As much as we might wish that every relationship would play out like a fairy tale, the reality is that healthy, happy, long-lasting relationships don't just happen: it takes a lot of effort — on the part of both partners — to maintain a long-term relationship. If you're not putting enough effort into your relationship, it will eventually show: you could feel your connection to your partner starting to fade, or notice that you're fighting more than usual. In order to prevent the relationship from eventually fizzling out, you and your partner should both be committed to actively improving your relationship (even if it's already a good one), whether that's by carving out more alone time, taking up a new hobby together, or even experimenting in bed.
"When [you're] first together, both people are usually putting a lot of time and energy into the relationship," Lesli Doares, Couples Consultant & Coach, tells Bustle. "This will slow down over time, but for the relationship to last some amount of energy and attention is still necessary. This will vary from couple to couple; however, nothing thrives on neglect. Spending adequate time together is critical. This isn’t just time in the same space with both of you doing parallel things. It means time when you are interacting in intimate ways — emotionally, physically, intellectually, etc."
Simply put, you can't grow as a couple if you aren't both making an active effort to maintain your romantic connection. It might seem daunting, but putting effort into your relationship isn't as scary as it sounds: it's as simple as showing a genuine desire to keep learning about each other and sharing new experiences.
"I always equate effort to showing the desire or initiative to engage, learn or delight the other person in the relationship," Rich Bracken, motivational speaker and relationship/communication coach, tells Bustle. "It’s so important to do things that show your interest in the other person because you’re now in a relationship, which means (shocker!) it’s not just about you."
If you feel like your relationship isn't as ~magical~ as it once was, here are nine signs that either you (or your partner) aren't putting enough effort into keeping your connection healthy and strong.
All The Little Things Disappear
When you first start dating someone, it's natural to feel like you're trying harder to impress them, especially compared to when you've settled into a long-term relationship. But all those little things you did to impress them and create special memories don't have to disappear when you get comfortable together.
"You had [special] songs, nicknames, foods, movies and more when you first got together," Bracken says. "You dressed up a little more, held their hand a little longer, sent texts just because. How do you feel about those things now? If you’re not trying to connect, create memories, go over and above or surprise them with a spontaneous trip to their favorite restaurant, then you don’t care to put forth that effort."
You Think You Know Everything About Your Partner — And You're OK With That
I've said it before, and I'll say it again: you should always strive to learn more about your partner and deepen your connection. Just because you've been together for 10 years doesn't mean you know every single thing about your partner; you just need to think of creative new topics to discuss.
"There is no way to learn every single fact about someone," Bracken says. "Life is an ongoing story and there is always something new to learn about the person you’re with. But if you don’t want to keep turning the pages, then I think it’s safe to say this may be the final chapter."
You Don't Have Date Nights Anymore
Sometimes, life just gets in the way and prevents you and your partner from having as much intimate, romantic time as you'd like. When does it become a red flag that someone isn't making enough effort? If date nights have become pretty much non-existent... and no one is speaking up about it.
"Falling into a rut by letting the day-to-day grind take over is a red flag that no effort is being made to focus on the emotional intimacy in a relationship," Doares says. "Setting aside specific time to be a couple, focused on each other, takes thought and effort."
You Don't Spend Time Together, Period
Being in a long-term relationship doesn't mean you have to spend every waking moment with your partner. However, it does mean that you make your partner a priority — and if you notice that spending time with your partner falls below all your other priorities, that's a warning sign that you need to make more effort in your relationship.
"We tell people what our priorities are by how we spend our time," Doares says. "If you spend more time at work, hobbies, with friends, etc., instead of with your partner, you are telling them that they (or it) isn’t all that important to you. Nothing thrives on neglect and your relationship is no different."
You Find Yourself Forgetting Important Dates
OK, so not everyone has an amazing memory for important dates in the first place, but if you care about your partner, you'll make the effort to keep a mental calendar of dates that are important to them (like their mom's birthday) even if they don't directly affect you.
"Not remembering or taking action around things that are important to your partner means they don’t matter to you enough to focus away from yourself," Doares says. "They are points of connection that can make or break a relationship."
You're Less Polite Than Before
In the beginning of a relationship, everyone is on their best behavior because they want to impress their new partner. If you notice that you're less polite and generous than you once were, consider that a sign that you should try a little harder in all areas of your relationship.
"Basic civility, generosity and kindness do not take much effort," Doares says. "If these simple behaviors aren’t present, it means someone no longer sees their value."
It's Difficult To Say Things Like "I'm Sorry" And "I Love You"
Being open and vulnerable with your partner is key to maintaining a healthy relationship, and if it's difficult for you to say things like "I'm sorry" or "I love you," that could be a sign that your connection isn't as strong as it once was.
"['I'm sorry' and 'I love you'] seem to be two of the hardest things to [say] in a relationship so if that stops happening, it is a real indication that person isn’t willing to open up and be vulnerable," Doares says. "These are important for feelings of safety, security and trust and a relationship cannot thrive without them."
Your Partner Is Thinking About Leaving
The clearest sign that you're not putting enough effort into your relationship? If your partner expresses a desire to leave the relationship, because they feel lonely, that should be a serious wake-up call that you need to work on rebuilding your connection.
"When your partner is ready to walk because [they] feel lonely in the relationship, you know you aren’t putting in the time," Susan Trombetti, Matchmaker, tells Bustle. "There is nothing worse than feeling lonely in a relationship because you have someone that put you on a shelf for whatever reason. Maybe they are busy working or maybe they are hanging out too much with their friends, but it isn’t working. Relationships take time and work."
Good things come to those who work for them, and healthy, happy relationships are no exception — if you want your relationship to stand the test of time, all it takes is a little effort.