A loss of attraction is very common in long-term relationships. But it shouldn't be ignored. Here are the steps experts recommend you take to get it back.
In the early days of a relationship, it’s easy to feel attracted to your partner. Everything is new and exciting, each day an opportunity to learn more and more about the person you’re with. A spark is obvious. As you establish a long-term partnership with someone, however, you exchange the rush of excitement for comfort and routine. Discouraging as may be, it’s certainly not unheard of to find yourself not as attracted to your husband or your wife as you once were. In fact, couples therapists say that feeling is quite common.
Every couple is different: For some, the loss of attraction is purely physical. Maybe your partner is in a sweatpants-all-day mode and you’re just not feeling the same spark. For others, though, the fading attraction has to do with other natural-but-hard changes in your relationship.
Think back to when you first met your partner. That initial attraction was probably the result of physical attraction combined with the mystery of getting to know someone new. Plus, you both probably went the extra mile to attract each other in that exciting-but-fragile relationship phase.
As you settle into a long-term relationship with someone, you’re not as worried about what they think of you — so, you may not put in the same effort.
“Loss of attraction tends to develop over time when partners no longer share new or exciting experiences,” says Rebecca Phillips, a therapist in Frisco, TX. “When you’re no longer curious about your partner, you can feel stagnant and bored.”
Parenthood can make attraction feel even harder to come by. Stress and lack of sleep. There are new responsibilities and busier schedules. All of this makes it more difficult to physically and emotionally connect like you used to. Perhaps you feel like your kids stole your partner’s attention, which is another common issue.
If you don’t address the awkward-but-important elephant in the room, marriage and family therapist Desiree Basl says you might start to resent your partner — which can make it even harder to find them attractive.
The good news is, it’s possible to get your mojo back — you’ll just need to commit to doing the work it takes to get there. Here are five steps to restoring attraction in your relationship, according to couples therapists.
1. Figure out the “Why”
Before you can rekindle the flame, it’s important to figure out what caused it to go out in the first place — otherwise, you’ll be navigating the challenge without a map. “You can’t address the problem unless you figure out why it happened, and if you try, you’ll be frustrated when it doesn’t work,” says psychologist Tanisha Ranger.
Think back to the last time you felt attracted to your partner, and what changed after that. Are you missing the excitement of your dating relationship? Hurt that your partner’s prioritizing the kids over you? Resentful that they’re not putting an effort into their appearance? Whatever you pinpoint will ultimately drive your next steps, Ranger says.
2. Take Initiative
It might be easy to blame your partner or the relationship when attraction goes MIA, but it’s important to reflect on how you’ve contributed to the problem. “If we wish to get our relationship mojo back, it’s important to begin looking at the underlying issues to help us identify if the trouble is in the relationship alone or within ourselves,” says Basl.
For example, you might be pining for more excitement, but when was the last time you initiated a date night or tried to make your partner feel special? If you’re feeling resentful about your partner not meeting your needs, have you spoken up about what you want? According to Ranger, taking initiative is crucial to prevent resentment, which can indirectly boost your attraction.
Just as importantly, Phillips says stepping up “takes the emphasis off of your partner and empowers you to create more passion.” A bonus: As you make the effort to restore attraction, your partner might be inspired and follow suit.
3. (Carefully) Address the Issue
Doing your part to restore attraction might be enough, but sometimes, things won’t improve without a conversation. This can be a delicate conversation. So, before you speak up, Philips suggests crystalizing your specific concern so that you don’t unnecessarily hurt your partner. Processing the issue with someone else, whether a trusted friend or a therapist, can also help prepare for the conversation, she says.
Once you’re ready to dive in, be honest and respectful. Share what you’ve observed, how you feel, and focus on your desire for closeness with your partner rather than their issues, suggests relationship therapist Jennie Marie Battistin.
For example, you could say: “Lately, I have been feeling a little disconnected from you on a romantic level. I think it might be due to a breakdown in our communication and our busy schedules. I’d like to explore ways to rekindle this attraction. Would you be open to finding ways for me to feel more connected and attracted to you?”
4. Make a Plan
After you broach the topic, it’s a good idea to have specific ideas for restoring the spark — and to work together to find ways to bring back the attraction. Your action plan should ultimately depend on the cause — for example, maybe you make a plan to work out together and cook healthy meals if you’re discouraged by physical changes or plan weekly date nights to keep things exciting. No matter what the cause, a few practices can help any couple reclaim their mojo.
Phillips recommends breaking up your weekly routine with as much spontaneity as you can allow. Checking out a new restaurant, trying out a new activity, or even going somewhere neither of you has ever been could remind you of the excitement from earlier in your relationship, along with showing you a side of your partner you may not get to see too often in the doldrums of daily life.
Do your best to remain emotionally connected, which can restore attraction. It’s tough to remember what attracted you to your partner when you only talk business — kid stuff, bills, and other logistics. Janay Holland, a psychologist and marriage and family therapist suggests creating designated times and spaces where you only talk about each other, no “business” allowed. For example, maybe you decide to avoid money and parenting talk at the dinner table, or you plan to only talk about yourselves in the evenings after work.
Lastly, spend regular time reflecting on why you felt attracted to your partner in the first place, whether their sharp sense of humor or their amazing smile. “Instead of focusing on what isn’t attractive about your partner, observe what it is you do like about them,” Phillips says.
5. Consider Outside Help
If nothing else seems to help – or if you just want an expert’s input — a couples therapist can help you identify the issues beneath your lack of attraction, communicate it without damaging your relationship, and brainstorm ways to rekindle it.
You may not think you have big enough problems to see a counselor with your partner, but couples therapy isn’t just for big issues. Holland says many counselors see clients a few times a year to check in and work on connecting in deeper ways, both sexually and emotionally. Plus, it’s a lot easier to fix problems when they’re small.
Think of couples therapy as performing routine maintenance on your car. “Don’t skip the oil change until your car doesn’t run anymore,” Holland says. “Instead, work in advance to build a solid foundation so when bigger issues do come up, you have something to build on.
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