At a certain point in a relationship, you get comfortable with each other — and that’s a great thing. You no longer stress about whether your partner is into you and you reach a new level where you just get each other. But there’s a big difference between being solid with each other and being in a rut.
Settling in a relationship doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with it, per se, but it does mean that it’s not as great as it can be. And relationship psychologist Karin Anderson Abrell says this is incredibly common. “As with anything in life, once we have something, we tend to take it for granted and it loses its luster,” she says.
Dr. Brandy Engler, a licensed psychologist specializing in relationships, agrees. “We have to be mindful in our relationships,” she says. “Be conscious of it as if it's a living, breathing organism that will die without your care.” It’s easy to assume you fall more into the 'comfortable' vs. 'settling' camp, but ruts can be sneaky things.
Here are a few signs that it’s time to give your relationship a jolt.
You have the same conversation every day
It’s important (and polite) to ask about each other's days, but it’s key to ask more than just the basics. Engler advises practicing curiosity with your partner to understand them on a deeper level. That means following up basic questions like, “How was work?” with more in-depth questions like, “How did your co-worker's comment make you feel?” and actually listening to the response. You could learn something new about one another. “The discovery phase of early relationships gives way to thinking you know all about them, but you don't,” she says. “Make time for direct attention.”
You’re fine with orgasming every once in awhile when you have sex
While you may not be able to come every time, you’re selling yourself short if you settle for an O only once in a blue moon. “The aliveness of a relationship thrives on challenge, uncertainty, novelty and even danger,” Engler says. If you decide to take out the challenge aspect of your sex life — i.e., giving you an orgasm as often as possible — you’re essentially checking out of your sex life. If you’re having trouble orgasming but can do it just fine on your own, show your partner what works for you in bed and speak up about what doesn't. Sure, it takes more effort than not doing anything at all, but it’s so worth it.
You forget what spontaneous sex is
OK, so life can get busy and sometimes you have to take that cliché advice and literally schedule sex. But when you schedule so much that getting it on spontaneously never happens, you’re taking the heat out of your sex life. “Novelty is associated with attraction,” Engler says.
It sounds obvious, but Abrell recommends making it a goal to be spontaneous anytime the mood strikes. “Tell yourself at the beginning of the week that you’ll seize the opportunity for impromptu sex when it arises,” she says. You can even clue your partner in and make it a game. Either way, hopefully it'll lead to both of you getting laid in a fun, unexpected way.
You never argue or disagree with each other anymore
It sounds weird that not fighting would be a bad thing, but arguing here and there is totally normal and healthy. Despite that, plenty of couples get used to pushing their concerns aside because they don’t want the hassle of going through a fight or they just become complacent. “If there's no friction, there's no passion,” Engler says. “Healthy couples fight.” Plus, sharing your opinion — even though you know your partner doesn’t agree with you — is an important part of making yourself heard.
You do the same thing every weekend
You can’t do something new and amazing every time you’re together, but going to “your” restaurant or doing the same thing during all your free time isn’t great for your bond. “Not only does this indicate you’re in a rut, it’s also killing off any remaining butterflies,” Abrell says. So make plans to do something new this weekend and surprise your partner with it. Then challenge your S.O. to do the same thing for you next time. It probably won’t be as comfortable as your regular plans, but that’s the whole point!
Depending on each other for some things is important and healthy — that's called interdependence — and it’s easy to think that relying on each other for everything is a sign that you're super-close. But in fact, Engler says it can lead you down a bad path. “Co-dependency kills libido,” she says. If you notice that you’re not having sex as often as you used to and it correlates with you two doing everything together, it might be time to step out by yourselves a little more. That way, you'll actually be excited again when it's just the two of you having quality time.
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