So, you’ve been in a long-term relationship for, I don’t know, FOREVER. You’ve lived your rom-com meet-cute, à la The Holiday, gone through the first fight, and then the second, third, fourth, and 100th (hopefully unscathed), and now you’re at the end of the movie when the end scene fades to black, the credits roll, and unfortunately, the romantic comedy ends. It’s just real life now — it’s schedules, to-do lists, late nights spent working, early alarm clocks, dishes to do, and errands to run. So how do you maintain the romance when the romantic comedy becomes, well, real life? *I wondered in a Carrie Bradshaw tone*
Sure, scheduling a fancy candlelit dinner that you actually shave your legs for or a weekend getaway with sun and lots of margaritas can temporarily bring the spark back, but what about keeping the spark alive in your mundane daily routine — when there’s no white beaches or spicy margaritas, when you’re not eating steak and gulping red wine by candlelight, and certainly when your legs are venturing more on the side of werewolf than human? (In regards to the legs, you’re going to want to read this). The lazy girl in me shudders at the following statement, but the truth is that keeping the spark alive in a LTR takes work. The good news is (because you know I’m a glass-half-full kinda girl), if you’re with the right one (dare I say, “The One”), it won’t feel that much like work at all.
Why do people lose “the spark” anyways?
Long distances, contradicting schedules, or growing resentment are all common reasons couples lose their spark — otherwise known as chemistry or a particularly strong connection. But the truth is that even in the best relationships, romance will dwindle if you’re not working on it. If you’re sciencey (I’m obviously not), think of it like a muscle — when you don’t actively work it, it weakens. As days, months, and years go on, butterflies turn into to-do lists, and a relationship can grow into a routine. Whether it’s because of work, obligations, or children, life gets overwhelming and busy. Having a partner who is the one constant or sure thing in your life is a great thing — rom-com worthy, even! — but it can also make it easier to put your partner and your relationship lower on the list of priorities when you know they’re a given.
Not enough quality time together and less focus on the relationship can leave you both feeling slightly unfulfilled, unappreciated, or worse, unhappy. Turn back on your rom-com, and to quote Taylor Swift (aka the only person my 13-year-old self needed to consult about love qualms), make “Sparks Fly” again with these 10 ways to maintain the romance in your relationship:
1. Ask for something new every week
The first step in keeping the spark alive is knowing what “the spark” means to you. It’s likely that what makes you feel loved and appreciated is different than what makes your partner feel loved and appreciated, since we all have different love languages. This means we also give and show love in different ways too. Instead of hoping your partner shows you love in the way you want or feeling resentment when they don’t, trust your relationship enough to ask for what you want.
Try to turn it into a game — at the beginning of every week, think of something super specific that you each have to work on for that week. Maybe you want them to plan a surprise date, bring home flowers one day, or compliment your looks. Maybe they’ll want more alone time with you or more positive feedback on their work. It may only be intended to last for a week, but actions will teach your partner not only what makes you feel loved, but how to make you feel loved. Doing something once or twice, whether it’s planning a date night or complimenting the ~ striking ~ color of your eyes, will turn into habit if they see how happy it makes you when they actually do it.
2. Put your phone down
Alright, so maybe this one’s a little cliché. I mean, you’ve been told to put your phone away since you were a pre-teen at the dinner table — you’ve heard it from your mom enough, and you definitely don’t have to hear it from me. If I know anything about cell phone addiction (and I do), I know how easy it is for that sly little iPhone to insert itself when you’re watching Game of Thrones, driving in the car, or *god forbid* eating dinner together. As nonchalant as an Instagram scroll might seem, consider every single minute you have together precious. Put away the phones when you’re having a meal, a conversation, or a good old fashioned binge-watching session. Stay present whenever you’re together, and for the love of When Harry Met Sally, stay off Candy Crush.
3. Make eye contact
Romance doesn’t have to be sparked through grand gestures or public displays of affection — intimacy happens in the little moments. Making eye contact with your partner actually has scientific backing (see, I can be scientific!) — making eye contact actually produces neural synchrony and releases oxytocin. In terms that didn’t come out of a chemistry textbook, your brain feels more connected with another person through eye contact.
When you’re talking, focus on making eye contact so your partner knows you’re listening and to better connect to you (again, put away the damn phone!) But also try to find the smaller moments you can make eye contact — when you’re in a crowded room or out at a party, try to lock eyes across the room (there’s a reason it’s a classic rom-com meet-cute!), or keep eye contact longer than you normally do in random situations (but not long enough that it gets all serial killer — 10 seconds of eye contact and a cute little smirk is plenty).
