Break Out of Your Relationship Rut
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By Woman's Day
With the pressures of work, family and packed agendas, ruts happen to the best of us. "When you slip into a relationship pattern that 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, J.D., couples mediator and author of Fight Less, Love More. Read on for five common ruts and how you can discover a livelier love life.
Rut #12 of 12
You always have the same-old date night. Can your last few rendezvous be summed up this way: 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.
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"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," Denay says.
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You’re always arguing about something. If you’re bickering all the time, then 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.
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Instead of looking for things to nitpick about, 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, then you’ll both be less defensive.
Rut #36 of 12
Sex has become routine. When your sex life is great, it's 10 percent of the relationship. When it's on the rocks, it becomes 90 percent of the relationship. "After a few hundred repetitions of your tried-and-true sex routine, it can easily become stale and boring," says Joel D. Block, Ph.D., author of The Art of the Quickie. "And left unattended, that boredom in the bedroom will spill over to the entirety of the relationship."
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Consider a quickie. "Occasional spontaneous sex is just what’s needed to bring back the glow of the early days," says Block. The good thing about a speedy sex session is that it keeps you physically connected to your partner without adding too much time to your already-packed schedule. Block suggests that you actively start looking around your home for fantastic quickie spots—and don’t be afraid to mention them to your partner when you find them.
Rut #48 of 12
Your relationship took a backseat when you had kids. Kids require near-constant attention. Unless you put effort into maintaining your connection with your partner along the way, you may grow apart by the time the youngsters are ready to leave the nest. “The exhaustion and effort required to care for young children leaves little to no time for couple's activities—unless you're aware of it and make the decision to put your relationship first in small ways," says Puhn.
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When you or your mate walk in the door, greet each other before or at the same time as you greet the children. And make your mate's greeting extra special with a lingering kiss and a hug. This little gesture will remind you both that you’re a romantic couple, not just two people going through the routine of raising kids.
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Another solution is to creating a designated "adult" space. "Declare your bedroom a toy-free zone and keep photos of you as a couple near the bed. It's important to keep your bedroom your sacred space as husband and wife, not mom and dad," says Denay. "It's hard to get physical if you have kids in the bedroom or if you are rolling over on action figures."
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You forget affection. Keep your relationship from feeling too platonic by making sure that nonsexual touching is a part of your everyday interaction with your partner, advises Block. That means a warm hug, an arm around the waist, a shoulder massage or caressing your partner’s hand. Men especially respond to touch as a conveyance of affection, and it fulfills an intrinsic need for attachment that everyone craves.
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"Take a minute or two to leave a sexy note on the bathroom mirror, or write a naughty letter and hide it in the book he's reading,” suggests Denay. Or create a "Love Arsenal" and "fill a box with his favorite candies and romantic cards so that when you want to show him you care, you have the goods on hand," says Denay. "The romantic quotient is turned up a notch when someone finds something unexpected, and the benefits you'll reap are worth a hundred times the effort."