There's Earl and Helen out for dinner. There's no conversation coming from their emotionless faces. They're not even looking at each other! Instead they're lazily chewing their food while staring into the distance.
Earl and Helen are make-believe but I see this in real life a lot—and it's sad.
I bet they weren't always like that. Back when they were dating they probably had conversations that were alive—full of questions and stories that were listened to by curious eyes.
How the hell do you listen with your eyes? Trust me, you've done it before and the person sitting across from you could tell.
They followed a cycle that led them to fall into what's called a "relationship plateau".
In the honeymoon phase, everything was great. The birds were chirping and the sun was shining. Both of them showed up as their best. At some point, at least one of them became complacent and before long, they landed at this plateau. The plateau is a dangerous place to be. The longer they stay there, the more they grow apart.
I'm not a relationship guru—as my wife could tell you, I make a LOT of mistakes. However, I do know that there are a few things we can do to get past the plateau or avoid it altogether.
Here are my 7 Habits:
Habit 1: Practice Gratitude And Appreciation
In the plateau, we begin to notice our partner's flaws more than anything else. In order to shake this off, look for their traits that you really enjoy. What do you love about them, including the seemingly insignificant things? Pick a few and intentionally start showing your appreciation. Not only will you feel happier to have your partner but just imagine how they'll feel when you start noticing the things they bring to the relationship.
Want a bonus? Genuinely express your appreciation for them in front of your friends and family.
Habit 2: Communicate
It's a scientifically proven fact that people who have quality conversations are happier. Don't you want to be part of that?
Talk to one another. I don't mean this kind of conversation:
"Hey, how was your day?""¦ "How are the kids?""¦ "What's for dinner?"
Have a conversation that's unique and memorable. And don't just skim the surface. Tap into your perceptions, values, and past experiences. Talk about your dreams for the future, ask her where she wants to go for an adventure, or what lifestyle she imagines with you.
To communicate also means to listen. To hear is not enough. Listening means you're letting the person talk and interpreting their words to a deep level of understanding. It means letting your curiosity drive. Instead of waiting for them to take a breath so you can say your part, let them talk and ask open-ended questions.
Habit 3: Set Aside Time For Experiences
Short on time? Yeah, that's what everyone says. Can you spare one moment to think about what really matters most in your life? If your relationship is one of those things, then keep reading.
Try setting aside at least day each week for quality time with her. It might sound like something boring and predictable people do. However, from experience, I can tell you that it feels so good to know that my wife and I have set aside Friday nights plus Saturday and Sunday afternoons for one another. This doesn't necessarily mean that we have to go on some epic adventure every time. Sometimes, it just means going to a different restaurant or exploring less familiar part of town.
As you brainstorm potential activities, be open to what your partner likes to do. Who knows, you may even be pleasantly surprised.
Habit 4: Keep It Light And Playful
We've all heard that a good laugh is the best medicine. Doesn't it make the body feel so good? Laughing relieves stress, boosts energy, and puts us in a better mood. Keeping it light and playful is part of what made you attractive in the first place! Now that you're in a long-term relationship, keep things fresh by continuing to use your sense of humor to tackle otherwise super serious problems and to have more fun.
Habit 5: Support Their Passions
Interest in your partner's passions goes a long way. It doesn't mean you have to be as into it as they are but give it a chance. Everyone needs his or her "thing" and besides, who gave us the right to turn our nose up to what someone else likes anyway?
We all have crazy things we want to do. How awesome is it to know that someone has our back cheering us on no matter what?
Habit 6: Re-ignite Your Sex Life
While sex doesn't ultimately define your relationship, if you ever find yourself looking forward to your birthday so that you can get some, something has gone very wrong!
I don't have any scientific facts and studies to prove that sex is essential and is good for you but I know that being able to freely express and satisfy such a primal desire is a great part of a healthy relationship.
People fear that once they get married or "get serious" with their partner, sex is no more. The honeymoon period is over and the desire supposedly fades away. While that may be true for some people, why let it happen to you? Did you not desire your partner when you first started dating? What's different now?
The good news is that by doing the first five habits and the seventh one below, the attraction between you and your partner is bound to grow.
Still, you might have objections like:
"My partner doesn't ever initiate" or "We're always too tired" or "The kids might hear" or whatever other excuse.
Focus on what you can do. You can choose to initiate and you can choose to have energy (or choose a time of day when you naturally have more to begin with) and you can choose to throw out your excuses because both of you deserve it. And while you're on this choosing streak, choose to try something different, unpredictable, and new. Change positions and locations. Why limit yourself to the bedroom or the bed for that matter? Also, don't take your partner for granted. Give them everything you've got. Get to know what they love all over again.
Habit 7: Take Care Of Your Health
To some, taking care of oneself above all else has a negative vibe. For me, it's an absolute necessity. My self-care is going to yoga after work before I come home from dinner. It's meeting with a friend to have coffee on a Saturday morning. Taking care of myself means getting at least 7 hours of sleep. It's also waking up early to make coffee, meditate, and exercise.
I believe this is important because if you're not feeling well, how are you supposed to show up as your best at your other roles in life?
The plateau is a shitty place to be. The beautiful thing is that you don't have to settle for that kind of reality. Falling in love with your partner was probably the best feeling ever. The newness of that relationship was exciting and all you could see was the possibility of a happily ever after. But, things got real as they often to in life and our other responsibilities got in the way.
If you buy into the lie that says once you get the girl, you're done—that's exactly what you'll be—done.
Getting the girl is not just a mission to accomplish—it's the start of an adventure.
Find that guy she fell for. I hope that by reading this essay you've realized that you have the power bring back the feelings from when you first met.