Chantelle Otten is an award-winning psychosexologist who is passionate about empowering people to feel great about their sexual health, self-esteem, communication and education.
Falling in love is beautiful, with happy endorphins running through your body. These endorphins make you feel like you’ve never felt before.
You feel passion, excitement, you’re gonna be together forever, nothing could break your part. Then, 18 months later, it feels different. Like it’s not the same.
You might start thinking: Are we aren't getting down and dirty as much? In fact, I’m worried, are we broken? Is this person not the one? How can we get back to what we used to have?
This happy time is called limerence. Limerence is a term that explains when hormones fill your body to create that feeling of joy. That feeling is also balanced with a tiny bit of panic and dread that that feeling could end. And unfortunately it will, limerence has a shelf-life of around 18 months, before you realise, am I in love? Or was it just lust?
Many people go on after the limerence period to long term relationships, where they wake up each morning and decide to ‘choose’ that person that is sleeping next to them, flaws and all.
For those who continue on to long term relationships, there will be natural waves of highs and lows, connection and disconnection, and all of this is normal.
But when you feel like there is an override of negative sentiments in your relationship, that’s when we need to think, what can we do to bring the spark back?
From my perspective, it starts with a conversation with yourself. Do you want to be in this relationship if it becomes good again? If you look five years into the future, or even 12 months and you’ve both made a decision to work your hardest to make this work, will it be enough?
If yes, then I have a few things in mind that can help you.
You need to start with an open dialogue with each other, that doesn’t become critical or defensive. What I like to encourage my patients to do is write a letter to their partner, letting them know that they are sad, and that they need help to make the relationship change.
Changing a relationship is possible, and you need to decide together that you are both motivated enough to work on emotional rekindling. You need to take small steps in your relationship to lead to bigger change down the line, and to help bring back the spark.
Rekindling emotional intimacy:
Focus on communicating your own needs in a loving and respectful way, and meeting your partner's needs from a compassionate standpoint.
You need to learn how to turn towards each other rather than away, which can help you stay connected even when you don’t particularly vibe with each other. The more you can show compassion and empathy for each other, the less chance you have of becoming resentful.
My advice is to talk about your feelings in terms of stating what you need in a positive way, rather than talking about what you don’t need. An example would be, “I’m feeling pretty lonely at the moment, and I would love some hugs and kisses from you tonight to make me feel better”, rather than “you never kiss or hug me anymore”
Bring the sexy back:
Sex is so important to the longevity of relationships that value it. My advice would be to start with embracing physical intimacy again. It might feel a little awkward at the start, but holding hands, hugging each other, and gentle touch are great ways to show love for your partner. If you want to try bringing the sexy back, start looking at the patterns of your sex life. Who usually initiates, and who denies? Have a conversation about flipping the switch, try asking the denier to initiate more, and the pursuer to find other ways to show their partner that they are sexy without coming on too strong.
Put aside some time to be intimate with each other, without a goal of penetration or orgasm, but more for pleasure and fun. Every positive thing that you do in your relationship is part of this erotic dance, and will allow you to become closer.
It’s important to make sex a priority, setting aside a time that works for both of you. Most people think that night time is the best time to have sex, but I’m a big believer in the mornings, or lunchtimes, or weekend. Once you agree on the best time together, you can take the steps to reignite the spark that you once enjoyed.
Do your love languages:
Relationships grow better when we understand each other, and often we show love to our partner in the way that we want to receive it. Every person has a different love language, a different way to give and receive love. It’s important to know how your partner wants to receive love, and if you’re giving them the love that they want to receive.
I suggest looking up Dr Chapman's five love languages and doing the quiz together, sticking the results to the wall, and making an agreement to show each other love in the way that the other values it. It will change the relationship.
Be curious about your partner:
When you first started dating you were curious about each other, you wanted to know what your partner was thinking and feeling, about their dreams and their past. Do you still act this way? If you don’t, this could be the real reason why things have turned a little dark.
It’s important to remain curious about your partner and ask questions and practice your active listening skills when they answer. I’m not talking about asking them how their day was or what they want for dinner. Find out how they feel about what’s going on in the world, what their position is at work, and if their dreams of the future are the same. When you spark your curiosity for your loved one, it will become a lot easier to fix a relationship for both of you.
Learning how to rekindle a relationship and bring the spark back isn’t easy, it takes motivation. It also takes time and effort to create and sustain a supportive and healthy relationship. It takes even more time if things are quite bad between you, and if you’re feeling a little lost then couples therapy will be beneficial. I believe with time and patience, if you want this relationship, and your partner feels the same way, you can rebuild trust and deeper connection again.
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