Q: partner and I have been together for about seven years now, and so far, time and experience have proven that we make a great team. You know those cliches about being one half of a whole, completing each other, and all that stuff? That would be us. She makes up for my blind spots and vice versa. I like to think that we have a strong relationship…except lately, I can’t help but feel like everything’s started to become routine. There’s no excitement anymore, no romance. We’re both busy with our careers, and even our date nights are starting to feel like logistical exercises, or even tedious negotiations. Last night, I realized that we hadn’t even been affectionate with each other for a full month—we mostly talked about bills and her little sister’s 18th birthday. I’m afraid this could lead to a breakup, and I really don’t want that. How do I get back the spark we used to have?
A: I’d like to preface this by saying that, seven years is a very long time and the fact that you’ve lasted that long so far is, I believe, a testament to the kind of faith you’re capable of putting in this relationship. That’s a good thing—it tells me that you think what you have with her is worth fighting for. And believe me, you’ll have to fight for it. I’m willing to bet that when you guys were starting out, everything felt exciting and new. You must have spent a lot of time paying attention to each other and discovering things together. You probably even went out of your way to do that, though I’m pretty sure it didn’t feel like that for you at the time. And then you settled into life as a couple. Suddenly, excitement doesn’t come as easily anymore and it feels like, it takes more effort, right? News flash: it doesn’t, typically. What it takes to bring vibrancy back is a change in perspective.
You see, relationships are more like a fire. Once it catches on the kindling, it can bloom pretty quickly despite the added responsibilities of being in a serious relationship and the need to be practical in areas that were used to be occupied by dreaminess and the fulfillment of romantic fantasies. At the very beginning of your love affair, you were likely focused on getting that fire going, feeding it regularly with dates and new experiences and insights into each other’s personality. And then, once you have that flame burning merrily…you left it alone because you thought your job was done. You have a happily-ever-after situation after all. Roll those romantic movie credits.
Except the job isn’t really done. You need to make sure that fire is fed. It can’t burn forever on its own. You can’t leave it alone and expect it to keep going, without you helping it along. And it really doesn’t take as much work as you think it will. All the hard work happened at the beginning when you were trying to turn a spark into a flame. Sustaining it is much easier. Of course, since you’re the one who’s noticed the stagnation, it’s up to you to take the first step.
Don’t worry; it doesn’t have to be a grand gesture at all. It can be as simple as a Post-It Note on her nightstand or sneaking her favorite chocolate bar into her lunchbox. You can hold her hand while she complains about the stuff happening at her job or things going wrong for her sister. Or you can send her a completely inappropriate joke while she’s working if that’s her jam.
There is also the option to experience things for the first time with her, such as boarding a cruise at Manila Bay, heading to the Mind Museum, visiting her old tambayans, or anything that she has been wanting to experience or revisit for the longest time but couldn’t. The key here is putting some focus back into your relationship, and getting back to the traits that drew you both to one another before things took a turn for the super serious.
The best part about this whole thing is that you’ve gotten to know each other fairly well by now, and you have a better idea of what could make her happy. And this doesn’t mean you need to stick to the boring old classics either—I’m sure you guys can extrapolate possible new adventures with each other based on the adventures you’ve had before. Ultimately, the enemy of your relationship is ignoring the fire you started. Pay attention. Keep stoking. And don’t forget the wood.