9 Surefire Ways to Recharge Your Relationship

The early days of any relationship are exciting, passionate and tend to feel a bit like magic. According to the research, this initial passion fades after about two years BUT there are ways to keep the spark. 

Research has found that there tends to be a boost in happiness in the years before marriage or commitment and a gradual decline back to baseline after that commitment.

The phenomenon of waning passion is so common as to have a name – hedonic adaption. This is the tendency to become used to things we are constantly exposed to. It’s the reason food never tastes better than it does on the first mouthful, songs that have you belting out the lyrics one week, become ‘meh’ the next. With repeated exposure, things become less exciting and more is needed to replicate the initial buzz.

When it comes to negative experiences, hedonic adaption is our ally. It’s the reason pain, grief and loss become more tolerable. In the context of relationships, hedonic adaption can be trouble, underpinning a slow decline in both passionate and companionate love.

With consistent exposure, positive experiences like date nights, sex or just being together become expected and predictable. It’s human nature to long for something different and exciting, so the million dollar question (or however many dollars are saved by not divorcing) is this:

If people eventually become bored even with the exciting things, how do we stop boredom from sticking its well-combed, side-parted, pocket-protected beigeness into a relationship?

According to the research there are surefire ways to stave off boredom and keep the spark. Here are nine of them:

  • Bored?

    Understand that feeling bored is normal. Don’t take boredom as a sign that your relationship is dead. It’s not. The lack of excitement is not a reflection of you or your partner, but is a very normal stage of the relationship. Like any stage of any process, you can skip it, get stuck in it or power through the middle of it and come out beautifully the other side. What your relationship needs is some attention and some tweaking.

  • Mix it up.

    Introduce varied experiences. The more varied the experiences that a couple share together, the longer it will take for boredom to creep in. A recent New Zealand study found that couples who spent time together in a shared activity (weekends away, exercising, hobbies, going out, cooking or cooking classes, learning something new, watching a movie) were happier, closer and less stressed in the relationship, both in the short and long term.

    If there is limited opportunity to try different things, try different versions of the same thing. Different restaurants on date nights, different types of exercise together, or a different walking route will have a similar effect.

  • Amp it up.

    Amp up the positive The more positive events and emotions a couple experiences, the slower the adaption. It seems obvious enough but here are the figures to make it concrete AND do-able:

    •  For every negative emotion, at least three positive ones are needed to neutralise it.
    •  For every negative interaction between you, share five positive ones.

  • About criticism.

    Don’t criticise. Ever. The research proves what we already know: Criticism drains a relationship. Let it out and it will stalk, crouch and pounce to maim. First your partner, then your relationship. Just don’t go there.

  • Gently sculpt each other. 

    Promote each other’s ideal self. It’s called the Michelangelo effect and it works. The view of ourselves is never more beautiful than when seen through the eyes of those who love us. Studies have shown that couples can gently sculpt each other towards their ideal selves by supporting each other’s goals and acknowledging each other’s capability, and potential. What a couple think of each other can propel each person toward the best version of themselves and lay the way for closer, richer, more enduring relationships.

  • We all need a buzz now and then.

    Do something exciting together. Couples who engage in novel and exciting activities experience greater attraction and passion for each other. When couples participate in exciting activities together (rock climbing, dancing, sharing secrets), they seem to associate the feelings that stem from the activity (enthusiasm, excitement, warmth) with the relationship itself. What is felt in response to the activity, is felt about the relationship.

    Research has also found that people can mistake surges in adrenaline for sexual attraction. Activities that are charged with excitement, tension, or apprehension (e.g. sky-diving or high thrill theme park rides) have a way of increasing physical and sexual attraction.

    It’s still not enough to get me jumping out of a plane … unless Shirleen from accounts offers to go with him instead … maybe … Fortunately for those of us whose self-preservation instincts are fairly uncompromising, even less exhilarating activities like hiking, watching cliffhangers, or playing sport together can boost attraction, as the arousal can be attributed to the partner rather than the activity. Phew.

  • Push against predictability.

    Be surprising. It’s the enemy of predictability and completely lovely. The surprise doesn’t have to be big (though that never hurts). Anything out of the ordinary will do – a favourite magazine, a message on the windscreen.

    Here’s the grey though – even surprises, thrills and spontaneity can become addictive. And what happens when things become addictive? More is needed to maintain the initial levels of happiness. Not to worry though – science has your back. Here’s how to short-circuit that one …

  • Appreciation. It’s a little bit magical.

