19 Smart Ways to Fix a Stale Relationship
Fighting all the time? Bored as hell (even with the sex)? Spending more and and more time alone? Yup, we’ve been there. And, chances are, your partner is going through the same thing.
Relationship ruts are normal alongside a changing dynamic. As you move from wanting to tear their clothes off every day to a calmer, more regular part of the relationship, the adjustment process isn’t without bumps.
However, the fact that ruts are a natural result of progressing relationships doesn’t make them easier to digest — they’re frustrating, abrasive, and can even turn toxic if people don’t address and work through them.
While there’s plenty to think about, sometimes, simply refreshing the vibe can be enough to put things on the right track again.
That’s why we’ve gathered together a big ol’ list of ways to jump start a fizzling relationship.
A love for the ages: The science behind sticking it out
“Gosh, I wish there was some magic formula to help us get along again…” Well, magic might be a bit of a reach, but, as always, science has got you covered.
According to a study carried out in 2011, couples’ long-term satisfaction with each other and the success of their relationship depends on a few key factors:Trusted Source
- thinking positively about each other
- thinking about each other when they’re apart
- acting affectionately toward each other
- sharing new and challenging activities
- generally being happy in both their individual and shared lives
- having sex
- Sounds great to us — but the truth is that virtually no relationship elicits feelings of pure bliss all the time. It’s normal for people in long-term relationships to go through ebbs and flows of intimacy.
And while we’re all multifaceted people who are much more than just a relationship or a job, how we feel about our partner can have a considerable effect on well-being while we’re in young adulthood, according to a 2019 review of studies.Trusted Source
There’s no official definition or time frame for lulls in affection, since they take different forms in different relationships.
However, general signs of being in a rut include fighting a lot, being bored, and losing interest in sexual activity. Each part of a rut needs addressing — you can have some sexy fun if you like, but if you’re fighting as soon as you’re finished, it’s still not a healthy dynamic.
The good news…
Since relationship ruts are a common phenomenon, people have put a lot of effort into finding ways to haul ourselves out of them.
Before trying to rejuvenate a relationship, remember there’s nothing wrong with losing a little passion now and again. Maybe you’re working too much or not striking an even balance between your time for intimacy and your obligations to others.
Perhaps you or your partner have chronic health concerns that might stand in the way of sexual activity or require some workarounds.
You may spend long periods of time apart due to travel, work, or family.
Whatever the reason, it’s important to put in effort to sustain the relationship — if, of course, you both want to continue dating — during these lulls.
The same way you’d try to push a car with a dead battery the rest of the way to the mechanics to fire up the power, you might need a little elbow grease to get the relationship moving again.
Here’s your action plan to bring the satisfaction back.
The boredom rut: Either beat the boring or embrace it
Boredom is a creeping menace in a relationship that can slowly disarm all the fun parts. Plus, it’s comfortable, and it often doesn’t feel worth turning into an argument, so you may not start to address boredom until it’s too late.
1. Try (exciting!) new activities
It goes without saying that sharing activities and memories is key to maintaining a relationship. But doing the same things all the time can become repetitive and tedious.
Stave off the blahs by trying new and exhilarating activities together.
Take a weekend trip somewhere you’ve never been, rent an eScooter and zip around your nearest city (if they’re legal there), go and get a couples massage, try ice skating for the first time — whatever it is, make sure it’s novel, exciting, and collaborative.
And don’t be afraid to get goofy! Silly memories are keepers too. We bet you don’t reminisce together about that time you were really good at ice skating, put it that way.
And you needn’t leave the house! Cook dinner naked (unless you have a street-facing kitchen window), play “the floor is lava,” or practice your hide-and-seek skills. Playing together very often supports staying together.
Still at a loss for ideas? Try reflecting on exciting things you did together in the beginning of the relationship and recreate those experiences or revisit the location where you met. Even taking a stroll down memory lane will spark a wanderlust that inspires you.
Unless you met somewhere boring, like the office.
2. Create a “Couple’s Bucket List”
Work together to create a list of things you want to do together as a couple, without the “excitement” requirement. Not everything has to be an insane adrenalin rush.
Sometimes, it’s best to embrace the boring — it doesn’t mean that the everyday can’t still nourish and connect the two of you.
Maybe you make a promise to cook dinner together once a week (naked or otherwise), form a little book club together where you read the same thing and chat about it, or start a home workout together. Perhaps you could even get a pet.
Then choose three items from the list and tackle them over the next 3 months. Having goals as a couple means you can grow together without needing constant stimulation. Goals also help you keep bad habits at bay.
