Losing the “spark” in a long-term relationship is inevitable, just like realizing you have a crush on JJ from Outer Banks (forget John B, am I right? #teamJJ). We’re conditioned to desire the act of falling in love, not the act of keeping love. How many rom-coms do you know start after the wedding and go through the mundane routine of everyday life? If anything, that would just be a really unfunny “com” (although I see Paul Rudd crushing that role).
But the “spark” isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. There’s something innately comforting about someone who makes you feel peaceful instead of the butterflies and something much more enjoyable about pigging out on the couch and binging true crime instead of fancy first0date dinners (bonus: you don’t have to shave your legs anymore!). However, a little spark is important in keeping a forever relationship from turning into a friendship. No matter where you are on a scale of 50 Shades of Grey to old married couple, here’s how to keep the spark alive with 12 easy steps you can do this weekend:
1. Try something new
Relationships grow stale when habits and routines are (literally) the norm. Therefore, try something new to see your partner and your partnership in a different light. Whether it’s planning a vacation to a place neither of you has been, playing a card game when you’re more of a “Scrabble” couple, trying something new in bed, or even ordering takeout that’s different from your normal go-to, anything “new” (big or small) will bring back those falling-in-love feelings you had when you were experiencing everything for the first time with your partner.
2. Work out together
Maybe your Saturday morning usually consists of some yoga flows while your significant goes on a run, or you take an online Pilates class on Sunday afternoon while your partner lifts weights. It’s important to have alone time and working out is a great time to pursue your individual preferences, but working out together every once in a while can be a great method to keep the spark alive. Not only does it boost playful competition (extra motivation and flirtation? Yes, please!), but exercising also releases endorphins, which could help you deepen your emotional connection and feel more in touch. Plus, let’s be honest: Working out together counts as foreplay.
3. Communicate an emotion that’s not “I love you”
“I love you” is undoubtedly one of the most important things you’ll ever say to each other. In fact, an “I love you” a day keeps divorce papers away (just kidding, but not really). However, odds are, it’s something you tell each other often, whether it’s before hanging up the phone or falling asleep. The phrase might not register the same feelings of admiration and connection that they did back at the beginning, so communicate emotions that are not love, like gratitude, appreciation, and admiration. Try “I’m so proud of you,” “I’m so grateful for you,” or “You mean so much to me.”
4. Do one thing that you want your partner to do
The bottom line when it comes to relationships (and most other areas of life): You have to create what you want, not wait for it to happen (or for your partner to put in the work). If you want your partner to be more romantic, then be more romantic. After all, what you really want is a more romantic relationship, and guess what? You can make that happen yourself. If you bring home flowers or compliment your significant other, it will start to become a habit for them to do the same for you. If you want your partner to be a better listener, give them your full attention and ask high-mileage follow-up questions so they feel listened to.
5. Cook together
One of you is probably the “chef” of the relationship (and the other is the dishwasher), or maybe you take turns making dinner, depending on who is busier that day. But this weekend, try cooking together. Not only will it be a fun new activity to try together (read: point #1), but it’s also an opportunity to work as a team. Creating something (even as basic as a meal) will help you feel even more connected. Put your significant other on chopping duty while you grill or do something different, like homemade pasta, that you’ll laugh your way through (but will enjoy getting to eat).
6. “Love” in your partner’s love language
By now, you’ve probably heard enough about love languages to write a book on them yourself. But how often do you really practice it with your significant other? If their love language is acts of service, take care of a chore that your partner hates, like doing a load of laundry or taking out the trash (without being asked!). If they’re more of a “words of affirmation” person, write a love letter. If they’re big on quality time, plan a special night together. If they feel most loved with gifts, bring them flowers from a grocery store trip, or make an effort to be extra touchy-feely if their love language is physical touch. Even if it puts you out of your comfort zone, make a serious effort to plan and execute ways to make your partner feel loved (and just watch the spark ignite!).
7. Plan a special date night
Get out of your Tiger King-and-chill routine by doing something different this weekend. Even if you’re used to date nights at a fancy restaurant or a movie theater, there are lots of special (and fun) date nights you can do from the comfort of your own home. Try a candlelit picnic on the living room floor, do a DIY wine tasting, or put together a theme night that you’ll be looking forward to all week. You don’t need a fancy restaurant or expensive movie theater tickets to have a spark-igniting date night. You just need each other, some creative ideas, and, OK, maybe a bottle of wine (or two).
8. Communicate on a deeper level
When’s the last time you had a long, meaningful conversation? Communication is a key ingredient in keeping the spark alive, but especially with all the 24/7 togetherness, you might actually be communicating less since you don’t even have the normal go-to convo starters like “how was your day?” (because you know how their day was—you were there!). This weekend, use dinner time or a casual happy hour on the couch to ask questions like “How are you really feeling?” or “What can I do tomorrow to make our relationship better?” Also, try asking high-mileage questions that might feel cheesy but will spark meaningful and deep connection (emphasis on the “spark”).
9. Have breakfast (or coffee) together
Dinner is the obvious way to spend quality time together on the weekends. But why should dinner have all the fun when breakfast can feel just as special? Since we usually rush through the first meal of the day or have it on the go, switch up your routine and cook brunch (eggs and hash browns included) together or even just eat your respective breakfasts at the table together instead of in front of your laptops (if they’re more of a cereal person and you much prefer omelets).
Also, remember when you were first seeing each other and coffee dates were a thing? Recreate the good old days by DIYing your favorite lattes or cappuccinos and chat while you enjoy coffee together. The trick to keeping the spark alive is adding in quality time outside of the norm and remembering how much fun it is to just be together.
10. Try to impress your significant other
Of course, your partner loves you the same in a fancy dress and an old pair of sweats (we get it, your love is ~unconditional~), but putting in a little extra effort will make them feel special and appreciated, not to mention that it will put you in the mood for a little extra spark too. Put on a fancy dress, (actually) blow dry your hair, or even just spritz on fancy perfume if everything else feels like too much work for a night in (I get you). It will not only pleasantly surprise your partner, but most importantly, it will also give you a little extra boost of self-confidence (and we all know that nothing keeps the spark alive like a confident woman).
11. Kiss your partner in an unexpected time or setting
In a long-term relationship, even intimacy and physical touch become routine: a kiss goodbye, hand-holding in the car, or even sex every other weekend (or the rare occasion you make it in bed before 11 p.m. on a weeknight). There’s nothing wrong with routine (in fact, one of the best things about an LTR is the comfort), but try to keep the spark alive by adding in some additional physical touch during an unexpected time too. Give your partner a passionate kiss while you’re cooking in the kitchen or a kiss on the cheek while watching Netflix.
12. Offer to do something your partner loves but you don’t like
Suggesting a movie you know your partner loves (but you find boring) or ordering takeout from a Mexican restaurant when you much prefer Japanese will go a long way. After all, what’s one night of watching the person you love LOL (even while you internally roll your eyes) or seeing your significant other scarf down tacos (even if you don’t like them)?
You know that compromise is key in relationships, but the key to keeping the spark? Letting your partner “win” without even having to compromise at all. In other words, choose the things that they like for no other reason than to make them happy. Instead of always compromising, try to give the person you love their way without them asking. A boring movie or bad food is well worth the lasting effects that putting your partner first will have on your relationship.