Invariably, relationships start with both parties on their best behaviours. This includes doing thoughtful things for each other, and generally being romantic. Often, its these things that help us to fall in love.
However as the relationship ages and we become used to each other its easy to let these little tokens of love drop by the wayside. Life becomes mundane unless an effort is made, and suddenly one day you can realise that you are no longer in love.
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One thing I often hear as an Imago Couples Therapist is ‘I still love him/her, but I am not in love anymore’. So the question is how to reignite the spark, or even, is it possible to fall in love all over again? The answer is Yes, but it requires effort.
1. You need to be aware of ‘Exits’
Those behaviours that take you away from your partner. For many it is a device or computer – devices should be banned from mealtimes and intimate moments. For others it is a newspaper or the TV – anything that interferes with the connection between you, and allows one or both of you to be physically in the same space but unconnected. Once you are aware that these are acting as interference between you, you need to make a conscious effort to stop using them and encourage your partner to do the same.
2. Physical Affection
It seems to be true that physical affection let alone intimacy is the first casualty when couples start to live more like room-mates than lovers. Touch is critically important. Apart from making love, we need to share physical contact on a daily basis. Sometimes all that happens is a casual stroke as you pass in the kitchen (which is better than absolutely nothing), but a hug and a kiss at least once a day is the minimum that is required. Research shows that a 20-second hug triggers a significant release of oxytocin, the love hormone that we all need more of. A long, calm embrace two or three times a day will change your biochemistry and help you to bond again.
That same rush of brain chemicals can also come from physical contact in bed, whether or not it leads to sex. Just spooning, or putting your arm over your partner, or snuggling together can create a sense of wellbeing and connection for both of you.
3. Express your appreciation
When your partner does something that you like, tell them that you noticed it and how it made you feel when they did it. In Imago Relationship Therapy we encourage couples to have an ‘Appreciation Dialogue’ at least once a day, and I also encourage couples to share appreciations at the dinner table with the whole family – its a good game for kids to play as well as to help adults to improve their relationship.
4. Be aware of the most important 16 minutes of every day
That is, the four minutes when you wake up and first see each other, the four minutes when you separate for your day’s activities, the four minutes when you reunite afterwards, and the four minutes just before you go to sleep. These 16 minutes should be used to kiss, appreciate each other, look each other in the eye, and make romantic offerings.
5. Focus on the positive.
Its too easy to see the worst and slip into a nagging, critical mindset or worse, a critical way of talking. Criticism is one of the most toxic things that can come between a couple – if you feel yourself becoming critical keep your thoughts to yourself and try to concentrate on the best aspects of your partner, not the worst, and if you feel your partner’s remarks are actually criticisms, say so, don’t let them pass. A simple statement of how their comment made you feel should be enough.
Just as the main reason for falling out of love is often familiarity and boredom, the basis of re-romanticising is surprise. Do something unexpected, or do something that you used to do but haven’t done for a while. You may try ‘kidnapping’ each other, taking turns on different weekends to plan secret activity or destinations. Or just book a date night, wear unusual clothes, arrange to meet old friends or plan something without the children – anything with an element of surprise can do the trick. And repeat it with another surprise before the month is out. (Hint – many women love flowers, whatever they say, and many men are surprised when their wives buy them chocolates.)
7. Take up a new hobby
Try to become more interesting yourself by taking up new interests or developing a new hobby. Often I hear people say they are bored with their partner when in fact they are bored with themselves – and its hard to expect someone to fall back in love with someone who is essentially living a mundane life. If you lift your game, your partner will too; if you are more engaged with your own life, your partner will find you more interesting. Being in love is not always all about all the things you do together, its good to have separate interests too. It may be necessary to encourage your partner to develop their own interests, but the end result is often a more alive partnership.
8. Try double-dating.
You don’t need to spend all your couple time one-on-one – find another like-minded couple and go out for dinner together or share an activity with them. Couples who double-date often find that they feel more affection for their partners afterwards. It seems that watching your partner interact with others can remind you of what you first saw in them, and praising each other about their accomplishments in front of others can draw you closer.
9. Stare into each others eyes.
There are experiments which show that some people find it really hard to stare into their partners eyes for more than a minute, but those who persevered and achieve four or five minutes raise their sense of connection significantly. Set an alarm and even if you want to look away, or find yourself giggling or smiling, continue until the alarm goes, and see how you feel.
10. Flirt with each other.
Be coy, give each other sexy glances, wear clothes that are enticing – all these behaviours can help build a sense of romance and special connection. However be wary of playing games and don’t flirt with others, or create a sense of danger for the heck of it. Make your partner feel safe and special, touch them as often as you can, hold hands, feed each other, share activities and jokes, share your thoughts, express your feelings – all these things can help reignite love and connection and return the relationship to one that is loving and satisfying.
For more information and to get in touch with Annie, head to www.anniegurton.com