There is not much that is better than a happy relationship, right? You feel comfortable and safe with one another, you are getting your important needs met. You’ve relied-upon routines that give structure and personality to the life you have created together. But what happens when, over time and initially without you even noticing it, some of your dual routines feel lifeless and still? What if they start to cut off the circulation to the rest of your relationship? What if, like that errant limb, part of your relationship has fallen asleep? You, my friend, have hit a relationship rut. Getting over it might take a little more ingenuity and focus than rubbing a tingly arm or shaking pins and needles out of a leg, but it is well worth it for the longevity of your union.
Undoubtedly, sleep is a good thing for your body. Even when you crush a limb because you’re in such a deep sleep, it’s still a good thing and you don’t decide to swear off sleep because that might happen again. Likewise, relationship routines are good things. And rituals, as one facet of relationships, create a rhythm and predictability that permit a sense of security. You do not abandon rituals and resign yourself to an ever-shifting landscape of chaos because you found yourself in a rut.
The first step in breathing life back into your relationship is to locate ruts in your relationship. Just as feeling sad once in a while doesn’t mean you suffer from depression, being bored with your partner or with the things you do with your partner doesn’t mean you are stuck in a rut with your significant other. Boredom is something we all feel from time to time, and fleeting boredom with aspects of your relationship doesn’t signal a rut. Further, all relationships go through low points, especially if you and your partner are dealing with a great deal of stress. As long as you’re willing to find time, energy and creativity, relationship ruts are generally easy to fix.
With your partner, make a list of all the relationship routines that give both of you comfort and create a sense of safety. This list might include: eating dinner together each evening, going to the gym, renting movies every Sunday, visiting extended family…and so on. Discuss why these routines are special. What about them makes you feel safe and secure with your partner?
Then make a list of all the routines that you and your partner have grown tired of. These are the routines that are causing part of your relationship to fall asleep. When you identify routines that you both agree can and should be eliminated from your lives, do so. Unfortunately, some of the routines you identify as problematic might be necessary or fall under the category of “life maintenance tasks.” In that case, brainstorm ways in which you might make small changes to make them feel different on some level.
Now brainstorm a list of all the activities that you and your partner would like to add to the relationship. Choose something on this list and try it for several weeks. The activity should be fun and easy to execute. If it’s not mutually gratifying, it shouldn’t become part of your dual routine repertoire. Also, remember to mix things up a bit: rotating activities will imbue your relationship with the new life it needs and will help you avoid getting stuck in a future relationship rut.