When you first meet someone special, your world turns upside down. You can’t stop thinking about them and want to spend every waking moment together.
But a few years down the line and your relationship becomes a bit less exciting, you take each other for granted, the things you found quirky you now find annoying. Sound familiar? Don’t worry, this happens to every relationship over time.
The longest lasting relationships are the ones that take work, and consistent work at that. Address any issues and decide on the best dynamic for you to move forward as a couple.
Communication is key to getting back on track and, if you’re still struggling, there are ways to remedy the distance that’s growing…
DO THINGS TOGETHER
It might sound obvious, but it’s not uncommon to start drifting apart after a while – especially when kids come into the equation and your focus on each other is less of a priority. ‘Whether it’s the weekly shop, an outing with the kids or watching a Netflix film together, it all counts,’ says Tracey Cox, sex and relationship expert and author of Supersex for Life (Dorling Kindersley).
‘Quality “you two” time is important but one date a week isn’t going to beat spending time together frequently, no matter how routine it might be.’ It has to be regular.
‘Brian and I do lots of things together, from boring stuff like shopping and chores, to enjoyable things like walking the dog and preparing and eating dinner,’ says Mandy, 35, from Brighton. ‘Sharing lots of little things has helped us to maintain a close relationship instead of drifting apart over the years.’
DON'T DO ALL THE WORK IN THE RELATIONSHIP
‘If you’re always the one who steps in to solve things, you don’t give your partner the chance to try,’ says Tracey. ‘You feel resentful for doing all the fixing, they feel controlled.’
‘I’d always been the pro-active one in our relationship,’ says Sally, 31, from York. ‘It was only during a row recently that my boyfriend admitted he felt emasculated as I was always the one in control and bossing him around. Now we split responsibilities between us, and we’ve stopped bickering.’
You can put an end to needless arguments if you open the channels of communication and listen to what your partner needs. The idea is to understand, not blame.
KEEP SEPARATE INTERESTS
While it’s important to have shared interests, it’s also a good idea for you to each do your own thing. A survey by wedding website, Confetti, found having two nights out a month with your friends helped to keep your relationship strong.
‘As a married couple, we do lots of things together, but we also have separate hobbies,’ says Sarah, 49, from Dublin. ‘He plays golf, I go to yoga with friends. I think keeping some independence helps to raise your self esteem, making you happier and more positive about your relationship.’
‘When it comes to being happy in your marriage, just don’t take each other for granted – and don’t get complacent.
You have to work at any relationship and you need to make sure you communicate with each other.’
PICK YOUR BATTLES
Let’s face it, there are going to be things about your partner that will annoy you a lot. Try to look at the big picture, though, and let his or her little faults pass. ‘It sounds crazy, but it used to drive me mad that my boyfriend would always put the soup spoons and dessert spoons together!,’ says Karen, 39, from Bristol.
‘Every time he’d unload the dishwasher I’d go through the cutlery drawer and sort them out. But now I’ve accepted the fact that, to him, a spoon is a spoon, it’s not big deal. At least he is emptying the dishwasher, so I don’t stress about it.’
SHARE THE HOUSEWORK
‘Divide up the jobs together working out who does what and when’, says relationship therapist, Simone Bienne. ‘This cuts out resentment – one of the single biggest reasons women stop wanting sex.
‘Not only this, sharing the workload means you’ll have more time to spend quality time together. And that includes in the bedroom.’ This will allow you to see the week ahead of you, knowing how much time you’ll have together.
‘Each week I compile a list of things that need to be done around the house,’ says Charlotte, 36, from London. ‘Then we divide it out so that it is fair. It stops me feeling as though I’m doing everything, and means things get done. I find when it comes to chores, men respond better to instructions!’
2 NIGHTS OUT OF EVERY MONTH DOING SEPARATE ACTIVITIES CAN HELP TO KEEP YOUR RELATIONSHIP STRONG
PLEASE THEM, NOT YOU
‘Another classic relationship mistake: assuming that because your partner loves you, he knows what you need to be happy,’ says Tracey. ‘Sadly, love doesn’t magically transform us into mind readers, so we rely on the next best thing: We assume that what makes us happy will make our partner happy.’
