No matter how long you’ve been together, there comes a point in the lifespan of most couples where you may feel like you’re both going down different roads. You still love each other, sure, but you don’t feel like you’re truly connecting anymore. Whether it be sexually, emotionally, or romantically, you just feel like you’re drifting further apart. Check out these steps we’ve compiled from psychologists and relationship specialists to get you back on the road to romance in no time!
We often talk about “the way to a person’s heart”. Maybe it’s food, surprising them with little gifts, laughter, or just giving them some personal time to rest and recharge. If you truly know the way to your partner’s heart, congratulations, you probably have updated “love maps”. Love maps are a creation of The Gottman Institute – which specializes in the psychology of romantic love and counselling for healthy, happy couples – and can be used as a tool to make sure you truly know your partner and how to connect with them. Needs and desires in a romantic relationship can change over time, so when we no longer have an up-to-date map of the way to our partner’s heart, that’s when drifting apart or feelings of distance or discontentment can set in.
The method for updating your love maps is the same as the way to solve so many other relationship issues, and that’s just through talking. Clear, honest, caring communication can go a long way in helping your lover know your true feelings, and knowing what works for you in love & romance and what just doesn’t. Knowing these things about each other lessens conflict, increases happiness, and deepens your intimate connection with each other. Whether it’s through daily or weekly check-ins, planned conversations using conversation prompts to learn each other’s needs and interests, or just organic unplanned chatting about life and going deep, talking is the key to your lover’s heart and soul, and the way you get to construct your current love maps. There are plenty of ways to talk, or go beyond talking, when you and your lover need to reconnect romantically. So let’s talk about it!
If you feel like you never spend time together anymore…
What to do about it:
- Make sure your time is quality time: When you do have time to spend together, whether it’s while eating dinner or just that last little bit of the day lying in bed before sleep, make sure it’s pure, distraction-free, quality time. Put down the phones and turn off the TV – unless it’s something you both want to watch together – and just talk and check in with each other.
- Keep in touch throughout the day: A sweet text or Snapchat pic out of the blue when you have to be apart can go a long way in reminding your partner that you’re thinking about them. Keep things spicy with an occasional sexy text, too, and they’ll be even MORE excited when they can finally see you at the end of a busy day.
- Reconnect in writing: If you and your partner have a hard time crossing paths in person, let them know your thoughts and feelings with a pen & paper. Writing each other little old fashioned love notes on fancy stationery, scrawling cute poems for each other on a whiteboard in your kitchen, or working together in a guided couple’s journal can be a way to connect and “talk”, rebuilding your love maps without even being in the same room together.
- Plan a surprise date: One powerful way to reconnect with your lover and show them that spending time together is a high priority is to plan to take them out on a special date…without them knowing until the last possible second. You may even want to recruit one of your partner’s friends to make “fake plans” with them so you know they’ll keep the evening free, then have the friend politely bail, and surprise them by saying their dinner with the friend was a red herring, and oh by the way, we’re going to the baseball game/that musical/that cool new art gallery you’ve been wanting to check out together instead.
If the sex (and/or sex drive) is slipping…
Mismatched libidos or “desire discrepancy” are a major (and common) problem in relationships. This happens when one member of a couple wants all the sex all the time, and one person’s attitude toward sex can best be described as “meh”. The person with the lower sex drive tends to A) never initiate sex and/or B) turn down the partner’s attempts at initiating sex…basically resulting in the couple never having enough sex, and the person with the higher sex drive getting the cold shoulder once again. Once this problem takes root in a relationship, it can grow worse in a hurry…usually leaving one person very frustrated and one person not even noticing there’s an issue.
Don’t worry, though, if you’re the one in the duo with the raging libido…you’re not doomed to a sexless, joyless existence. Obviously the most important thing you need to do is communicate; your lover may be literally clueless as to just how low their desire is and how seldom you’re having sex, and how that’s affecting you. Talking about it openly & honestly but gently is key; remember, they’re not constantly blue-balling you on purpose. Once that’s out of the way, a few simple tweaks can have you back on the road to regular sexual satisfaction.
What do do about it:
- Schedule sex: This may sound like overkill or like you’re forcing it, but the first step in having more sex is making time for more sex. Pencil it in on both of your schedules, and when it comes time to do it, do it! If it should come to pass that one person just really isn’t in the mood when a scheduled sex session comes up, at least spend that time together talking about intimate things and cuddling…you never know when that could lead to more!
- Don’t skimp on foreplay (or lube): Enjoyment of sex, which typically includes the ability to reach orgasm, is important to make a person want to have more sex. One of the key factors in arousal and orgasm is foreplay. When you do finally get your lower libido lover in the sack, make sure to take the time to really explore and stimulate their entire body and their genitals, creating exciting new sensations on all of their erogenous zones beforehand, instead of just going at it. This will ensure their mind and body is primed and ready for peak pleasure, which will make them genuinely enjoy sex and want to keep coming back for more. And remember, friction is the enemy of great sex, so keep that lube handy and never hesitate to use it.
- Prioritize other forms of physical intimacy: Don’t underestimate the importance of holding hands, cuddling, hugging, kissing, and really just any form of loving touch. Give your lover a back rub when they’re stressed, strip them down for an erotic massage, or start making out with them during the romantic scene of the movie you’re watching. Spontaneous physical intimacy in any form reminds us that we’re desirable to them, which makes us appreciate being desired and desire them in return.
- See your doctor: If you’re the person in your partnership with the seriously low libido, it may be worth a chat with your doctor. There are many very real physical and mental/emotional conditions and disorders that can tank your sex drive through zero fault of your own, and it may be treatable via medication or therapy.
