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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Sometimes needs will come into being like falling stars - gently fading in and fading out. Sometimes they will happen like meteors - crashing through the air with force and fury. But they won’t always look like needs. Often they will look like big, unreachable, unfathomable behaviour. 

If needs and feelings are too big for words, they will speak through behaviour. Behaviour is the language of needs and feelings, and it is always a call for us to come closer. Big feelings happen as a way to recruit support to help carry an emotional load that feels too big for our kids and teens. We can help with this load by being a strong, calm, loving presence, and making space for that feeling or need to be ‘heard’. 

When big behaviour or big feelings are happening, whenever you can be curious about the need behind it. There will always be a valid one. Meet them where they without needing them to be different. Breathe, validate, and be with, and you don’t need to do more than that. 

Part of building resilience is recognising that some days and some things are rubbish, and that sometimes those days and things last for longer than they should, but we get through. First we feel floored, then we feel stuck, then we shift because the only choices we have we have are to stay down or move, even when moving hurts. Then, eventually we adjust - either ourselves, the problem, or to a new ‘is’. 

But the learning comes from experience. They can’t learn to manage big feelings unless they have big feelings. They can’t learn to read the needs behind their feelings if they don’t have the space to let those big feelings come back to small enough so the needs behind them can step forward. 

When their world has spikes, and when we give them a soft space to ‘be’, we ventilate their world. We help them find room for their out breath, and for influence, and for their wisdom to grow from their experiences and ours. In the end we have no choice. They will always be stronger and bigger and wiser and braver when they are with you, than when they are without. It’s just how it is.♥️
When kids or teens have big feelings, what they need more than anything is our strong, safe, loving presence. In those moments, it’s less about what we do in response to those big feelings, and more about who we are. Think of this like providing a shelter and gentle guidance for their distressed nervous system to help it find its way home, back to calm. 

Big feelings are the way the brain calls for support. It’s as though it’s saying, ‘This emotional load is too big for me to carry on my own. Can you help me carry it?’ 

Every time we meet them where they are, with a calm loving presence, we help those big feelings back to small enough. We help them carry the emotional load and build the emotional (neural) muscle for them to eventually be able to do it on their own. We strengthen the neural pathways between big feelings and calm, over and over, until that pathway is so clear and so strong, they can walk it on their own. 

Big beautiful neural pathways will let them do big, beautiful things - courage, resilience, independence, self regulation. Those pathways are only built through experience, so before children and teens can do any of this on their own, they’ll have to walk the pathway plenty of times with a strong, calm loving adult. Self-regulation only comes from many experiences of co-regulation. 

When they are calm and connected to us, then we can have the conversations that are growthful for them - ‘Can you help me understand what happened?’ ‘What can help you so this differently next time?’ ‘How can you put things right? Do you need my help to do that?’ We grow them by ‘doing with’ them♥️
Big feelings, and the big behaviour that comes from big feelings, are a sign of a distressed nervous system. Think of this like a burning building. The behaviour is the smoke. The fire is a distressed nervous system. It’s so tempting to respond directly to the behaviour (the smoke), but by doing this, we ignore the fire. Their behaviour and feelings in that moment are a call for support - for us to help that distressed brain and body find the way home. 

The most powerful language for any nervous system is another nervous system. They will catch our distress (as we will catch theirs) but they will also catch our calm. It can be tempting to move them to independence on this too quickly, but it just doesn’t work this way. Children can only learn to self-regulate with lots (and lots and lots) of experience co-regulating. 

This isn’t something that can be taught. It’s something that has to be experienced over and over. It’s like so many things - driving a car, playing the piano - we can talk all we want about ‘how’ but it’s not until we ‘do’ over and over that we get better at it. 

Self-regulation works the same way. It’s not until children have repeated experiences with an adult bringing them back to calm, that they develop the neural pathways to come back to calm on their own. 

