play dates at somebody else’s house are all prime opportunities for a date with each other.
5) Surprise each other
Everybody likes a nice surprise. But when you’re in a long term relationship, it can be easy to forget about doing the small surprising things you once did for each other.
You know, like remembering their favourite author and buying them a book. Or buying an impromptu bunch of flowers or piece of jewellery, just because. Little, thoughtful gestures that show you care, that you pay attention to each other, and think of each other when you’re apart.
You don’t even need to buy things for each other. You can cook their favourite meal, wear the outfit they love you in, or record a movie you think they’ll like. Just something that tells them they’re special to you and on your mind.
Don’t wait for your partner to go first
Of course, if your relationship isn’t in a great place, you may not feel like doing nice things for your partner. Especially if you have got into a pattern of resentment and point scoring.
But taking the initiative and breaking the cycle of negativity can have a very powerful effect. It’s very difficult to stay angry with someone who is being kind, thoughtful and generous to you. And you may soon find that your gestures are reciprocated by your partner, creating a new positive cycle of relating to each other.
Remember, you once fell in love with each other, so there must have been some compatible common ground and mutual respect. And maybe, by taking some of the actions in this article, you can rediscover each other, and not just put the spark back into your relationship, but herald a new, happier era for you both.
Worried about your relationship? Read three signs it may be in trouble.
Galbraith Family Law focus solely on family law, with a special interest in Collaborative Team Practice. They help clients resolve issues related to separation and divorce. These can include custody, access, child support, spousal support, equalisation and division of property.Hannah Martin