The honeymoon phase doesn’t last forever. Every long-term relationship has its low points, but how do you know if the relationship rut you’re experiencing is temporary or something more concerning? Below, marriage therapists share six signs that it’s just a phase.
1. You don’t look forward to spending time together.
Every day is an adventure when you first get together, even if it’s just going to the market and discovering your S.O. has weird taste in desserts.
But now, “couple time” isn’t something you’re excited about. Even worse, you’ve let the little things that you used to enjoy together fall to the wayside.
Instead of reading your lack of enthusiasm as a sign you need to break up, consider it a much-needed warning that you both need to be more proactive about planning your time together, said Elizabeth Earnshaw, a therapist in Philadelphia.
“It takes a conscious effort to recognize the things you’ve stopped doing or do new things,” she said. “Couples that partake in rituals with each other and have plans for the future are often doing so because they feel connected and invested.”
To that end, find a new hobby you’re both interested in, or do something you know they’ll love, like picking up their favorite takeout on the way home. Slowly, you’ll start reconnecting, Earnshaw said.
“It won’t feel that way at first, but over time, these deposits into your relationship will build into a big investment,” she said.
2. You compare your relationship to others.
In the age of Instagram, it’s easy to assume your couple friends are so much happier (not to mention more well-traveled) than you and your partner. But comparison is the thief of joy, especially when it comes to relationships ― and no one’s life is as perfect as they portray it on social media, said Margaret Rutherford, a psychologist in Fayetteville, Arkansas.
“People don’t talk about fights or fatigue or normal day-to-day things on social media,” she said. “Instead of concentrating on how many ‘likes’ couples are getting, try getting out of your own routine. Put down your smartphones and sign up for a cooking class together, for instance. Creativity is vital to staying out of that rut.”
3. You text more than you talk.
Texting and social media makes communicating so much easier, but it’s no stand-in for a quality conversation.
“If you find yourself texting each other when you are at home together instead of talking to each other, this may be a sign that you relationship with your smartphone is encroaching on your partnership,” said Alicia H. Clark, a psychologist in Washington, D.C.
“Take some time when you are together to put your phones away and talk,” she suggested. “If you aren’t sure where to start, have new conversation starters up your sleeve to help you.”
4. You’re confiding in other people.
Your spouse or partner should be the person you’re most excited to share your good news with ― and the person you can rely on to listen when you need a good end-of-the-day rant. It’s problematic if you’re turning to someone else, said Danielle Kepler, a therapist in Chicago.
“If you think to yourself, ‘I can’t wait to tell X this’ and X is not your partner, you may be dealing with a relationship lull,” she said.
Ask yourself why you stopped wanting to tell your partner these things: Are there trust issues? Have you told them about an issue you’re having at work, only to find they’re too absorbed in their phone to listen?
“If it’s a lack of uninterrupted time together, you may have to schedule some catch-up time,” Kepler said. “And if they don’t pay attention when you want to talk, be sure to bring it up in a way that’s noncritical. Say: ‘Hey, I feel let down when I try to discuss something important that happened in my day and you shrug me off.’”
5. Your sex life isn’t much to write home about.
You’re hardly alone if your sex life has become humdrum ― or nonexistent. “Sexless marriage” is the top-searched marriage complaint on Google. The search term is three and a half times more common than “unhappy marriage” and eight times more common than “loveless marriage.”
If you’re experiencing a sex rut ― and it’s not due to any physical impediments ― simply trying something new in the bedroom could help, Clark said.
“Routines can find their way into the bedroom, which can promote comfort and closeness, but can rob a relationship of the novelty it needs from time to time,” she said. “Thinking about new ways to physically connect can help introduce novelty that can strengthen your bond.”
For more ideas on how to spice up your sex life, head here.
6. You wonder if the grass is greener on the other side.
Your single friends make dating look so fun, you sometimes wonder what that swipe life is all about. Or you may find yourself fantasizing about being in another relationship, maybe with someone new or someone from the past.
If these kinds of thoughts are recurring, you may want to evaluate your relationship. But if they’re more casual, passing thoughts, you’re probably fine, according to Rutherford.
That said, it’s not a bad idea to concentrate more on what you love about your partner.
“We can easily idealize old boyfriends or girlfriends and can do the same thing with a work colleague or a neighbor whom we find attractive,” Rutherford said. “But remembering why you love someone, reminding yourself of what they’re ‘putting up with’ in the relationship and finding ways to be actively grateful to them for loving you is very important. Gratitude goes a long way in a long-term relationship.”