At the beginning of a relationship, every new piece of information you learn about your partner is the most fascinating thing you’ve ever heard. But after a while, you know all of his stories and jokes, and things become so predictable that you know what he’s going to say before he even says it.
In a way, that’s what intimacy is. And it’s counterintuitive, but being that close with someone can actually zap some of the passion from your relationship. (Spice up your sex life with this organic lube from the Women’s Health Boutique).
But (forgive the cheesy metaphor) just because the flames have died down, it doesn’t mean the fire is out. There are plenty of ways to reignite that bond, you just need to ask the right questions:
When is the last time I made you laugh?
Peeing your pants isn’t cute, but laughing so hard you almost do is the best. Laughing activates the reward center of your brain, releasing dopamine, the feel-good chemical, says Samantha Burns, licensed mental health counselor and relationship coach. Looking back on the last time you cracked up together, whether it was a funny movie or a joke one of you made, is a great way to bring that spirit of silliness into the present.
What’s your favorite vacation we’ve taken together?
A lot of what bogs down our relationships has to do with routine. Laundry, bills, and diapers aren’t exactly sexy, and with busy lives it’s easy for you and your S.O. to feel like two roommates sharing domestic duties. Reminiscing about exciting and relaxing times can remind you of how much fun you have when you escape the stress of the daily grind, says Burns. Simply recalling these experiences together can evoke the same feelings of being back on that picture perfect trip (minus the tans and pina coladas). That relaxed vibe can carry over into how you treat each other, says Burns. You might find yourselves calmer, less irritable, and more willing to let loose.
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What is one sexual fantasy that you’ve always kept private?
Of course, you can’t achieve connectivity without your emotional and sexual feelings being in sync. “As a couples therapist, I’m always surprised by how little long-term couples actually talk about their sex lives, let alone their secret desires and fantasies,” says Burns. A healthy part of keeping the spark alive is communicating about these wants without guilt, shame, or embarrassment. Burns suggests approaching the conversation with a judgment-free attitude. Don’t put pressure on yourselves to make these fantasies come true. Using your imaginations together can be a huge turn on, she says. If, after discussing, you want to break free of your sexual comfort zone and give those fantasies a try, that will help you tap into that passion for one another.
Are there better ways I can speak your love language?
By now, you’ve probably heard that there are five main ways we like to give and receive love—gifts, words of affirmation, quality time, acts of service, and physical touch. Though they all feel nice, it’s important to strategically show your partner love in the way he or she most likes to receive it, says Burns. Often times you wind up speaking the love language you like to receive, or one that feels familiar because it’s the way your parents likely showed you love. For instance, if your partner’s love language is physical touch and your love language is acts of service, cooking your partner dinner will be less meaningful than greeting him with a long hug and kiss when he gets home from work, she says.
Check in with your partner. And, if you haven’t already, take this free love language assessment together so that you can come up with concrete ways to show each other affection. It’s important to note that your love language(s) may change over time, so it could be helpful to do this test every year around your anniversary.
When do you feel closest to me?
This final question may put them on the spot, but it might be the most revealing of all. By asking your partner when they feel close to you, you’re getting insight into when they feel most emotionally connected to you. And emotional intimacy is a key ingredient to a long-term successful relationship. Plus, it’s essential to a rewarding sex life, says Burns. Maybe it’s when you’re in bed together, just before you fall asleep, or when you brush aside their hair in that specific way. Whatever it is, make sure to keep this valuable information in mind when you’re hoping to reconnect after an argument or when you want to get busy. Can you feel the love tonight?