20 Unexpected Activities That Help Couples From Becoming Complacent In Their Relationship
If you've been with your partner for a while, there's a good chance one or both of you are becoming complacent in the relationship. And, when not addressed, it's an issues that can lead to problems — and a feeling of disconnectedness — over time.
"I call complacency in relationships 'the antibiotic effect.' What I mean by this is people tend to put effort in when they are not feeling well, but as soon as they feel better taking care of things seem to fall to the wayside," Carrie Krawiec, a licensed marriage and family therapist, tells Bustle. "Our mind tends to focus on problems and emergency (part of our hardwired fight-or-flight response) and we tend to not be so vigilant when things are well."
And it's in these moments, when everything feels all comfy, that couples tend to take each other for granted. "Complacency naturally happens when couples get busy with daily life and quality time together gets squished in between work and kids, etc." Dr. Kate Dow, a psychologist and relationship coach, tells Bustle. "We get comfortable with our partner and feel we don't need to make the effort." But, in order to keep things healthy and happy, an effort most certainly needs to be made. Here are a few activities experts say can reignite passion, fix problems, and bring you closer together.
1. Get Into An Argument
While you certainly don't want to start a vicious fight, there are definitely benefits to be had from the occasional argument. "A little conflict and an argument every now and again keeps the relationship on its toes," clinical psychologist Dr. Josh Klapow, host of The Web Radio Show, tells Bustle. The deeper communication that is often sparked by conflict and necessary to help compromise and negotiate can remind you of why you're together, he says. After all, fighting shows there is still passion there, and that you will both fight to resolve issues.
2. Make Time To Be Grateful
To keep relationship from falling into a rut, "challenge yourself to find five opportunities to show your ... partner gratitude every day," says Krawiec. Or, at the very least, do so once a week. Point out what you love about them, thank them for kind things unexpectedly — and encourage them to do the same for you. It's all about making a habit of pointing out the good things, and reminding yourselves why you're together.
3. Change Up Your Daily Routine
While it's always nice to fall into a comfortable routine in a relationship, there is such a thing as being too comfortable. So, to prevent that from happening, incorporate small changes into your days. "Get up a few minutes early and do yoga together, take up a new hobby as a couple, meet each other for coffee on your lunch breaks, and so on," certified counselor Jonathan Bennett tells Bustle. "By changing up your daily routines with each other, it can go a long way towards fighting complacency."
4. Try Something New In Bed
It's not uncommon for couples who have been together awhile to lose that spark in the bedroom. "The passion fades and the sex becomes routine and bland," Bennett says. But it can be reignited. "One way to fight complacency is to spice up your sex life and become more adventurous in the bedroom. This will look different for every couple, but the key is to mix things up to add passion." Whether it's a toy, or something a little kinkier, changing things up and exploring new ideas you're both comfortable with can light the spark again.
5. Boost Your Energy Levels
If you both have packed schedules, don't be surprised if your relationship takes a back seat. "Many times complacency comes from a lack of energy," Bennett says. But this can be remedied by doing things to boost your energy levels, and de-stressing as a couple.
"Working out with your partner can get you both up and moving and spending time together in a unique way," Bennett says. "This doesn’t mean you have to jump into a half marathon. Even going for a walk together can do wonders for your health and energy."
6. Create Goals For The Year
"In relationships it is mandatory to have a clear understanding of where the relationship is headed," relationship experts Ashley and Carrington Brown tell Bustle. And that's why it's important to look to the year ahead, and make a few plans.
"As a couple, choosing a day to free up your schedule, and focus fully on the vision of your relationship offers the opportunity to spend quality time and to create a unified vision with your significant other." This might include planning a vacation, syncing your schedules, or simply creating a goal, such as deciding as a couple how much money you'd like to save by December 31st.
7. Go Your Separate Ways (For The Day)
If it's been a minute since you ventured out on your own, it may actually be beneficial to do so — all in the name of bettering your relationship. "Sometimes a romantic relationship can become stagnant because the partners begin to lose their individual selves in an effort to serve the partnership," Robin Bates-Pualuan, MS, LMFT, LPCC tells Bustle. "This can feel generous and selfless in the moment, but over time it leads to disconnection with yourself and simmering resentment toward the relationship and/or the partner themselves." So take a day for some solo time, and give your partner some space. Then, when you decide to get together again, you'll have something new to talk about.
8. Create A Love Map
Krawiec recommends creating a "love map" with your partner, in order to learn more about each other. "This is a way to stimulate conversation much like when you are falling in love," she says. "What are [your] interests and hobbies, fears and dreams? All of the little things that make your partner tick. You may think you know all of these things ... but you also may be surprised how your partner has grown and changed over the course of your relationship."