An important part of this is making sure we are guiding that nervous system with tender, gentle hands and a steady heart. This is where our own self-regulation becomes important. Our nervous systems speak to each other every moment of every day. When our children or teens are distressed, we will start to feel that distress. It becomes a loop. We feel what they feel, they feel what we feel. Our own capacity to self-regulate is the circuit breaker. 

This can be so tough, but it can happen in microbreaks. A few strong steady breaths can calm our own nervous system, which we can then use to calm theirs. Breathe, and be with. It’s that simple, but so tough to do some days. When they come back to calm, then have those transformational chats - What happened? What can make it easier next time?

Who you are in the moment will always be more important than what you do.
How we are with them, when they are their everyday selves and when they aren’t so adorable, will build their view of three things: the world, its people, and themselves. This will then inform how they respond to the world and how they build their very important space in it. 

Will it be a loving, warm, open-hearted space with lots of doors for them to throw open to the people and experiences that are right for them? Or will it be a space with solid, too high walls that close out too many of the people and experiences that would nourish them.

They will learn from what we do with them and to them, for better or worse. We don’t teach them that the world is safe for them to reach into - we show them. We don’t teach them to be kind, respectful, and compassionate. We show them. We don’t teach them that they matter, and that other people matter, and that their voices and their opinions matter. We show them. We don’t teach them that they are little joy mongers who light up the world. We show them. 

But we have to be radically kind with ourselves too. None of this is about perfection. Parenting is hard, and days will be hard, and on too many of those days we’ll be hard too. That’s okay. We’ll say things we shouldn’t say and do things we shouldn’t do. We’re human too. Let’s not put pressure on our kiddos to be perfect by pretending that we are. As long as we repair the ruptures as soon as we can, and bathe them in love and the warmth of us as much as we can, they will be okay.

This also isn’t about not having boundaries. We need to be the guardians of their world and show them where the edges are. But in the guarding of those boundaries we can be strong and loving, strong and gentle. We can love them, and redirect their behaviour.

It’s when we own our stuff(ups) and when we let them see us fall and rise with strength, integrity, and compassion, and when we hold them gently through the mess of it all, that they learn about humility, and vulnerability, and the importance of holding bruised hearts with tender hands. It’s not about perfection, it’s about consistency, and honesty, and the way we respond to them the most.♥️

#parenting #mindfulparenting
Anxiety and courage always exist together. It can be no other way. Anxiety is a call to courage. It means you're about to do something brave, so when there is one the other will be there too. Their courage might feel so small and be whisper quiet, but it will always be there and always ready to show up when they need it to.
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But courage doesn’t always feel like courage, and it won't always show itself as a readiness. Instead, it might show as a rising - from fear, from uncertainty, from anger. None of these mean an absence of courage. They are the making of space, and the opportunity for courage to rise.
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When the noise from anxiety is loud and obtuse, we’ll have to gently add our voices to usher their courage into the light. We can do this speaking of it and to it, and by shifting the focus from their anxiety to their brave. The one we focus on is ultimately what will become powerful. It will be the one we energise. Anxiety will already have their focus, so we’ll need to make sure their courage has ours.
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But we have to speak to their fear as well, in a way that makes space for it to be held and soothed, with strength. Their fear has an important job to do - to recruit the support of someone who can help them feel safe. Only when their fear has been heard will it rest and make way for their brave.
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What does this look like? Tell them their stories of brave, but acknowledge the fear that made it tough. Stories help them process their emotional experiences in a safe way. It brings word to the feelings and helps those big feelings make sense and find containment. ‘You were really worried about that exam weren’t you. You couldn’t get to sleep the night before. It was tough going to school but you got up, you got dressed, you ... and you did it. Then you ...’
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In the moment, speak to their brave by first acknowledging their need to flee (or fight), then tell them what you know to be true - ‘This feels scary for you doesn’t it. I know you want to run. It makes so much sense that you would want to do that. I also know you can do hard things. My darling, I know it with everything in me.’
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#positiveparenting #parenting #childanxiety #anxietyinchildren #mindfulpare

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