You may have heard that long-term relationships eventually and inevitably become flat and boring. Many people believe this myth and expect this to occur to them. When they experience moments in which feelings of attraction, desire, or sexual excitement are not powerfully stimulating, they assume that the flame has gone out and that the future is bleak and uninspiring. Possessed by this expectation, many couples’ relationships face a downward trajectory that often ends in separation or worse.
While it is impossible to prevent stale moments from occurring, it is possible to strengthen the substance of a relationship in a way that minimizes their impact and diminishes their frequency to a significant degree.
“What’s the catch?” you might ask. There is none. Keeping your relationship fresh, passionate, and exciting—whether you’re 20 or 90—just requires infusing your life with more fun and pleasure.
"I’d love to, but there’s not enough time,” you might say. But there is always enough time, depending on how you choose to prioritize it. Many of us assign higher priority to activities and commitments other than our relationships, not necessarily because we don’t value our relationships, but because we take them for granted and create the false belief that we can afford to neglect our connection or put it on cruise control.
We assume that since we’re committed, our relationship is solid and doesn’t require the time, attention, and energy it did in the early, less secure, days. On the contrary, it’s a big mistake to take your partnership for granted and assume that the relationship doesn’t require the same kind of care and attention that it did before. If neglect continues for too long, it can be a recipe for disaster.
After several years, it's easy to take for granted what we used to appreciate. Couples might slide into just being roommates or business partners, or, if they are raising children, co-parents. While important, if those roles come to define the relationship, the vital component of being lovers can get squeezed out.
Taking time to honor the intimacy component of your partnership can become habit-forming. Try some of these 13, and add your own creative touches to the process:
- Identify which person can help deepen intimacy. In most relationships, there is one partner who places a higher value than the other on romance—and it’s not always the woman. Since this person is more likely to notice when the romance is fading, he or she has more power to introduce corrections to foster more closeness and playfulness. They are not solely responsible for keeping an eye on things, but because of their awareness, they are more capable of influencing the depth of your connection.
- Keep dating each other. Dates aren’t exclusively for young lovers; they can be magic for couples who have been together for a while. Leaving the home provides a change of scenery and enlivens things for both partners. But staying home for a date can be fun, too; you can dine by candlelight, for example. Consider making dates a regular feature of your relationship. They don’t have to be limited to a few hours on an occasional evening; they can last an entire day, weekend, or longer.
- Go on a second (or third) honeymoon. Honeymoons (without the kids, of course) aren’t just for the newly married. Taking one every year is not too much. Lots of people (including ourselves) make a tradition of this practice.
- Unplug. Designate what we refer to as “sacred time” and create a tech-free zone that will assure you that there will be no interruptions to intimacy. Then, enjoy.
- Pour a hot bath together. Some delightful ways of spending an evening together don’t cost anything. Going into the tub with each other (by candlelight, of course), followed by more candlelight in the bedroom, is sure to enhance the spirit of romance.
- Serve each other. Take turns being in service to each other. You can bathe each other and wash each other’s hair. You could shave his face and he could shave your legs.
- Feed each other. Agree beforehand to feed each other every forkful of a meal. We know some couples who have done this in restaurants, often to the surprise of other diners. Sit across the corner of the table so you can be close to each other. (Feeding each other also slows down the rate at which you eat, which is a good way to lose weight.)
- Gaze into each others' eyes. Spend time being connected through your eyes only, without the need to exchange words. While this may seem a bit awkward at first, after a few minutes you’ll begin to settle in to the experience and you may begin to experience some surprisingly delightful feelings.
- Dance in private. After dinner you can listen to music together, and might even want to dance. If you’d prefer privacy, try dancing with your partner in your own living room or bedroom. (Another big advantage of dancing in your own home is that you can take your clothes off. You’ll know for sure that you are not roommates or business partners when you’re dancing nude!)
- Give each other massages. Massage is another great way to keep romance alive. You don’t need a massage table or fancy scented oils—and you don’t have to be a professionally trained masseuse or masseur to bring a loving touch.
- Read poetry together. Reading love poems to each other brings sweetness. If you enjoy the exotic, consider poetry from Rumi, Hafiz, or Kabir.
- Hide love notes for your partner to find. Love notes stuck in books, under plates and pillows, and in the underwear drawer are sure to draw smiles of appreciation.
- Speak the language of love to each other. Last, but not least, is the way lovers talk romantic talk. It needs to be sincere, intimate, and full of feeling from the heart.
These emotional interchanges are the main meal of our relationships; sex is the dessert (and it’s non-fattening). Taking time to make sure that the intimate aspects of our relationship are thriving works wonders for the partnership and our lives as a whole. Trying something new can promote more thrills and excitement than anxiety, if we are mindful about the ways we approach change. The lovers’ aspect of our relationships thrive when we enjoy the art of bringing pleasure to each other. Additionally, we receive the added benefit of all those health-enhancing hormones running through our body that promote happiness and wellbeing.