But just because you love a takeaway while watching Corrie doesn’t mean your partner will, so tailor dates and gifts towards their preferences. If you’re both doing this, then you’re both catered for.
Angie, 41, from Cardiff, knows this all too well. ‘Once, my partner bought me this weird plastic mouse from a trendy toy shop. He was delighted with it, telling me how cool and funny it was. I was mystified and just thought it was a complete waste of money... I write him a list now!’
HAVE A GOOD ARGUMENT
‘It’s easy to think happy couples don’t argue. Quite the opposite is true,’ says Simone. ‘Voicing a disagreement with your other half prevents future resentments from building up. When you speak about what’s bothering you, bring up the behaviour of what your partner has done rather than personally blaming him (a real no-no!). Then talk through how you can practically resolve the issue together. Once this is done, move on and keep the past where it should stay, behind you!’
It’s also good for your children to see you resolve conflict in an assertive and healthy way.
‘We do argue regularly,’ says Ferne, 30, from Sunderland. ‘We’re both volatile people and the type to vent instead of stew on things. Once we’ve argued though, we’re both happy that we’ve cleared the air and making up is always the best bit!’
TAKE A ROMANTIC BREAK
It’s easy to allow your children’s schedules to swallow up your own. Due to time and cost constraints, holidays away become whole family affairs, and there’s little time for you as a couple to bond. That’s why it’s important to have the odd weekend away without the kids, even if it’s a one-night staycation.
Isabel, 39, from London, says: ‘We’ve got a young baby but when he’s a few months older, we’d like to plan a break with without him. It’ll be hard to leave him with my parents but my partner, Tom, and I seriously need some alone time just for us. It’ll also make us stronger as a couple and, ultimately, happier as a family.’
This doesn’t mean you have to be at it like bunnies, but touching is crucial to help you to feel wanted and desirable, especially in a long-term relationship.
‘Improve your relationship by being intimate,’ says psychologist Phillip Hodson. ‘It’s particularly important during tough times.’
If you feel you can literally reach out to your partner, then you will both will feel supported whether anything is said or not. This kind of intimacy is a gentle reminder of the love that exists between you two, even after all the years.
‘Being affectionate is vital in our relationship,’ says Ann, 50 from Hertfordshire. ‘We always kiss hello and goodbye to each other, even if we’ve only been apart a few hours.’
1 OF THE BIGGEST REASONS WOMEN STOP WANTING SEX IS BECAUSE OF BUILT-UP RESENTMENT
MAINTAIN AN ELEMENT OF SURPRISE
When you first meet someone, it’s exciting as you never know when you’re going to see them next or what you’re going to do.
After a few years living together, you know their daily routine like clockwork. But simple things can keep a bit of mystery in your relationship. Don’t always answer the phone or texts straightaway, call or send them a gift at work, or arrange an impromptu ‘date’.
‘After a long time together it’s easy to become complacent, but we both make sure we still make an effort for each other,’ says Chloe, 42, from Newcastle. ‘If we decide to go out for dinner on the spur of the moment, we will both get changed and make an evening of it rather than just go out as we were. I’ll sometimes surprise him by cooking a romantic dinner, in turn he will surprise me with perfume or flowers.’
PAY EACH OTHER COMPLIMENTS
After a while, you take each for granted. But telling your partner they look, smell or are gorgeous or that you’re grateful for their support will help to boost both your relationship and confidence.
‘Showing appreciation regularly like this not only makes you feel better about yourself, it gives a massive romantic boost to your relationship. It takes you back to the very beginning, when you spent the time appreciating and adoring your partner,’ says Simone. If you see it, say it.
‘We always praise each other; whether it’s for cooking dinner or doing some DIY. It’s important to let your partner know you appreciate them and don’t take their efforts for granted,’ says Kelly, 46, from Birmingham.