Love life a little lackluster? With the pressures of work, family and packed agendas, it happens to the best of us. “The problem is that when you slip into a relationship pattern that actually breaks down your power as a couple instead of building it up, you run the risk of permanently disconnecting from your partner,” says Laurie Puhn, JD, couples mediator and author of Fight Less, Love More. “Routines are inevitable, but complacency in your relationship is not.” So how do you keep a minor relationship cranny from turning into a full-blown chasm? Read on to learn about five common relationship ruts and how the experts say you can mind the gap for a more lively love life.
Rut #1: Same-Old Date Night
Can your last few rendezvous be summed up as: Dinner + Movie + Saturday? “Having a designated night out may work for some couples, but I personally loathe the term ‘date night,’ because eventually anything routine can become stale,” says Jessica Denay, author of The Hot Mom’s Handbook. “Don’t be afraid to change it up; staying in can be fun and romantic, too.
Plan a ‘Night in Italy,’ and make homemade pizza or pasta together after the kids are in bed, open a bottle of Chianti, serve gelato for dessert and rent The Italian Job or Life Is Beautiful.” And don’t forget the power of the double date! A recent study from Wayne State University showed that, if your relationship is suffering from the doldrums, having fun with another couple will not only put a spark back into date night, but will also enhance your individual romantic connection.
Rut #2: Always Arguing About Something
If you’re bickering all the time, Puhn suspects that you’re waking up in the morning looking to be offended by your mate. “Chances are your partner hasn’t gotten worse since the first date, but rather you’ve started to pay more attention to the negatives,” she says. “When you decide to stop the perpetual arguing, you’ll have to give up your need to ‘win’ against your mate, and instead start scoring points for the relationship by avoiding pointless arguments.”
Instead of looking for things to nitpick, try to notice and compliment the positives in your mate. This doesn’t mean giving up your power, letting something fester or never standing up for yourself, but if you remember to simultaneously give your partner positive feedback whenever you have an issue that needs resolving, you’ll both be less on the defensive. Also, limit the negatives you bring up to those things that directly affect you and are changeable, because if it can’t be modified, arguing about it is…
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