3. Kick screens out of the bedroom
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with snuggling up and watch trash TV together. However, you need a screen-free haven in your home in which you can really connect with each other. So it might as well be where you sleep and bang.
Ditch the screens, laptops, tablets, and phones, and pay attention to each other instead.
Mindless scrolling engages nothing except the shares of social media companies. Even if it’s just a conversation about the news of the day, or what’s going on with your partner’s family, stay curious about your partner.
If you too concerned with what’s happening on reruns of “Dawson’s Creek” or on the profile of a person you dislike, you might be neglecting one of the people closest to you.
Here’s how to stop doom scrolling through the Internet so you can spend a little quality time together.
4. Make mini dates
Too busy for a weekly date night?
Try eating breakfast together, meeting for lunch, or designating 20 minutes every evening to chat uninterrupted — no distractions allowed. Special time together feels special, even if it involves really mundane activities like eating bagels.
The fighting rut: Agree to disagree
Nothing sours the air like a lovers’ spat. It’s time to get to the root of the matter.
5. Communicate about each other’s needs
It’s always better to put difficult topics out there for discussion.
Bottling up resentments and holding grudges can mess with how happy you are in the relationship and in yourself.Trusted Source
Plus, when a relationship isn’t meeting one or both of your emotional and sexual needs, the chances of infidelity and dissatisfaction go up, according to earlier research from 2006.Trusted Source
It’s super important to let your partner know when they’re falling short of expectations or that the relationship isn’t how you’d like it to be. However, presenting this in an open, calm manner and listening to your partner’s feelings are essential for ensuring this doesn’t escalate.
6. Identify what you like about each other
Years into a relationship, you can sometimes be so used to a person’s positive traits that they fall into the background a little, pushing the quirks and irritations to the fore.
It’s important to regularly express appreciation through positive feedback. Constant negativity seems a lot more natural during a phase of regular fights. But actively deciding to break that cycle can help the two of you repair the dynamic.
Challenge yourself to sit down and make a list of things you like about your partner. Then share them. (If it becomes too much of a challenge, you may need to ask yourself why you’re in the relationship at all.)
You should like and appreciate each other as people, even if you sometimes operate at cross-purposes. It’s always best to come back to that.
7. Work out together
Not only does a duel sweat-blasting session increase workout motivation, it can also improve couples’ communication. It’s also fun and makes you feel good.
If you’re both feeling great about yourselves, you’re less likely to get into the headspace where you start arguing.
8. Talk through problems with people outside the relationship
You may feel that your business is your business and no one else needs to know that you’re fighting with your partner. But fresh perspective could give you ideas you didn’t consider and approaches to try that could smooth over the problems.
It’s easy for couples to get stuck in the same old fight patterns behind closed doors. So find someone you trust to help you break that pattern. If you don’t feel comfortable talking to family or a friend, then seek the help of therapist.
This gives you both a shot at changing the outcome of the conflict.
Friends can break up with you too, and it hurts equally. Be sure to share important shit with the ones you have.
9. If you live together, share household chores evenly
This is a huuuuuuuuge kicker. When you’re first getting with someone, you’re hardly thinking “Ooh, yes, their washing up technique is so good, they’re going to be so useful around the home later on in life…”
But when the exciting bits subside a little, and you start to share responsibilities, there may well be a push-and-pull when it comes to who does what.
Unequal distribution of chores can trigger all manner of arguments. Even if you aren’t tackling the same chores, make sure you’re sharing the workload.
(If you’re not usually that organized when it comes to housework, here’s how to get shit done.)
Also, work out what your partner is comfortable or skilled at doing. You might be a DIY expert but never have successfully used a washing machine without shrinking everything — so stick to what you’re good at.
If you can learn a thing or two about chores you didn’t previously know, that’s great. But sticking to your strengths isn’t a problem, so long as you both get sh*t done.
Bonus points: A 2016 article also found that husbands and wives who do housework together have more sex.Trusted Source
“I mean, all of our clothes are in the laundry, so we might as well…”
10. Bounce back after a bust-up
Handling disagreements well — by, for example, practicing forgiveness and avoiding judgment — predicts more positive emotions and satisfaction in the relationship.Trusted Source
It’s less important to solve the conflict than it is to treat each other well, even if there’s no solution to be found. Yes, it’s corny, but sometimes you will have to agree to disagree. Ugh.
Forgiveness is no simple task (and it doesn’t mean staying in an abusive relationship) — but learning it can make you infinitely happier.
The sexless rut: Naked ambition
When the experience of taking off your pants becomes… well, pants, really.
11. Take it online
The internet is a treasure trove of information, interaction, and puppy GIFs. But it’s also where the horny and curious come out to explore their sexuality and learn their boundaries.
