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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Anxiety is a sign that the brain has registered threat and is mobilising the body to get to safety. One of the ways it does this is by organising the body for movement - to fight the danger or flee the danger. 

If there is no need or no opportunity for movement, that fight or flight fuel will still be looking for expression. This can come out as wriggly, fidgety, hyperactive behaviour. This is why any of us might pace or struggle to sit still when we’re anxious. 

If kids or teens are bouncing around, wriggling in their chairs, or having trouble sitting still, it could be anxiety. Remember with anxiety, it’s not about what is actually safe but about what the brain perceives. New or challenging work, doing something unfamiliar, too much going on, a tired or hungry body, anything that comes with any chance of judgement, failure, humiliation can all throw the brain into fight or flight.

When this happens, the body might feel busy, activated, restless. This in itself can drive even more anxiety in kids or teens. Any of us can struggle when we don’t feel comfortable in our own bodies. 

Anxiety is energy with nowhere to go. To move through anxiety, give the energy somewhere to go - a fast walk, a run, a whole-body shake, hula hooping, kicking a ball - any movement that spends the energy will help bring the brain and body back to calm.♥️
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#parenting #anxietyinkids #childanxiety #parenting #parent
This is not bad behaviour. It’s big behaviour a from a brain that has registered threat and is working hard to feel safe again. 

‘Threat’ isn’t about what is actually safe or not, but about what the brain perceives. The brain can perceive threat when there is any chance missing out on or messing up something important, anything that feels unfamiliar, hard, or challenging, feeling misunderstood, thinking you might be angry or disappointed with them, being separated from you, being hungry or tired, anything that pushes against their sensory needs - so many things. 

During anxiety, the amygdala in the brain is switched to high volume, so other big feelings will be too. This might look like tears, sadness, or anger. 

Big feelings have a good reason for being there. The amygdala has the very important job of keeping us safe, and it does this beautifully, but not always with grace. One of the ways the amygdala keeps us safe is by calling on big feelings to recruit social support. When big feelings happen, people notice. They might not always notice the way we want to be noticed, but we are noticed. This increases our chances of safety. 

Of course, kids and teens still need our guidance and leadership and the conversations that grow them, but not during the emotional storm. They just won’t hear you anyway because their brain is too busy trying to get back to safety. In that moment, they don’t want to be fixed or ‘grown’. They want to feel seen, safe and heard. 

During the storm, preserve your connection with them as much as you can. You might not always be able to do this, and that’s okay. None of this is about perfection. If you have a rupture, repair it as soon as you can. Then, when their brains and bodies come back to calm, this is the time for the conversations that will grow them. 

Rather than, ‘What consequences do they need to do better?’, shift to, ‘What support do they need to do better?’ The greatest support will come from you in a way they can receive: ‘What happened?’ ‘What can you do differently next time?’ ‘You’re the most wonderful kid and I know you didn’t want this to happen. How can you put things right? Do you need my help with that?’♥️
Big behaviour is a sign of a nervous system in distress. Before anything, that vulnerable nervous system needs to be brought back home to felt safety. 

This will happen most powerfully with relationship and connection. Breathe and be with. Let them know you get it. This can happen with words or nonverbals. It’s about feeling what they feel, but staying regulated.

If they want space, give them space but stay in emotional proximity, ‘Ok I’m just going to stay over here. I’m right here if you need.’

If they’re using spicy words to make sure there is no confusion about how they feel about you right now, flag the behaviour, then make your intent clear, ‘I know how upset you are and I want to understand more about what’s happening for you. I’m not going to do this while you’re speaking to me like this. You can still be mad, but you need to be respectful. I’m here for you.’

Think of how you would respond if a friend was telling you about something that upset her. You wouldn’t tell her to calm down, or try to fix her (she’s not broken), or talk to her about her behaviour. You would just be there. You would ‘drop an anchor’ and steady those rough seas around her until she feels okay enough again. Along the way you would be doing things that let her know your intent to support her. You’d do this with you facial expressions, your voice, your body, your posture. You’d feel her feels, and she’d feel you ‘getting her’. It’s about letting her know that you understand what she’s feeling, even if you don’t understand why (or agree with why). 

It’s the same for our children. As their important big people, they also need leadership. The time for this is after the storm has passed, when their brains and bodies feel safe and calm. Because of your relationship, connection and their felt sense of safety, you will have access to their ‘thinking brain’. This is the time for those meaningful conversations: 
- ‘What happened?’
- ‘What did I do that helped/ didn’t help?’
- ‘What can you do differently next time?’
- ‘You’re a great kid and I know you didn’t want this to happen, but here we are. What can you do to put things right? Do you need my help with that?’♥️
As children grow, and especially by adolescence, we have the illusion of control but whether or not we have any real influence will be up to them. The temptation to control our children will always come from a place of love. Fear will likely have a heavy hand in there too. When they fall, we’ll feel it. Sometimes it will feel like an ache in our core. Sometimes it will feel like failure or guilt, or anger. We might wish we could have stopped them, pushed a little harder, warned a little bigger, stood a little closer. We’re parents and we’re human and it’s what this parenting thing does. It makes fear and anxiety billow around us like lost smoke, too easily.

Remember, they want you to be proud of them, and they want to do the right thing. When they feel your curiosity over judgement, and the safety of you over shame, it will be easier for them to open up to you. Nobody will guide them better than you because nobody will care more about where they land. They know this, but the magic happens when they also know that you are safe and that you will hold them, their needs, their opinions and feelings with strong, gentle, loving hands, no matter what.♥️
Anger is the ‘fight’ part of the fight or flight response. It has important work to do. Anger never exists on its own. It exists to hold other more vulnerable emotions in a way that feels safer. It’s sometimes feels easier, safer, more acceptable, stronger to feel the ‘big’ that comes with anger, than the vulnerability that comes with anxiety, sadness, loneliness. This isn’t deliberate. It’s just another way our bodies and brains try to keep us safe. 

The problem isn’t the anger. The problem is the behaviour that can come with the anger. Let there be no limits on thoughts and feelings, only behaviour. When children are angry, as long as they are safe and others are safe, we don’t need to fix their anger. They aren’t broken. Instead, drop the anchor: as much as you can - and this won’t always be easy - be a calm, steadying, loving presence to help bring their nervous systems back home to calm. 

Then, when they are truly calm, and with love and leadership, have the conversations that will grow them - 
- What happened? 
- What can you do differently next time?
- You’re a really great kid. I know you didn’t want this to happen but here we are. How can you make things right. Would you like some ideas? Do you need some help with that?
- What did I do that helped? What did I do that didn’t help? Is there something that might feel more helpful next time?

When their behaviour falls short of ‘adorable’, rather than asking ‘What consequences they need to do better?’ let the question be, ‘What support do they need to do better.’ Often, the biggest support will be a conversation with you, and that will be enough.♥️
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#parenting #positiveparenting #mindfulparenting #anxietyinkids

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