5 Simple Actions That Reignite Passion

5 Simple Actions That Reignite Passion

Newsflash: It's perfectly normal for passion to decline in long-term relationships.

If the flush of excitement you felt when you were first together starts to fade, you might begin to fret that something is wrong with your relationship and feel frustrated by your humdrum life together. Don't worry, you're not alone! For most couples, the hot desire, desperate longing, and ever-present passion they felt at the beginning of their courtship—and even well into the first months and years of their relationship—usually decrease in intensity over time.

Fortunately, in a good relationship love itself doesn't decrease. In fact, my research has found that the nature of the love changes, but the amount of love doesn't decline. After a few years with couples, love changes into a new kind of love, called companionate love, which is characterized by the emotions of intimacy and friendship. My long-term study showed that companionate love actually increased over time for happy couples. And here's another piece of good news: You can also get the passion back, and I'm going to show you how. 5 Ways to Keep Your Love Alive

There are two reasons relationships hit what I call a "happiness plateau." The first reason is that people fall into a relationship rut. Relationship ruts are very common, but if you allow them to persist and deepen, they can be hazardous to the health of your partnership.

Among the couples in my study, staying in a relationship rut was predictive of future unhappiness on the part of one or both partners. The second reason couples get into a funk is when they let passion and sexuality fade. What's so interesting about passion and sexuality is that you really need both to maintain happiness. A key finding from my study is that men tend to get emotional connection (a component of passionate love) through sex, while women tend to need emotional connection (passion) to have sex. Therefore, you need to reinvigorate both the passion and the sex for both partners to feel fulfilled.

Both issues—relationship ruts and cooled-down passion/sex—are easy to resolve by making small changes in your behavior. The key is to introduce freshness into your partnership, to liven things up, and to reintroduce fun, excitement, and surprise. You need to inject a little bit of fire and mystery into your life! By following the five simple strategies below and implementing the three action steps I recommend, you and your partner will remember why you chose each other in the first place.

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Strategy #1: Slow down. 
What do I mean by slowing down? Each of you is busy rushing around with work, family, and social obligations. You probably figure your relationship can just wait in the background while you're zooming about trying to get everything else done. But in reality, you need to take the time to pause and look at what's happening to your relationship right now. Notice what your partner is doing today and how your partner contributes to your life. Notice what he or she is wearing. Find out something about his or her day that you didn't know before. Slow down.

Strategy #2: Make a play date.
Laughing, being a little wild, and having fun are all great ways to re-trigger the lightness and joy you felt when you first met. Several psychology studies show that if you do activities with your partner that produce brain chemicals associated with arousal, this arousal gets transferred to your private, intimate relationship. Activities that create fear (e.g., roller coaster rides, skydiving, bungee jumping, or scary movies) or that cause an upsurge in the feel-good brain chemicals (e.g., working out or vigorous hiking) actually increase passionate love.

Strategy #3: Engage in new activities.
Doing novel activities with your partner enables you both to re-experience that original sense of newness, adventure, and risk taking you felt while you were dating. It doesn't matter what the activity is, as long as it's something you have not done before with your partner. Preferably, it's something neither of you has done. It could be as simple as trying a new restaurant, or as involved as taking African drumming lessons. I know a couple that went to a Rumba class together, and they were both so comical and lousy at it that it jump-started an evening of mirth.

Strategy #4: Remember to touch.
Studies show that couples feel better and more connected when they frequently engage in small nonsexual endearments, including touching, cuddling in the couch, greeting each other with a kiss, hugging, and holding hands. Why Touch Is Vital To A Happy Relationship

Strategy #5: Show or tell your partner that you value him/her.
Feeling taken for granted is one of the most common complaints of couples who have been together for a while. It takes almost no effort to show or tell your partner that you notice, value, love, and care for him or her. Fill up her car with gas. Send him a midday love email. Offer to cook her dinner. Give him a foot massage. It's easy.

No matter how much you love your partner, the issues of parenthood, work, complicated life, money, extended family, health, aging—and the list goes on—can get in the way of feeling sexy. But my suggested strategies and action steps really do work.

I'd like to leave you with a couple more findings from my long-term study of married couples. These findings apply to anyone in a committed relationship, married or not. Here goes: First, sex really is important to couples' happiness. Of the happy couples in my study, 75 percent say they are satisfied with their sexual relationship. Second, for the majority of these couples, the frequency of sex declined over time. However, the quality of the sex increased for most of them. The big lesson here?

Don't focus on how often you make love. Focus on making it enjoyable for both of you.