- Make it special: Reignite that spark for sex by surprising your lover with a hotel room reservation for an evening alone. Pack along some champagne and chocolate covered strawberries, adorn the room with rose petals and LED candles (hotels generally frown on real flame candles for good reason), and make your intentions very clear. An evening for just the two of you, in a comfortable, distraction-free setting, just to explore new fantasies and do all your favorite bedroom things with each other. Sleep can wait.
- Update your Sexual Love Maps: Sex is one of those things that most couples don’t talk about nearly as much as they should. In order to make sure that the sex you do have is the best sex possible, make sure to regularly check in with your lover with questions like the ones in the graphic below. Through these conversations, you are updating your understanding and can know exactly what they like and what works for them right now, so you can do more of it!
If you feel lonely or unloved…
People often think of loneliness as something that only effects single people, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Plenty of people who are dating, in committed relationships, or married…and even those who may spend much of their time together…can wind up feeling lonely. This usually stems from a lack of true connection and understanding. It can be hard to bring up these feelings of loneliness with your partner because they may default to feeling inadequate or attacked because they’re doing something so wrong you feel alone or unloved, but it’s important to talk about. It is astonishingly easy to get swept away by the day-to-day grind and not think about our words & actions and how they affect our partners. If your partner is ignoring you or making you feel uncared for, you need to let them know, then work on solving the problem…together!
What to do about it:
- Say and do romantic things: Regularly using romantic language, even just saying things as simple as “I love you” is important to keeping the romance alive. These little words serve as reminders that you don’t take your partner for granted. It’s also important to sprinkle plenty of romantic gestures throughout your day. Little things like holding your partner’s hand out on a walk, kissing their forehead, dressing nice for a date, letting them choose the movie, or doing the chore they hate most can go a long way in demonstrating your love for your partner and helping make sure you turn toward each other when you’re reconnecting.
- Invest in your “Emotional Bank Account”: You and your partner every time you and your partner turn towards each other instead of away. When you accept your partner’s bids for connection, and when you truly connect through any little glimmer of romance, you’re making deposits in your “love bank”, or your emotional bank account. When your emotional bank account is “full”, you and your partner can both feel more comfortable even during hard times, knowing you have one another’s back through it all. You can learn more about this concept in 3 Steps to Reconnect When You Feel Disconnected From Your Partner from The Gottman Institute. Keeping a nice, full emotional bank account allows you to think about the cherished memories and micro-moments of love that remind you of your partner’s feelings for you even if you start to feel a little lonely.
- If all else fails, seek couple’s therapy: If all you’re doing anymore is fighting, no one’s having a good time, but you don’t have to give up hope. If you just can’t see eye to eye about anything or communicate your needs and desires civilly, it may be time to involve a third party in the form of couple’s therapy. A trained counselor – ideally a specialist in couples – can work with both of you to mend unhealthy communication habits and build new, healthy ones in their place. Mental & emotional health care IS health care, just as important as going to the doctor when you’re sick or hurt, and couple’s counseling is health care for your relationship. There should be no stigma or shame in seeking therapy, because you’re doing it to improve your lives and your happiness. Just make sure you always do the “homework” assignments your therapist gives you, because at home, together, is where you really do the work.
If you’ve run out of things to talk about…
We’ve talked about the importance of keeping date night sacred no matter how long you’ve been together. But what if those date nights have grown stale or downright anxiety-inducing because you feel like you have nothing to talk about anymore? Especially in a world where we’re pretty much constantly connected if we want to be, and when many couples may even work from home together and rarely go out and see or talk to others, this can definitely happen. There are some pretty easy (and fun) ways to reconnect, though, and get the conversation flowing all over again.
What to do about it:
- Plan fun date nights: If date nights seem torturous because you feel like you don’t have anything to talk about, well…GIVE yourselves something to talk about while on the date! Going rollerblading in a city park, hitting up an old-timey arcade and speakeasy, playing laser tag, or going to see a show or sporting event that’s completely out of your usual wheelhouse can liven up your date night and ensure you have plenty of new and exciting experiences to share through conversation.
- Make a game out of…well, everything: Those of us here at Lover’s Lane have always said “couples that play together, stay together”. While we’re mostly talking about play in the sexual connotation, just good old fashioned fun is just as important. “Gamify” the more boring parts of life, like doing chores (have a decluttering scavenger hunt or race to see who can clean a whole bathroom fastest) or cooking dinner and you’ll soon have plenty to talk about with each other…even if it’s just bragging about your latest win. Perfect for couples with a competitive streak!
- Make sure you both take “me time”…: While our romantic relationships are important aspects of our lives, they aren’t (and shouldn’t be) our entire life and entire personality. Make sure you both set aside plenty of time for you to each enjoy solo activities on your own. Whether you enjoy to spend your “me time” shopping, reading, traveling, journaling, or doing a hobby, it’s important to maintain your individual interests as an individual! When you reconnect after you’ve been taking some “me time”, this is a perfect opportunity for your partner to ask questions, converse with you about something new that might be unfamiliar to them, and really listen and get to know you more intimately.
- …and “friend time”: Sure, it’s great to have “couple friends” to go on double dates or have dinner parties with, but it’s also important for each person in a relationship to maintain their own individual friends, and do things with just them sometimes. Going on girl’s trips, spa days, golf outings, or just the bar to catch up gives you a little time away from your partner. This helps drive you to want to reconnect with them when you return, and gives you plenty of new things to talk about with each other.