Online sexual activity (like watching porn or having cybersex) alone or with a partner can enhance the intimacy, quality, and frequency of your bedroom fun times with your S.O..Trusted Source
If watching porn together isn’t something you’ve tried yet, broaching the topic may feel weird. But it’s likely that if you’re feeling uninspired by the sex you have, your partner may feel the same way.
Suggesting new tricks and games to try, with ethical online inspiration at hand (and tongue, and everything else) may well be the Pandora’s box the two of you needed.
Likewise, if you feel like exploring The Internet Of Sexy Things solo, that may also help you bring new ideas into the bedroom. However, too much of a good thing can be less great — if it feels like porn is taking over your sex life, ease off a little.
12. Create a “fantasy jar”
We’re not saying you have to decorate a glass receptacle with pictures of Jon Snow from “Game of Thrones” (although if that’s what you’re into, go for it).
Write out all of the fantasies each of you want to try separate pieces of paper. Stick ’em all in a jar, then take turns picking out of the jar and acting out the fantasies. It might feel out-of-character at first, but that’s literally the point.
13. Put sex on the schedule
Toss out the idea that spontaneous sex is the only way to have good sex. It’s likely that the days of out-of-the-blue bonking extravaganzas aren’t necessarily behind you, but are definitely waning.
And that’s fine. Good sex is good sex whether you plan for it or not.
When we’re crazy busy, sex can be one of the first things to fall by the wayside. But sex is also key to maintaining intimacy and relationship satisfaction.Trusted Source
If you know your partner’s body well enough to stimulate multiple orgasms or even orgasm at the same time? Even better.Trusted Source
So come up with a schedule for doing it and stick to it. The mindset doesn’t need to be “WEDNESDAY AT 5:13 P.M. GET NAKED!” But if you wake up knowing you want to be physically close to your partner, float the idea of sex later on in the day. It may help you both get in the mood.
And if the fact that sex burns calories isn’t motivation enough, we don’t know what is.
14. Sext while you’re apart
It’ll build anticipation for fun times later in the day.
However, building anticipation is key. You’ve been together a while and know the boundaries of the other person. So start by letting them know you’re thinking about them in naughty ways, and ramp up the sexual tension in ways with which you’re both comfortable.
Dirty talk is a skill worth building up in a long-term relationship.
15. Shake things up
If you’re used to long, slow sessions, change up routines by having the occasional quickie or getting jiggy with it in unusual places.
The sex usually feels great — it’s the routine that starts to grate. Being comfortable with each other’s turn-ons during a long-term relationship needn’t mean that you’re bored.
16. Don’t forget non-sexual touch
Hugs, massages, an arm slipped around a waist — these small actions can all boost feelings of affection. Sometimes, we may feel like we’re craving sex but really, we just want a good cuddle, or a sign that our partner still wants to be physically close.
Extend those little gestures, touches, and signs that show a unique physical connection without leading all the way to sex. As a result, sex will feel far more natural when there are moments of arousal and electricity.
The general rut
Because sometimes, you just can’t pinpoint the thing that’s going wrong.
17. Don’t be embarrassed to seek external support
t’s probably not a great idea to propose couples therapy only 6 weeks into a relationship. But for couples seeking long-term happiness, couples therapy or counseling is a very reasonable (and sometimes necessary) choice.
It’s not admitting defeat — it’s refusing to accept defeat. Sometimes, you simply need an external, impartial mediator. Couples therapy can offer this.
You need to work out if repairing your relationship will take more work than it’s worth.
18. Remember not all relationships are worth saving
Yes, relationships go through phases of closeness and brief rifts. Sometimes, however, people just aren’t compatible.
If the bitterness and resentment in the relationship has reached the level of emotional, physical, or sexual abuse — it’s never okay. If you’re being treated badly, get the hell out of there.
Someone worth your time deserves you more. If you feel trapped, pressured, or unable to leave an abusive relationship, the National Domestic Violence Hotline can help you work out your next steps.
19. Work on yourself first
Surrounding yourself with people who make you happy, unsurprisingly, makes you happy.
And being confident in yourself means that you’re more likely to pursue friendships and relationships because those people add something to your world, not because of neediness.
Satisfaction in relationships is tied to contentment throughout your personal life. The happier a person is in general, the happier they’re likely to be within a given relationship.Trusted Source
Don’t rely on a partner to make your life great. Instead, work to make your life fulfilling and positive, regardless of whom you’re dating. Happy wife, happy life? More like happy you, happy everything else.
To quote the great philosopher RuPaul: If you can’t love yourself, how in the hell you gonna love someone else? And yes, we can have an Amen, thank you very much.