4. Try something new together
Whether you’re interested in traveling to a new place or signing up for a new cooking class, break out of your normal habits. When we’re stuck in a routine, we often feel numb to many of the reasons we love and appreciate our Sig Oth (mine definitely appreciates the fact that I occasionally refer to him as my “Sig Oth”). Trying something new will not only feel fun and exciting, but seeing your partner in a totally new environment will teach you things you never knew about them, and/or remind you why you fell in love with them in the first place. You may, in fact, just fall in love with them all over again… you’ve been warned!
5. Spend time apart
Whether your relationship normal is to spend every waking moment attached at the hip like Mary Kate and Ashley (circa the early 2000s of course), or you’ve been living miles apart for years, time apart can be a good thing. Even if it is just an hour at a hot yoga class or a weekend away on a girls’ trip, spending some time away from each other will actually give your partner the space to miss you, and vice versa. Doing your own thing will also give you something new to catch up on and talk about, breaking out of that usual routine. I need not even mention self-care, but taking time for yourself and doing what you want every once in a while will increase your confidence. And we all know what happens when a woman leads with confidence… hello, spark!
6. Start a conversation
When was the last time you had a real conversation with your partner? A conversation that did not involve to-do lists or take place in the few minutes before bed? Sharing a real, emotional connection means having conversations about your future, caring about what’s on the other’s mind, day dreaming together, or reconnecting about your needs in the relationship. If your only conversations these days start with “How was work?” or “Here’s what we have to do tomorrow,” try to spark a deeper conversation.
During dinner, ask, “What’s something that you’re too scared to try but want to?” or when you get into bed ask, “What’s your favorite thing about our relationship?” Psychologically, it takes five good experiences to every one negative experience (like a fight or disagreement) in order to feel like you’re in a happy, exciting relationship. Although it gets difficult, aim for the majority of conversations to be interesting, funny, or enjoyable. The rest can be the mundane scheduling, disagreements, or routine.
Remember when you were a teenager and making out by the lockers was like, the thing to do? And it was so ridiculously exciting because that was the only thing to do? Times sure have changed (thank god), but make sure kissing is still a part of your relationship. I don’t mean kissing in general (hopefully you’re not on Pretty Women terms), I mean kissing that’s spontaneous and meaningful, like back in high school. Do not limit kissing to be just a means of saying hello and goodbye, or as a way to initiate intimacy. Kiss deeply and passionately when there’s no expectation or reason at all — when you’re heading out to dinner, in the middle of a conversation, or just to randomly remind them you love them.
8. Make laughing together a top priority
Laughter may be the best medicine, but it’s also the best kept secret to keeping the spark alive. You know those times where you joke about a fight or an incident like, “Someday we’ll laugh at this?” Why wait until someday? If you’re together for the long haul, there’s nothing you need to take too seriously — when you can, see the humor in your disagreements or uncomfortable moments.
Watch something you know will make you both laugh and build up inside jokes as much as you care about building trust. Bring up funny memories, send your partner memes true to your shared humor, and tease each other like how middle schoolers flirt. In the perceptive words of Drake, YOLO — life’s too short to take anything too seriously, especially when doing so kills your spark (also relevant Drake lyrics: “started from the bottom now we’re here.” Maybe not super relevant, but you definitely don’t want “here” to be sparkless).
9. Try to impress each other
If you’re in a LTR, your partner has likely seen you through post-Taco-Bell bloat, heavy-day-hell on your period, and maybe even the birth of a child or two. Sure, your partner has likely seen you at your very worst — after all, love is seeing someone at their worst and still treating them like they’re at their best. But remember the days when you used to dress up for them? Maybe you’d put on a full face of makeup just to watch a movie together in the beginning, or wore your prettiest dress for a casual dinner date. Channel the same desire to impress them and put in some effort to look and feel your best, whether it’s putting on body oil after a shower (doubles as self-care too!), or wearing a pair of high heels for a dinner date.
Now, you both have to be on the same page for this one. If you do put in effort and your partner doesn’t care to notice or doesn’t try to impress you, you’re doomed to feel unappreciated. If they’re the kind of person that makes sure to tell you how beautiful you are even when you don’t wear heels or contour perfectly (who cares about that anyways, right?), and if they want to always do you proud and impress you, they deserve a little extra effort now and again, whatever that effort means to you.
10. Make a change instead of hoping that your partner will
If you want your partner to say or do more romantic things, it can feel a lot like nagging if you are constantly asking them to give you more. Instead of asking all the time, think of how much more you can be giving to your partner. When you’re with the right person, they’ll take notice of your extra effort and feel inspired to give some extra effort back. Be generous with affection, and if you love them unconditionally, prove it.
If all else fails, think back on the behaviors you both had at the beginning of your relationship. Think about how you thought of them, how you treated them, how much you wanted to make them happy. If you act like it’s the beginning, maybe it will never have an end. *Cue the Happily Ever After*