Often we talk about finding the right people or falling in love, but being in a long-term relationship comes with its own set of challenges. At the beginning, you are excited just to hold hands with one another; every dinner and movie date gets etched into your memory, every kiss a victory. Discovering little or significant (or both) details about your lover makes you giddy, while sharing your own feels intimate and brave (you’re coming out of your shell!). And, if your flirty text gets no response for a few hours, you feel devastated–until you’re reassured, hours later.
This butterflies-in-the-stomach phase lasts only so long. If you end up staying together long enough to know that your partner will always be there, you’ll also feel the excitement wane. If you don’t actively try to keep your relationship healthy, it’s easy to get wrapped up in the monotonous daily logistics and forget why and how you fell in love. Here are somethings I learned about keeping things exciting.
1. Re-live your past.
How you met always makes for a great story to re-tell with your partner–and you may find out things you didn’t know! My boyfriend and I met at a bar some 5 years ago, when my sister and I went out to celebrate my moving to NY. I only recently found out that his friend whispered to him, “You got the prettier one.” Needless to say this put an exciting twist (at least for me) to the same old story. (Don’t worry, I’m sure my brother-in-law was happy he got the prettier one, in similar set up just few months earlier).
When you’re done telling each other how smitten you were at your first meeting, go visit “your” cafes and restaurants, where you went for your first, second, third dates. Use the perfume you used to wear at the beginning of your relationship to really set the mood. Try to get ready separately and meet each other there.
2. Try something new.
After a while, you’ll stop making reservations at pretty new restaurants and settle into your routine. Even your “date nights” will become so effortless (meaning, takeout and Netflix in bed). Nothing wrong with falling asleep like a baby to a re-run of Game of Thrones, but try something new to bring some spark back. Even something as simple as exploring a new neighborhood, a day trip, or trying out a new bar can put you back on your toes, in a good way.
3. Show each other what you’re good at.
You know each other’s strengths and weaknesses like the back of your hand. But do you really see each other at your best? Settling into a comfortable long-term relationship means you’re most likely not trying to impress one another. But seeing your partner in action, like a fish in water, can be thrilling. Whether that means watching him charm the crowd at a cocktail party, build something with his hands or play a game of pickup basketball, admire him do something that he’s great at. And of course, just happen to show him how formidable you are with your career and your talents.
4. Pay each other compliments.
By now you’re probably no longer receiving compliments by the bucketful like during your courtship. Me neither. My boyfriend has never been a flatterer but he surprised me the other night by complimenting me on my tee–and telling me, like, 5-6 colors I look great in. Even though these are simple compliments, it made me feel good to be noticed–and I returned the favor by telling him what he looks great in. You always appreciate each other, but putting it verbally and specifically makes your relationship feel fresh and young again.
5. Have some perspective.
This might be the most important tip: Understand that relationships can go up and down. Sometimes it’ll be bliss and other times you’ll feel like you’ve hit a rut–only to fall back in love with the same person, months or years down the road.
Of course, it may happen that you can’t revive a relationship. People can and do grow apart. The key is to know the difference between someone you should let go, and someone you hold onto. As Joan Didion said, “you have to pick the places you don’t walk away from.” If someone is your home, you probably know it deep down…and that’s the person you fall in love with, over and over.
What is your best keeping-it-fresh tip? Please share!
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Photo: Dhilung Kirat via Flickr