9. Do Something Sweet
In order to create a healthier relationship, you'll both need to fully commit to keeping it that way. "If you don’t want your partner to become complacent, then make sure you are not becoming complacent either," professional counselor Heidi McBain, MA, LMFT, LPC, RPT tells Bustle. What are some nice things you can do today to surprise your partner, and remind them that you care?
10. Make A Point Of Talking To Each Other
To keep your bond strong, you'll want to "open up communication with your partner," Beverly Hills-based psychotherapist Dr. Fran Walfish tells Bustle. "Talking is the glue that holds people together!" To do so, text each other more while you're at work, or make a point to begin and end each day together. In these moments, you can remind yourselves why you're together, talk about any problems you've been concerned about, or just simply catch up.
11. Practice Empathy
"Empathy is a skill that can be used to avoid relationship complacency," life coach Melissa Lewis tells Bustle. "Think about what your partner wants and why and how you can give love in a way that [they] want to receive." It might even help to take the Love Languages quiz, and learn more about how you both give and receive love.
"People often want love in different ways, and it is often not the way you want to receive it," she says. "Does your partner want a gift, a task completed, a spoken compliment, physical touch, or reserved time? If you are in a relationship and you don't know the top two ways your partner prefers affection, it is your job to find out."
12. Hold Hands
It may sound super simple, but even something small — like making a point of holding hands while you're out running errands, or sitting next to each other on the couch — can make a big difference.
"Never stop holding hands and showing your significant other that you are proud to be with them and you have no problems sharing it with the world," the Browns say. "As small as it is, holding hands is a big deal in staying connected and avoiding complacency in your relationship."
13. Put Your Phones Away
Do you and your partner climb into bed, only to ignore each other in favor of your phones? "Many couples become complacent in relationships simply because they spend more time focused on their devices than they do on their relationship," the Browns say. "The challenge is that with so much virtual connection it's easy to become physically disconnected. Implement a curfew to cut off the technology and focus fully on spending quality time with your partner."
14. Play A Game
If you and your partner have become a bit quiet around each other, then it's high time you bust out of your shell. "Couples who become 'complacent' are couples who are tiptoeing around speaking their truths to each other," counselor Melody Brooke, MA, LPC, LMFT tells Bustle. "Games like Cards Against Humanity and books like The Book of Questions can open up topics for discussion and allow you to get to know your partner’s true feelings. Often one or both partners make the mistake of feeling they have to keep the peace, and to always agree with their partner about everything. That can lead to a very boring, very uninteresting relationship." Don't be afraid to speak up.
15. Take A Class Together
To truly bond, why not try learning something new as a couple? You might want to take a class online, watch a few YouTube videos, or venture out to an actual classroom. "Many community colleges offer classes in couples massage, yoga, dancing and a variety of hobbies that could be done together," licensed professional counselor Pat Bubash, M.Ed. tells Bustle. "This is an inexpensive way to participate in an activity together, meet other people, and change the usual routine."
16. Go On An Adventure
It can also be fun to go on little mini adventures around town. As Dow says, "Two times a month ... trade off the role of finding a new experience to have with [your] partner. It can be at home or in the local social scene ... Check out local Groupons for nearby offerings as well, [such as] spa experiences, events, etc." And then go enjoy them together.
17. Volunteer Together
If ever there was a way to become less complacent in life, it's by getting out and helping others. "An attitude of gratitude positions you to appreciate and cherish the people who are committed to you," the Browns say. "When two people share the experience of serving the less fortunate or even an organization that brings positivity and assistance to those in a community, it causes you to see the heart of your significant other." And that can help you see each other in a new light.
18. Cook Something New
One of the biggest ruts couples fall into is having the same thing for dinner night after night, which is not only boring culinary-wise, but it can also put a damper on your relationship.
To spice things up (literally and figuratively) take the time to cook something new. "Making new meals that are out of the norm together" can save you from complacency, Dow says, as will switching off who makes the meal — if one of you is always the go-to chef — since doing so can help you both feel nurtured.
19. Share Your Fantasies
OK, so let's say you've taken your sex lives to the next level, and are having a good time. Now may be the moment to share some of your deeper fantasies, and see what your partner thinks about them. As Dow says, trying on some sexual role-play can open up a connection, and may even reveal you have some shared fantasies.
20. Plan A Vacation
Little weekend getaways are always fun, and can be easily added to your lives. But there's something incredibly bonding about planning a larger trip, too. "Travel is a wonderful way to not only see other places, but to meet other people who can [exemplify] a lifestyle that is not complacent," Bubash says. There's also the whole bonding experiencing of planning what to do and where to go, and then overcoming travel dilemmas together.
While you don't have to do all of these activities every day, adding a few in here and there can keep your relationship fresh and happy, all while preserving the connection you have as a couple.