    Cultivate appreciation. This is critical in a relationship. Life-giving actually. Watch how a relationship withers without it. So often, the ending of a relationship has its messy, insidious beginnings in one partner not feeling appreciated.

    Appreciation is one of those things that’s as strong in its absence as it is in its presence. A relationship will die a slow cold death without it.

    When a person no longer appreciates or attends to their partner, they stop being open to the benefits of the relationship. They are also more easily drawn in to social comparisons – always a dangerous exercise. Take the person you’re with for granted and you’ll be similarly indifferent to the ways he or she makes your life better for being in it. When that happens, there’s no boost in happiness from being in the relationship. On the other hand, if you appreciate the relationship you’re in and the person you’re with you’re less likely to take your time together and your intimacy for granted.

    Appreciation should be granted hero status for what it can do. Research has found that people who feel more appreciated by their partners are:

    .  more appreciative of their partners in return;
    .  more committed to their relationship;
    .  more likely to remain in the relationship;
    .  more responsive to their partner’s needs.

    So appreciation is a wonderful thing – do it every day. But how do you do it from a standing start? By imagining not having it. In one study, people who were asked to contemplate what life would be like if they had never met their romantic partner reported higher relationship satisfaction than those who did not imagine life without their relationship.

    Actively thinking about what life would be like without your partner in it increases appreciation, intimacy and relationship satisfaction.

For a relationship to flourish, it also needs to be fun. Even the strongest relationship can become predictable and – I’m just going to say it – boring. That in no way means the relationship has run its course or that the people in it are dull and tired. What it means is that the relationship is normal, still with all of the potential, love and richness that made it happen in the first place. With effort and attention, the predictable and the lacklustre can be turned around and the relationship brought back to one that you both love – l o v e – being in.

2 Comments

Luci

Hey, thanks. I when I got to the part about appreciation I began texting my bae. I haven’t been my sweet self toward him recently. The drink helped too, but thanks for the reminder and simplicity of the How To….
??

PS.
He thanks you, too.

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When things feel hard or the world feels big, children will be looking to their important adults for signs of safety. They will be asking, ‘Do you think I'm safe?' 'Do you think I can do this?' With everything in us, we have to send the message, ‘Yes! Yes love, this is hard and you are safe. You can do hard things.'

Even if we believe they are up to the challenge, it can be difficult to communicate this with absolute confidence. We love them, and when they're distressed, we're going to feel it. Inadvertently, we can align with their fear and send signals of danger, especially through nonverbals. 

What they need is for us to align with their 'brave' - that part of them that wants to do hard things and has the courage to do them. It might be small but it will be there. Like a muscle, courage strengthens with use - little by little, but the potential is always there.

First, let them feel you inside their world, not outside of it. This lets their anxious brain know that support is here - that you see what they see and you get it. This happens through validation. It doesn't mean you agree. It means that you see what they see, and feel what they feel. Meet the intensity of their emotion, so they can feel you with them. It can come off as insincere if your nonverbals are overly calm in the face of their distress. (Think a zen-like low, monotone voice and neutral face - both can be read as threat by an anxious brain). Try:

'This is big for you isn't it!' 
'It's awful having to do things you haven't done before. What you are feeling makes so much sense. I'd feel the same!

Once they really feel you there with them, then they can trust what comes next, which is your felt belief that they will be safe, and that they can do hard things. 

Even if things don't go to plan, you know they will cope. This can be hard, especially because it is so easy to 'catch' their anxiety. When it feels like anxiety is drawing you both in, take a moment, breathe, and ask, 'Do I believe in them, or their anxiety?' Let your answer guide you, because you know your young one was built for big, beautiful things. It's in them. Anxiety is part of their move towards brave, not the end of it.
Sometimes we all just need space to talk to someone who will listen without giving advice, or problem solving, or lecturing. Someone who will let us talk, and who can handle our experiences and words and feelings without having to smooth out the wrinkles or tidy the frayed edges. 

Our kids need this too, but as their important adults, it can be hard to hush without needing to fix things, or gather up their experience and bundle it into a learning that will grow them. We do this because we love them, but it can also mean that they choose not to let us in for the wrong reasons. 

We can’t help them if we don’t know what’s happening in their world, and entry will be on their terms - even more as they get older. As they grow, they won’t trust us with the big things if we don’t give them the opportunity to learn that we can handle the little things (which might feel seismic to them). They won’t let us in to their world unless we make it safe for them to.

