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Charging......clear! If your relationship is flat-lining, match.com’s relationship expert Kate Taylor has the relationship advice you need to tackle the emergency and breathe life back into it.
The first, most important thing to remember is that it’s NORMAL for the spark to go out of a relationship at some point. Part of this is biological: anthropologist Dr Helen Fisher states that the first “attraction” period of love changes (somewhere between 18 months and 3 years) into the calmer, less passionate “attachment” stage.
Attachment is a longer lasting commitment and is the bond that keeps couples together and biologically is the result of shifting levels of hormones and brain-chemicals. So you really are genetically programmed to lose that magic snap, crackle and pop of First Love. You can see why nature designed it that way – can you imagine getting anything done if you insisted on holding your partner’s hand all day for 50 years?
So, if it’s biological to lose that ‘spark’ in a relationship, one suggestion is to try to get it back biologically too. The main attraction we feel for our partners in the very beginning is down to a rush of Dopamine. In that first, magical moment when you realise they could be ‘The One’, your brain becomes flooded with this chemical. Elevated levels of Dopamine can result in sleeplessness and exhilaration, among other things, so do new things with your other half and get the Dopamine flowing that way. Retreading the same path to the same restaurant won’t flood your brain with anything stronger than apathy, so venture further afield. Try new foods, new types of films, new pubs, meeting new friends… The best relationship advice is to always think fresh, different and challenging.
Next up, improve your appearance together. They say, ‘love enters through the eyes and leaves through the eyes’, and if you’re sitting reading this in your PJs while your other-half sits gently scratching in their vest – you might need this advice more than most. Remember that the spark in a relationship is very visual. Don’t assume your partner will adore you however you look. No, they won’t leave you if you gain 10lbs or stop exfoliating before every date, but you should still remain mindful of your appearance. They’re the ones that will be looking at you, let’s not forget. We’re not suggesting you hit Bond Street and hire a personal trainer, but make sure you look good every day both for yourself and for your partner. Chuck out your ‘slobbing-out’ clothes so you’re not tempted to wear them, and instead get used to hanging out in well-fitting jeans and comfortable but attractive tops. Wearing fitted clothes on a daily basis will also help you keep in shape – no more elasticated waistbands to convince you you’d still fit into your honeymoon clothes!
Hit the gym together. Not only will you both look better, but you’ll both feel better, more cheerful and more confident – the perfect advice to improve your relationship and yourself! Set a goal to both lose 7lbs or train for a marathon. Researchers in the US found that couples sharing a challenging experience report closer, happier relationships than those who don’t. And other – more exciting – research has shown that people who exercise 3 times a week or more report more, ahem… ‘satisfaction’ in the bedroom than those who don’t. If that doesn’t get you pulling those trainers on, nothing will.
Setting aside a regular date-night is good relationship advice but don’t think you have to do it the traditional movie/dinner/drinks way. Again, think novelty. Entertain at home, with people you’ve not seen in years. Start a regular game of cards with competitive friends, get a Wii and a 2-player game you can both enjoy, or hire every film by one director and watch them over the course of a few weeks. Try NEW, ongoing activities. At the very least, they will be conversation-openers and communication in a relationship is a wonderful way to fan the ‘spark’ into a flame again.
Last but certainly not least - don’t give up. The passion and excitement in long-term relationships will always ebb and flow. It’s natural. At match.com, we hear every day from our former members about how they are keeping their love alive. Recently, a couple who just celebrated their Golden Wedding anniversary gave us this lovely tip: ‘Accept you will fall out of and back into love with each other over your relationship. We have. But luckily, never at the same time.’