If you and your partner are feeing uninspired where your relationship is concerned, you might be in a rut. To help you refresh your relationship and get back on track, we've put together some simple tips aimed at retooling your twosome.
We turned to Alisa Bowman, author of Project: Happily Ever After: Saving Your Marriage When the Fairytale Falters (Running Press, 2010) and creator of projecthappilyeverafter.com, to find out more about the most effective ways to re-energize your relationship.
Here she shares six rut-busting strategies for a new lease on love.
1. Keep learning about each other
There's more to your partner than meets the eye, and no matter how long you've been together there's always something new to learn.
"Continually see your partner as a work of discovery," Bowman says. When we've known someone for a long time, we tend to label them. For example, we think of them as "hard-working" or "smart" or "dull."
Resist the urge to label – it's a one-way trip straight into a rut. Instead, start every day with a renewed curiosity about your significant other. "There's a lot you don't know, and by remembering that, you can then set out to discover more about your partner every day," she says.
Perhaps you can take a course together or read the same book and see what your partner's perspective is – they just might surprise you.
2. Continue to date
As relationships develop, the flurry of dating activity (complete with flowers, candles, dinners out and long periods spent gazing into each other's eyes) tends to lead to a stage where both people stop trying to woo one another – which can quickly turn into a rut, Bowman explains.
"Reserve one night a week that is just for you. Make a big deal out of it," she says. Whether you go out or stay in, spend this night focused on each other in a way that you haven't been since the beginning stages of your relationship.
Page 1 of 2 -- Learn how being creative under the covers and doing something spontaneous can help bust a relationship rut on page 2
3. Ditch distractions
How many times have you sat in the same room as the person you love and not exchanged a single word? If you spend more time bonding with your BlackBerrys than with each other, it's time to disconnect in order to reconnect.
"Eat dinner together and do not bring electronics to the table," Bowman says. Tune into each other and tune out from reading materials, your phones and your iPads.
In the evenings, spend 15 to 20 minutes plugging into each other every night, unplugged from the Internet, TV and other electronic distractions.
4. Spice up sex
If you're going through the same sequence of moves every time you have sex, it's no wonder you're both bored, Bowman says.
She suggests having sex at a different time of day and in new locations – give the bed a break and explore totally new territory. Try new positions and seducing your partner in a new way. (Send a sexy text in the middle of the work day when they wouldn't expect it, for example.) "Get creative," she says. "Creativity is key."
5. Maximize the mundane
The stress of life – long days, epic to-do lists and endless piles of laundry – can often stifle the spark in your relationship. But Bowman suggests taking the mundane and making it fun.
"Too often we do things separately in an attempt to get them done more efficiently, but we lose our togetherness in the process," she explains.
Instead of toiling away solo, get chores done together. Turn on music you both love and clean the house together, work on the bills together and run errands together. That way you can catch up while you work (which is especially important if you haven't had much time to talk lately).
6. Be spontaneous
If you want to shake up a rut you need to embrace change. "Many people see change as a stressor, but it's often just what a relationship needs to feel new," Bowman says.
It doesn't have to be extreme (a new job, a new baby, a new living location). It can be as simple as finding a new hobby, eating out at a new place, or both of you trying a cuisine you swear you don't like. "If you're open to new experiences, you will have more to experience with one another, and a lot more to talk about as a result," she adds.
Whatever strategies you try, just know that the more effort you put into your relationship, the stronger it will become and the better you and your partner will feel about each other.
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