Reignite the Spark
How to bring the connection back to a long term relationship by Camilla Duggan
If you’re worried that you might be losing the elusive relationship ‘spark’ with your partner, know that you’re not alone.
Research shows that we’re losing the connection with our partners even earlier these days. A study of 2,000 UK adults found that being too busy, not making time for physical intimacy, and forgetting about the small things like hand holding and quality time are some of the most common reasons for feeling like the fire has gone out in a relationship. But what is ‘the spark’, how are we losing it, and how do we get it back?
We talk about the ‘spark’ from day one. The spark you feel on a first date. The spark of chemistry in a first kiss. But we also talk about the loss of it when we’re 20 years into a relationship, in a 40-year marriage, after kids, after we’ve gone through difficult times. In reality, the spark isn’t a Hollywood fairytale. It isn’t Ryan Gosling schmoozing you with a 10-minute monologue. It isn’t just a girl, standing in front of boy, asking him to love her. It’s connection – the lifeblood of all relationships – romantic and unromantic. It’s one of the deepest and most important things in life. Without connection we feel isolated, cut off, misunderstood, undervalued.
In our romantic partnerships, we crave emotional intimacy, and even though we’re told a long-lasting relationship is going to require work, we can often leave the success of our connection to chance. And if it was hard to connect 20 years ago, it’s bound to be even harder now in our digital world, where we have at our disposal a selection box of devices, apps, and platforms to communicate as fast and as often as we want, in turn meaning we talk to each other less. We let the small things slide. We send a text instead. The last thing we see at night is the glowing screen of a phone.
It sounds doomy and gloomy, but it doesn’t have to be; we don’t have to toss aside all of the things that make communicating in 2019 easy. We just need to remind ourselves of some of the ways we can experience real emotional and physical connection, and give that area of our lives a little TLC. Sometimes it can be the smallest gestures. It could be so weird and wacky and particular to you as a couple that it won’t be mentioned on the list below.
Before we delve into tips for getting your spark back on track, it’s important to get some misconceptions out of the way now.
- Though it will get more challenging, kids don’t need to be the killer of a relationship
- You don’t need to feel guilty about having a successful career
- Marriage might mean making sacrifices, but it doesn’t mean sacrificing intimacy
So what can you do to bring back a connection in your relationship? Here are our top 10 tips:
- Be mindful of the small stuff
When you’re in it for the long haul, sometimes the small things can really make a difference. You’re not going to be making Hollywood-style grand gestures every day, but you can run a bath when you know your partner is coming home from a long busy day, or organise a dinner if you’re not usually the one who makes it. Taking a load off of your partner’s shoulders may seem small and trivial, but it can have a lasting effect romantically – it shows that you’re thinking about them.
- Bring back some level of touch
That study of 2,000 adults brought up something really interesting: most couples pinpointed the loss of hand-holding as one of the main indicators that their spark had died. Physical intimacy doesn’t have to revolve around sex. Make a conscious effort to hold hands like you used to, or engage in small physical gestures. Be playful.
- Have a kid-less day
They’re your pride and joy, your greatest achievement, the apple of your eye… but they’re also 24/7 attention dictators. Sometimes it can be really good for a couple to remember why they loved each other before they had children, what they enjoyed together, and what values were most important to them. Drop the kids off with the grandparents or at a friend’s house for a day, and go somewhere together. Book a spa day, relax, and rekindle. If a whole day is too adventurous, go out for coffee, or for dinner, and spend that time talking to each other about something other than the kids!
- Plan surprises
Life is a rut. There, we’ve said it. If you’re in a long-term relationship, you need to be comfortable with the fact that every night isn’t a date night, and most of the time you will be washing socks, watching telly, and eating the same dinners on rotation. But one of the things you loved about your relationship when it was young and new was the spontaneity, the excitement, the adrenaline. So shake up that ‘rut life’ a little bit by planning a surprise for your partner. Next weekend, tell them to pack a bag and get in the car. Take them to their favourite place, or away for the weekend to some place new. Book a show one evening, or simply take a spontaneous trip to the cinema. Bring home a slice of their favourite cake from the bakery for no reason. For a real adrenaline boost, do something that will get the blood pumping and endorphins flowing! Take them rock climbing, or book a day at a theme park and see who can not throw up.
