After being with our partner for a long time or getting caught up in the daily grind, it’s not unusual to feel as if the relationship is a bit tired. Feeling pulled in a million different directions by competing demands, as well as ageing, changing bodies, and personal worries, that maybe we don’t voice like we once would have can create a gap that can turn into a gulf. The relationship we were once so energised by seems to have lost its spark and we wonder how to reignite it. 

Our relationships take a continued investment of time, energy, efforts and emotions–attention and bandwidth–in order to prosper and thrive. We enter into the great unknown when we embark on a new relationship; there’s a whole lot of getting to know involved. Over time and as we gather more shared experience and intimacy, we don’t have to invest as intensely as we did at the outset. We settle into a rhythm as the relationship progresses, shifting into new phases, and the hope is that we don’t lose sight of each other along the way. 

But sometimes we do miss a beat and lose the rhythm of the relationship. It’s not that we set out to, but somewhere along the way, we became complacent. We get so comfortable and secure in our relationship that we inadvertently take it for granted because we know they will be there. We then shift our bandwidth to work or become consumed by the kids or with friends and family’s dramas. Or we might withdraw into our own inner turmoil. Without realising it, the relationship winds up feeling like the casualty of pursuing a life together. 

A relationship pothole that so many fall into is assuming that we know ‘everything’ about our partner, including thoughts, feelings, needs and wants.

We stop being curious. These are easy mistakes to make; we are human, after all. That, and the media’s done a pretty good job of selling us this soulmate and fairy tale notion of relationships where our Perfect Partner ™ is somebody who either thinks, feels and acts ‘just like us’ or somebody who we can find out everything there is to know about them in the first few months of the relationship and that how and who they are will remain static. 

It’s crucial to be mindful of our assumptions about our relationships and why we’re making them. Are our assumptions true, or is it that we’re avoiding a conversation with our partner or avoiding seeing something we don’t want to? 

All of us want to be seen and heard.

Assumptions flag up opportunities to reconnect and be more intimate by being vulnerable enough to engage with our partner in these areas. 

When it comes to keeping the spark alive in our relationship, our mind tends to lurch toward sex or date nights. If we’re not having sex every day like in the beginning, or flirting or spending quality time together, we often wonder if this spells doom (it doesn’t). Making an effort to express our attraction is important, after all, it’s what distinguishes a romantic relationship from a friendship, but we also experience it when we do things that connect us to that sense of joy in the relationship. 

For instance, if my husband and I don’t giggle, banter or belly laugh each day, it indicates that we’re probably too caught up in other stuff. Sure, some sexy time or going out on our own is great for reconnection, but some of my spark moments are when we’re about to go to sleep and are howling laughing telling stories about what happened earlier that day or putting the world to rights. 

So how do we reconnect or keep the spark alive in our relationship?

Spending time with our partner as opposed to being in proximity to them; asking how they are and actually being interested in it; showing an interest in what they’re doing even if it’s not our thing; these are some of the ways in which we show love. Hugging and showing affection just because; making time for deep conversations (preferably with some good food or great scenery, haha); finding out more about each other (there’s always more to know); it’s all good for the soul of the relationship. 

A word of caution for if you’re in an unhealthy or unfulfilling relationship.

So you might read all of this and be like, Um, Natalie, my situation isn’t that simple. Our relationship’s been through a lot. I had to fight to get/keep this person. The one thing our relationship always had was a spark and now it’s gone/fading.

One of the reasons why we need to be more aware of our intentions is that if we don’t know, for instance, why we get into or pursue a relationship, we’ll choose our partner and relationship for reasons that won’t stack up in the medium to long term.

For instance, let’s say you associate relationship ‘spark’ with feeling out of control or insecure. Once you have control or there’s a stronger sense of security, the spark feeling will subside.

Let’s say that you didn’t really consider your core values. In the medium to long term, it’s harder to play down incompatibility and undernourished emotional needs.

Or, let’s say that, on some level, you kept going with this relationship because you didn’t want to be a ‘loser’. Well, once you ‘got’ this person and the relationship and ‘won’, even this will lose its shine. Ask Olympic medallists and Oscar winners. Sure, of course, they appreciate the win, but it doesn’t sustain them 24/7 for the rest of their days.

When even an unhealthy relationship gains a level of normality or it becomes clear that neither of you are going anywhere, that will dampen or kill off a sense of spark. This is a good time to check in with yourself and ensure that you’re not confusing spark with destabilisation and toxic chemistry.

Don’t panic if you feel as though the spark’s waning in your relationship. Get clear on what ‘spark’ means to you.

Sometimes we diagnose our relationship with a ‘spark problem’ when we’ve reached that intimacy of normality and being genuinely open to knowing more about each other with our romantic partner. It’s like, Where’s the rollercoaster of uncertainty? We might think that having ‘spark’ in our relationship equals being on our toes in turmoil. Nope, that’s fear! Instead, we need to say yes to investing in our relationships and showing love and attentiveness, and also yes to the magic and intimacy of a shared life where we weather the seasons together. 

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