Relationship ruts are totally normal, and they’re a total bummer. We’ve all been there, and the telltale symptoms – constant fighting, boredom, isolation, and lack of intimacy – can be tough to navigate. The good news? Since relationship ruts are a common phenomenon, folks who study relationships for a living have put a lot of effort into finding ways to haul ourselves out of said ruts.
Before we discuss the experts’ ideas for rejuvenating a stale relationship, keep two important points in mind: First, remember there’s nothing wrong with losing a little passion and closeness with your partner now and again; it’s normal, folks. Second, these resuscitation tips will only work if both partners want to put in the effort to sustain the relationship even during those difficult periods.
Now, if you’re ready to bring the bliss back to your relationship, read on and take notes!
The Boredom Rut
- Try (Exciting) New Activities.
Doing things together is obviously key to maintaining a relationship, but doing the same things all the time can lead to boredom, which is linked to decreased relationship quality. Stave off the blahs by trying new and exhilarating activities together like sky diving, a weekend road trip, riding roller coasters, or a couples’ massage. Studies show that doing so can enhance relationship satisfaction. And don’t be afraid to get goofy, because playing together can boost relationship happiness! Cook dinner naked, play strip poker or twister, or write down your respective date night fantasies and pull a fantasy idea out of a hat once a week.
Still at a loss for ideas? Try reflecting on exciting things you did together in the beginning of the relationship and re-create those experiences.
- Create a “Couple’s Bucket List.”
Work together to create a list of things you want to do together as a couple, without the “excitement” requirement (cook dinner together once a week, go to a café or bookstore, grab produce at a farmer’s market). Then choose three items from the list and tackle them over the next three months.
- Kick screens out of the bedroom.
Ditch the TV, laptops, tablets, and phones and pay attention to each other instead. Enough said.
- Make mini dates.
Too busy for a weekly date night? Try eating breakfast together, meeting for lunch, or designating 20 minutes every evening for talking with each other—no distractions allowed.
The Fighting Rut
- Communicate about each other’s needs.
Bottling it up can decrease personal emotional well-being and relationship satisfaction. Plus, when needs aren’t met in a relationship, the chances of infidelity and decreased satisfaction go up. Open the bottle by sharing with your partner what you need from a relationship, whether it’s emotional support or splitting the grocery bill.
- Name what you like about each other.
Express appreciation for your significant other through positive feedback (not just negative, which we’re prone to focus on in a “fighting stage”). When we feel appreciated, we also feel more attractive and confident. Challenge yourself to sit down and make a list of things you like about your partner, and then share them.
- Work out together.
- Talk through problems with people outside the relationship.
It’s easy for couples to get stuck in the same old fight patterns behind closed doors. We can benefit from hearing how other people deal with similar situations, because it can give us ideas for changing our own approach—which will hopefully change the outcome of the conflict.
- If you live together, share household chores evenly.
- Bounce back post-conflicts.
Handling disagreements well—by, for example, practicing forgiveness, expressing empathy, and not judging each other—predicts more positive relationship emotions and satisfaction. It can help to remember that it’s less important to solve the conflict than it is to treat each other well and understand each other better.
The Sexless Rut
- Create a “fantasy jar.”
Write out as many fantasies as you can think of, each on a separate piece of paper, and have your partner do the same. Put them all in a jar, then take turns picking out of the jar and acting out the fantasies.
- Put sex on the schedule.
Toss out the idea that spontaneous sex is the only way to have good sex. When we’re crazy busy, sex can be one of the first things to go by the wayside. But sex is also key to maintaining intimacy and relationship satisfaction—so come up with a schedule for doing it and stick to it.
- Sext while you’re apart.
It’ll build anticipation for fun times later in the day. Don’t want to use your work phone? Create “For Your Eyes Only” email accounts to communicate saucy messages while you’re away.
- Shake things up.
- Don’t forget non-sexual touch.
Hugs, massages, an arm slipped around a waist—these small actions can all boost feelings of affection.
The General Rut
- Don’t be embarrassed to seek external support.
It’s probably not a great idea to propose couples therapy six weeks into a relationship. But for people in it for the long term, therapy is a reasonable (and sometimes necessary) choice. Not a fan of traditional therapy? Try working with a relationship coach! A relationship coach can help you work through your challenges and struggles, and work alongside you to cultivate the relationship you deserve.
- Remember not all relationships are worth saving.
Yes, relationships go through phases of lesser and greater closeness, but sometimes people just aren’t compatible. And emotional, physical, and/or sexual abuse is never okay. Not sure if you should stick around? Your best bet is to see a personal or couples’ therapist for their take on the relationship.
- Work on yourself first.
Relationship satisfaction is tied to personal life satisfaction, so the happier a person is in general, the happier they’re likely to be within a given relationship. Don’t rely on a partner to make your life great; take control of your happiness and live your best life regardless of whom you’re dating.