How To Not Grow Apart In Your Long-Term Relationship & Grow Together Instead

Relationships aren't easy. Anyone who says they are is in denial. Or a serious honeymoon stage. Sure, they're supposed to be more happy than sad, but no matter how in love you are, if you don't do the hard work of growing together in your long-term relationship instead of apart, distance will creep in. In fact, feeling like your relationship is "boring, drab, lifeless, stale, dull, [and] tedious" may actually indicate that your partnership has good (albeit unsexy) qualities like organizational skills, frugality, seriousness, and a busy schedule, according to professor Naomi Brower, MFHD, CFLE of Utah State University. But frugal and well-planned don't always equate to feelings of closeness and joy. 

Luckily, the hard work of keeping a close, loving relationship is the good kind of work. It's more like play and communication than awkward, tense talks and hard changes. Those things have to happen occasionally, too, but the remainder of the work isn't the drudgery kind. 

Adopting a few of the habits of happy couples can really strengthen your bond, according to Mark Goulston, M.D., F.A.P.A., for Psychology Today. These habits include being affectionate, expressing your love and making forgiveness a priority. The following tips will also help keep you more like besties with benefits than roommates with shared bills. 

1. Make Room For Fun

Play is essential to any good relationship, and is one of the best ways to bond, communicate and increase your overall relationship satisfaction, according to Utah State University professor Naomi Brower, MFHD, CFLE. It also encourages a spirit of teamwork and strengthens the friendship component of your relationship. Be silly, laugh, and go on fun adventures together to help stay close. 

2. Make Time For Each Other

Couples who want to avoid growing apart need to simply do the work of being present and building their bond. This can be accomplished by going on dates, falling back into the habits that caused you to fall in love, and taking time to just talk and be present with each other, according to Margarita Tartakovsky, M.S. for Psych Central.

3. Stay Raw and Vulnerable

It's hard to stay close with someone when you don't know him or her anymore. In the beginning of a relationship, couples share their fears, hopes, dreams, and feelings. When you're not sharing your feelings, they can turn to resentments and foster feelings of loneliness and distance, according to Terence Stone for lifestyle site Tiny Buddha. 

4. Nurture Your Sex Life

If you want to stay close, your sex life needs to remain a priority, according to Tartakovsky. All couples experience lulls in their sex lives, but keeping your bedroom game strong and communicating openly when it's not will go far in the day-to-day work of growing together, not apart. 

5. Encourage Your Partner's Growth

Growing together doesn't work when you're doing the work of becoming your best self and the best possible member of team marriage (or long-term relationship) but your partner is just stagnating, according to marriage expert Shiomo Slatkin an an article for Huffington Post. Encourage his or her growth, and if you're not sure how to do that, seek advice from a counselor. 

6. Work On Your Own Happiness

What you bring to a relationship has a big impact on what the relationship will be, according to Ashley Fern in an article for Elite Daily. If you're not happy and you lack a sense of fulfillment, you can't depend on your relationship to provide those things for you. 

You have to do the work and accept that there will be times when you maybe don't like the person you choose to love. But putting in the time and dedication to nurturing your love will go a long way to avoid growing apart. 

Want more of Bustle's Sex and Relationships coverage? Check out our new podcast,I Want It That Way, which delves into the difficult and downright dirty parts of a relationship, and find more on our Soundcloud page

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