Often, the things most important to us are inherently fragile since we don’t want to lose them: romantic love is no exception. This doesn’t mean that you have to hold on more tightly—but your relationship will benefit if you learn how to love smarter.
All love is delicate and therefore needs to be protected and nurtured.
When you ignore this reality or blindly assume your love is automatically able to transcend the mundane hassles of life and the relationship issues that befall so many, then you place your relationship or marriage at greater risk. Just ask the millions of estranged couples who were once head-over-heels in love; or ask the millions of couples who were convinced they had finally met their soulmate, the one person they could share their deepest longings and vulnerabilities with, only to one day find themselves in a contentious divorce battle with this very same person.
Not every failed relationship is the result of ending up with the wrong partner; often, it’s due to prolonged periods of relationship neglect that erodes a once-solid foundation.
Identifying Relationship Staleness (without Panicking or Jumping Ship)
No matter how much we love and admire and respect our spouse/partner, long-term relationships/marriages are vulnerable to growing stale.
Frequently, couples misinterpret this staleness as a sign that they’ve fallen out of love or may erroneously conclude that they are with the “wrong” person. So they end the relationship (sometimes by having an affair) and start this entire cycle over again with someone new. And to no one’s surprise, the new and exciting relationship slowly falls into the all-too-familiar rut that undid the previous relationship.
Chasing infatuation highs through new romance only obscures the work that’s needed to be done in all long-term relationships. Relationships require direct work, but relationships also force us to undergo a good dose of self-examination and, hopefully, self-growth. Infatuation is too easy and requires little from us. Infatuation is not love; it is not intimacy (though intimacy can clearly be a part of it).
Settling for staleness is as problematic as chasing infatuation rushes. While the familiarity of marriage and long-term relationships allows us to feel comfortably ensconced in the safety of our relationship routines (as it should), we should all be mindful of comfort morphing into boredom and staleness. And there are no universal signs of this, since one couple’s boredom and staleness can be another couple’s dream come true.
Effectively Communicate about Routines that Work and Don’t
As with many marital and relationship issues, communication is essential in identifying the relationship routines that work for you and the ones that may be fueling a relationship rut. To this end, couples will be well served by examining their typical routines with the goal of identifying which foster a sense of predictability and safety, as well as the routines that aren’t working at some level.
A balancing act is required, one that allows you to maintain the level of predictability that fosters emotional comfort and safety while tweaking routines through small changes where necessary. The ideal is that this mutual communication process occurs in the spirit of support and a shared sense of adventure and exploration about what the relationship is needing and what you are each willing to do to advance this relationship cause.