When my own kids were small, we had a rule that when I picked them up from school they could tell me anything, and when we drove into the driveway, the conversation would be finished if they wanted it to be. They only put this rule into play a few times, but it was enough for them to learn that it was safe to talk about anything, and for me to hear what was happening in that part of their world that happened without me. My gosh though, there were times that the end of the conversation would be jarring and breathtaking and so unfinished for me, but every time they would come back when they were ready and we would finish the chat. As it turned out, I had to trust them as much as I wanted them to trust me. But that’s how parenting is really isn’t it.

Of course there will always be lessons in their experiences we will want to hear straight up, but we also need them to learn that we are safe to come to.  We need them to know that there isn’t anything about them or their life we can’t handle, and when the world feels hard or uncertain, it’s safe here. By building safety, we build our connection and influence. It’s just how it seems to work.♥️
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#parenting #parenthood #mindfulparenting
Words can be hard sometimes. The right words can be orbital and unconquerable and hard to grab hold of. Feelings though - they’ll always make themselves known, with or without the ‘why’. 

Kids and teens are no different to the rest of us. Their feelings can feel bigger than words - unfathomable and messy and too much to be lassoed into language. If we tap into our own experience, we can sometimes (not all the time) get an idea of what they might need. 

It’s completely understandable that new things or hard things (such as going back to school) might drive thoughts of falls and fails and missteps. When this happens, it’s not so much the hard thing or the new thing that drives avoidance, but thoughts of failing or not being good enough. The more meaningful the ‘thing’ is, the more this is likely to happen. If you can look behind the words, and through to the intention - to avoid failure more than the new or difficult experience, it can be easier to give them what they need. 

Often, ‘I can’t’ means, ‘What if I can’t?’ or, ‘Do you think I can?’, or, ‘Will you still think I’m brave, strong, and capable of I fail?’ They need to know that the outcome won’t make any difference at all to how much you adore them, and how capable and exceptional you think they are. By focusing on process, (the courage to give it a go), we clear the runway so they can feel safer to crawl, then walk, then run, then fly. 

It takes time to reach full flight in anything, but in the meantime the stumbling can make even the strongest of hearts feel vulnerable. The more we focus on process over outcome (their courage to try over the result), and who they are over what they do (their courage, tenacity, curiosity over the outcome), the safer they will feel to try new things or hard things. We know they can do hard things, and the beauty and expansion comes first in the willingness to try. 
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#parenting #mindfulparenting #positiveparenting #mindfulparent
Never in the history of forever has there been such a  lavish opportunity for a year to be better than the last. Not to be grabby, but you know what I’d love this year? Less opportunities that come in the name of ‘resilience’. I’m ready for joy, or adventure, or connection, or gratitude, or courage - anything else but resilience really. Opportunities for resilience have a place, but 2020 has been relentless with its servings, and it’s time for an out breath. Here’s hoping 2021 will be a year that wraps its loving arms around us. I’m ready for that. x
The holidays are a wonderland of everything that can lead to hyped up, exhausted, cranky, excited, happy kids (and adults). Sometimes they’ll cycle through all of these within ten minutes. Sugar will constantly pry their little mouths wide open and jump inside, routines will laugh at you from a distance, there will be gatherings and parties, and everything will feel a little bit different to usual. And a bit like magic. 

Know that whatever happens, it’s all part of what the holidays are meant to look like. They aren’t meant to be pristine and orderly and exactly as planned. They were never meant to be that. Christmas is about people, your favourite ones, not tasks. If focusing on the people means some of the tasks fall down, let that be okay, because that’s what Christmas is. It’s about you and your people. It’s not about proving your parenting stamina, or that you’ve raised perfectly well-behaved humans, or that your family can polish up like the catalog ones any day of the week, or that you can create restaurant quality meals and decorate the table like you were born doing it. Christmas is messy and ridiculous and exhausting and there will be plenty of frayed edges. And plenty of magic. The magic will happen the way it always happens. Not with the decorations or the trimmings or the food or the polish, but by being with the ones you love, and the ones who love you right back.

When it all starts to feel too important, too necessary and too ‘un-let-go-able’, be guided by the bigger truth, which is that more than anything, you will all remember how you all felt – as in how happy they felt, how loved they felt were, how noticed they felt. They won’t care about the instagram-worthy meals on the table, the cleanliness of the floors, how many relatives they visited, or how impressed other grown-ups were with their clean faces and darling smiles. It’s easy to forget sometimes, that what matters most at Christmas isn’t the tasks, but the people – the ones who would give up pretty much anything just to have the day with you.

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