We know that all relationships go through ups and downs. But what if yours feels like it’s stuck somewhere in between?
It’s not that there is anything terribly wrong, but neither does it feel fully satisfying either.
If this sounds familiar then it seems like you may be trapped in a relationship rut.
Here are the biggest signs to watch out for…
1) You don’t have a lot to talk about anymore
We hear all the time how poor communication can spell the death of a relationship.
But that doesn’t just mean telling each other the truth about how you feel or not arguing all the time.
Often, communication can peter out without us even noticing.
You may feel like you have very little left to discuss, so you both quietly withdraw.
As you do relationship intimacy can suffer as a consequence.
When you do talk, it’s never deep conversations.
Unfortunately, when communication decreases, misunderstandings can increase. So, watch out for this warning sign.
The distance may slowly grow between you and leave you feeling bored as you become more disconnected.
The real culprit is often down to the next sign on our list.
2) You aren’t creating new experiences together
Let’s face it, relationships aren’t always going to be a non-stop roller coaster ride of fun.
There are bound to be low points and lulls alongside good times and highs.
The tricky part is that as your relationship settles down from the honeymoon phase, strong hormones are no longer driving intense feelings.
As we start to fall into a more predictable routine it can help to bring a sense of safety and security to the relationship.
The downside is that it can also begin to feel more monotonous.
We have to continuously inject fun into our relationship by consciously creating new memories together, experiencing new things with one another, and broadening our horizons as a couple.
Much like on an individual level, to stop ourselves from getting stuck it’s all about striking a balance between comfort and growth.
3) Your sex life isn’t what it once was
Let’s clear one thing up straight away. It’s perfectly natural for couples to find their sex life ebbs and flows, particularly in long-term relationships.
That might be in both quality and quantity of sex.
The thing about desire is that it rests on longing. Once we’ve obtained the object of our desire, we may find it loses some of its appeal.
Now if that sounds pretty depressing, don’t worry. There is a trick to maintaining this novelty, even when you know your partner so well.
As Belgian psychotherapist and writer Esther Perel explains, it’s about walking a tightrope between togetherness and separateness.
“Love rests on two pillars: surrender and autonomy. Our need for togetherness exists alongside our need for separateness. One does not exist without the other. With too much distance, there can be no connection. But too much merging eradicates the separateness of two distinct individuals. Then there is nothing more to transcend, no bridge to walk on, no one to visit on the other side, no other internal world to enter. When people become fused — when two become one — connection can no longer happen. There is no one to connect with. Thus separateness is a precondition for connection: this is the essential paradox of intimacy and sex.”
Keeping things fresh relies on maintaining just enough distance and mystery to be able to desire the other person.
That’s why having your own independence and interests alongside your relationship always pays off.
4) You’ve lost your sense of identity
Some couples become so close that they can’t remember who they are as an individual anymore.
But just as it’s a bad sign if you’re no longer doing things together as a couple, it’s also not good if you never do anything alone anymore.
For starters, you’re less likely to have anything to discuss if you don’t have separate lives.
There’s not a lot to learn about your partner when you’re spending every waking minute together.
But autonomy is significant for another reason.
Our sense of self is vital if we are to take responsibility for ourselves.
Our happiness, fulfillment, and direction in life must come from within.
That’s not to say that our significant relationships don’t factor into it.
They’re so important that researchers have concluded they could be the key to long-term happiness in life.
Yet when we lose our sense of identity we can fall into a common relationship trap.
We end up looking to our partner as the answer to all our problems.
Their love can do a lot, but forget what the rom-com would have you believe, because it’s never going to “complete you”.
That always has been and always will be an inside job.
This approach gives us expectations in our relationship and ensures we create meaning in our lives that lie outside of the presence of just one person.
5) You’re craving more
So often it’s the case that we’re not even sure of what that elusive “more” is, but we still want it.
Whenever we’re not fully contented, we tend to stare off wistfully into the distance.
We may wonder if the grass is greener on the other side.
Perhaps that means you start to feel nostalgic about single life and the freedom or opportunities it seemed to hold.
Maybe it means you constantly find yourself lusting after people other than your partner or forming crushes on other people.
However it shows up, it’s a sign that you feel like there is something you’re not currently getting. But that certainly doesn’t mean you can’t inject it back into your relationship.
As we pointed out before, losing the initial thrill of a relationship is a common pattern that happens as we become more familiar with one another.
It may feel like someone else might be able to offer you the excitement you want. But eventually, everything that was once shiny and new fades in some way over time.
In order to keep a relationship alive we must ask ourselves what it is we desire more of and look for practical ways to bring that to the relationship.
Being stuck in a rut isn’t the same as being quietly contented
I’m sure from the outside my relationship might look pretty dull to other people, but that’s okay.
It all comes down to how you feel in your relationship.
That’s the difference between being stuck in a rut versus being comfortable.
When we feel like we are in a safe, trusting, and committed relationship we are bound to become more comfortable, and that’s far from being a bad thing.
If you and your other half are largely happy and fulfilled, then the odd boring patch isn’t such a big deal.
It becomes more harmful when your rut feels so difficult to get out of that it is destroying your connection.
In these instances, it’s important to shake things up and make an effort to reconnect.