Relationships are works in progress. Hopefully, that doesn’t surprise you. Of course, it’s understood that partners should know each other really well before they settle down together. But it should never stop there. People in an intimate, long-term relationship need to work on the relationship on an ongoing basis in order to accommodate the myriad changes that occur during the course of a lifetime. There are so many expected changes within a normal average life. There are often unexpected changes as well.
Establishing routines helps us get through the days, weeks, and years; routines help us streamline the way we organize life and, as the core of our existence, help us live life in an efficient, predictable way. So much for practicality. What about the spice of life? Along with doing what is required and obligatory to get by and get along, we need to remember to cultivate special times and moments. And this applies especially to our most intimate relationship.
Life goes on day by day. Of course we love our partner, and we’re sure they know it. But so often we get caught up in the daily things we need to do, especially when there are other people in our lives who need our attention (children especially, and parents, siblings, etc.), that we forget to take the time to create special moments, to make intimate time for those we care about most. It’s essential to find ways to keep the spark alive, to constantly remember what brought you together in the first place. These special moments are, and will remain, the core of your relationship moving forward in time.
So just to get you started thinking about this, here are seven ways to keep the flame alive in your relationship.
1. Keep growing together. There are many ways to do this, but start with growing yourself as a person. The better you are, the better you become, the more you bring to the relationship. When each partner grows, the relationship grows. Share your personal goals, ambitions, and growth often with your partner. Keep communication/discussion/dialogue open. Be open to change — together.
(Remember, though, that people individually grow at their own pace. Sometimes, your growth spurts will be out of sync with your partner’s. That’s fine. Be patient, nurturing, and supportive. Eventually, your process will bear fruit, and both of you will benefit.)
2. Make memories together. Share every day with each other. Nothing is too small or mundane to talk about. This can extend, of course, to family time together, sharing what each family member did personally that day. Go beyond the events of the day with your partner to talk about ongoing endeavors, ambitions, and projects. In other words, engage your partner in what is most important to you on an ongoing basis.
On a bigger scale, plan time together that takes you away from your everyday, routine life. This may mean doing things that you know and enjoy doing together, but also experimenting with things you’ve never done before.
3. Surprise one another. Most everyone likes a surprise. Small gifts of any kind are appreciated. Flowers, a surprise date, tickets to a concert, breakfast in bed—almost anything that represents special time together and lets your partner know you took the time and effort to go the extra mile to make them happy. In fact, date night on a regular basis is time away from your everyday life and routine, a time to connect intimately. If writing is your thing, love notes and/or love letters are beautiful ways to express your feelings and show your gratitude.
4. Express gratitude often. Let your partner know how much you appreciate them for who they are and what they do. Let them know how they make you feel, how they contribute to your life, how they nurture and support you. One big way to express gratitude is to be of service to each other—not just when they need you to help them or to accomplish something in the relationship, but on an everyday basis in a very personal way. What does your partner need individually to help them be their best?
And don’t sweat the small stuff. We all have individual habits/quirks we’ve acquired. There are inevitably things about each of us that others won’t like or will find annoying. We all need to put these differences/annoyances in perspective and let what is really not that important go.
5. Touch each other. Obviously, this can be sexual, but doesn’t have to be necessarily. Kissing your partner “hello,” smiling and making eye contact, holding hands, anything that engages any and all of your senses and lets your partner know that you’re fully present for them signals that you’re “here” with them. Go to bed together and certainly never go to bed angry—settle your differences before you go to sleep.
6. Try something new together. Introduce new events and experiences, such as vacations, cultural and sporting outings, lectures or classes, spiritual practices, etc., that you can share together. Take ballroom dancing lessons, travel to new countries, learn to play bridge, or golf together. This may not only be pleasurable, but may also add a whole new dimension to the relationship. Many couples share some of the same interests from the beginning of the relationship and continue these together. Many times, though, one partner has a special interest or hobby, and continuing to do this individually is important personally. But it may be fun for a partner to try their hand at what is special and pleasurable to their partner as well
7. Unplug. Plan time to disconnect from devices of all kinds and from social media. Make special time away from everything and everyone else, so that nothing interrupts intimacy. Certainly unplug on vacation, except for emergencies. But make sure that time together during meals at the end of the day, or whenever you’ve decided you need time to talk and communicate, is without interruption and disturbance. Don’t let anything distract you from being totally present.
The bottom line is to never take your partner or your relationship for granted. Although you may not feel that rush of love and excitement you once felt when you first met your partner and began dating, it’s important to find ways to keep the flame alive. And in those cases where the flame has died down, or been extinguished, it’s essential to find ways to reignite the spark and carefully tend the fire.