- Do something as a team
Relationships require teamwork. Not feeling connected to your partner can make you feel isolated and alone, so one of the best ways to bring back the two-person spark can be choosing to do something together. You could interpret this any way that makes most sense to you as a couple – for some people that might mean watching a favourite quiz show, doing a weekly crossword together, playing a Mr and Mrs board game. For others it may be going for a regular run or playing a game of badminton every Saturday. You might even want to think outside the box and sign yourself up for an escape room experience. Plus, winners get dinners, right?
- Pay each other compliments
When was the last time you told your partner that you like the way they look? That they’re really funny? That something they did was amazing? It seems like an obvious point, but it can often be a forgotten element of affection in a long term relationship, and the void can be really noticable if we’re cricisting each other a lot instead. We humans love to feel validated and appreciated, and one of the quickest and easiest routes to this is a compliment. Be genuine and be specific. “I love it when you do XYZ”. Additionally, sexy compliments can really help your partner to feel confident if your relationship has lost its sexuality.
- Create a no-phone zone
A guaranteed way to feel disconnected with your partner is to spend quality time scrolling through Instagram, mindlessly connected to your phone screen. Decide on certain areas as no-phone zones: the bed, the dinner table, and especially anywhere you’re going for a date!
- Schedule date nights
Although it’s not as spark-filled as those early spontaneous dates, scheduling a regular date night can be just as fun. Whether that means staying in with a bottle of wine, ordering Chinese and watching a new movie, or going out to a restaurant, bar, cinema, comedy club. It can be anything, from the normal to the downright bizarre, as long as you’re dedicating one night (or day) a week to each other, and to the pursuit of a happy healthy relationship. It means you get to do something you enjoy together, but it also means you’re proving your commitment to one another – to fun, to communication, to laughter.
- Build the tension
Remember what it was like to flirt? Yeah you, the flirter over there. Once upon a time you put effort into wooing your partner. The inner flirt is there within you already, it’s just hidden amongst years of security and stability. Remember when the best way to feel sexy, was to not have sex? When it was about the build-up and the tension? Why not start trying to get a little flirty again. Tell your partner what turns you on before you go to work in the morning and have them thinking about it all day. Send naughty messages. Whatever floats your flirty boat, give it a go again.
- Take regular trips down memory lane
Nostalgia is a powerful thing. Looking at a photo, watching a video or listening to music can conjuring up memories that have us feeling all kinds of things. Somehow you can smell the perfume you were wearing on that holiday, you can feel the flood of emotion you felt at that wedding, you can taste the mulled spices in that wine at Christmas. Make a memory book with some of the photos and mementos of your relationship together, and make a point of looking through them together when you feel like you need to reconnect. You’ll find yourself laughing over that hilarious thing that happened that time, and feeling all warm and fuzzy when you see yourselves young and in love.
There you have it – our top 10 tips. But wait! We’re not done yet. We have a very important one for luck…
- Stop comparing
We live in a world of universal comparison right now. With one click of a button, you can look at a whole timeline of someone’s life – where they’re going, what they’re doing, what big milestone they’ve just reached. But always remember that social media only shows you a highlight reel – the very best moments – not the everyday realities.
We all follow someone (usually lots of someones) on social media who present their lives and relationships like they’re utter perfection. You see extravagant holidays, 5-star dinner dates, posh social engagements, dream jobs, well-behaved kids and designer wardrobes. You won’t see the mundanity of night after night sitting in front of the telly, eating beans on toast, fighting over whose turn it is to take out the bins, bickering about why there’s unfolded laundry left in the dining room, dealing with a drunk partner at 3am, the screaming baby, the constant money worry.
It’s easy to get sucked in and wonder what you’re doing wrong in your relationship, but always remember what’s behind those social media accounts. Don’t look at other relationships and judge yours in comparison – it’ll only be detrimental to your own. Stop comparing your relationship, and start improving your own, your own way.