“We’ve become an old married couple.” That saying is the fear of many people, and it’s something almost everyone vows will never happen when they first meet The One. However, with stress, bills, work, and kids getting in the way, it’s easy to fall into a routine and let the time pass. That can lead to many negatives in your relationship, from resentment to apathy, and the trick is to not just be occasionally spontaneous. Instead, the best remedy, like many things in a marriage, is to get comfortable with talking honestly about it. Consider these five tips as your foundation to a fresher, livelier relationship.
You’ll never be able to change your routine if can’t express what you need and want out of a relationship. Unfortunately, discussions about important topics can often be uncomfortable, particularly if either spouse grew up in a house where discussing feelings was frowned upon. Communication doesn’t have to be solely verbal. You and your spouse should decide what works best for both of you, and perhaps writing it out makes it easier to get the ball rolling. If you simply don’t know where to start or want some guidance to get both partners comfortable, a few sessions with a marriage counselor could probably do the trick to get the ball rolling.
If you can’t be honest with your spouse, then you might not be in the right relationship. And while it may be more comfortable in the moment to sweep things under the rug, that lying-by-omission does a disservice to your partner. You owe it to each other to maintain a high level of honesty, even when it’s uncomfortable. That doesn’t mean you can’t pick your battles, but when it’s time to get real, honesty is important. It’s the only way to truly push your relationship forward, and while it may be difficult in the moment, you’ll avoid any resentment or toxic thinking that comes with keeping it all inside. If you’ve been wanting to break out of your rut for a while, being honest is the only way to do it.
We’ve all been around negative people at some point in our lives — it might have been a co-worker, former relationship, sibling, parent, or roommate. These people find the dark cloud in almost every situation, and if you find you or yourself slipping into Debbie Downer mode, it’s time to take notice and be aware. Being negative is a trained habit, and its consequences can wind up limiting your whole life. You simply can’t have new positive experiences if you don’t agree to actually do them, so whether it’s one partner or both, all the time or just an occasional appearance, learn to recognize when things turn negative. There are many books and articles available about fighting negative thinking, but the trick is first to recognize it. If your marriage feels like someone’s never allowing it to break out of its routine, consider looking into techniques to turn negative thoughts into positive ones.
It feels really good to hear someone say “thank you” and express their appreciation. These kinds of experiences make lasting impressions — chances are, you’ll be able to remember a positive customer service experience much more easily than a neutral one. In a long-term relationship, it’s easy to forget to show gratitude. With bills, chores, work, kids, and family, so many things are rushing by that the simple act of saying “thank you” can often be overlooked. So consider all of the ways you can make “thank you” part of your daily interaction with your spouse. That simple change can act like a spark of positivity that breaks you out of your rut and routine.
Make an appointment
At work, you probably have regular staff meetings to check in on status. Marriages are deeper, more complex relationships, and yet we find it taboo to check in with partners. Perhaps it’s because our culture has stigmatized talking about feelings as being weak or vulnerable for far too many generations. Discussing things spontaneously can be difficult — you may worry about finding the right time and place to do it. A simpler option is to make a regular check-in time, whether it’s weekly or monthly or some other frequency. These appointments don’t have to be dreary sessions; you can make combine them with going to your favorite restaurant or walking on the beach. The important thing is to create a regular time that involves an honest discussion, a safe zone where anything can be talked about with respect and an open mind. It may seem weird or uncomfortable at first, but you’ll soon find that only good things come out of it.
Breaking out of a rut is kind of like creating a New Year’s Resolution — the trick is to stick with it. So if you spontaneously decide to go skydiving one weekend, how do you keep that energy and momentum rolling? The truth is that you can’t; it’s simply impossible to break out of that many habits at once, especially when the complexity of an intimate relationship is involved. Instead, the five points above may seem like boring ideas or common sense, but they actually provide the foundation for lasting change in your relationship. Honesty, positivity, and all of those good things are necessary to effect a permanent habit change, not just a one-time fix. Take the first step by reading this article with your spouse and talking about it. That type of honesty will go far to kickstarting your marriage.
Malini Bhatia is the Co-founder & CEO of Marriage.com, the go-to online resource for advice from vetted experts on all things marriage.
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