stuck in a rut, trying to fix a stale relationship

You’ve been feeling it for the past few months, maybe even years. Maybe it crept in seemingly overnight, or maybe it was a slow and steady process that sucked the vitality right out of your relationship. Whether it arrived like a whisper or a rollercoaster, the staleness of your relationship is rearing its head and demanding you take notice. The good news? It doesn’t mean your relationship is coming to an end. The other news? It’s time to get to work.

Feeling disenchanted with a partner or relationship isn’t uncommon. Each relationship may go through the stuck-in-a-rut stage more than once, where the chemistry is toned down, communication is off, and something just feels amiss. This stage can bring confusion, boredom, even pain, but it can equally bring the opportunity to connect with your partner on a deeper, more authentic level. To go for the latter, you’ll need to lean into the discomfort.

In our world full of options, it can seem easy to trade in a stale relationship for a fresh one. After all, a new romance is just a dating site and a few mouse clicks away these days. While that may be true and sound somewhat tempting, remember that a new relationship is likely to fall stale at some point or another, and you could end up in the same position you’re in now. 

If overall, your relationship is pretty good, but it’s just feeling stale, it may be worth it to give your relationship the attention it’s asking for. It’s times like this that provide an opportunity for you, your partner, and your relationship to grow. Willing to give it a shot? The tips below can help you find some starting points to bring that shine back to your partnership.

1. Stop Avoiding Conflict

When we tiptoe around difficult conversations, walk on eggshells, or completely ignore the elephant in the room, we limit our capacity for intimacy. Without intimacy, even the best relationships can feel stale. Ask the hard questions, talk about the difficult things, make space for healthy conflict.

2. Show Up Authentically

A relationship is sure to get into a rut when we hide parts of ourselves from our partner. It can be nerve-wracking to speak our mind, assert boundaries, and honor our truth within a relationship, but how can a relationship thrive if one (or both) of the partners isn’t bringing their full, true self?

You might also be interested in: 40 Ways to Strengthen Your Relationship

3. Allow Space for Vulnerability

Much like #2, when we don’t make space for vulnerability, the relationship can suffer. It’s important to create a safe space within the relationship for both partners to drop their armor and show up exactly as they are, warts and all. Only by embracing both partners’ weaknesses can each truly appreciate the other’s strengths. Likewise, when we feel safe to be vulnerable, we are more likely to bring our whole selves to the relationship, allowing all parts of us to be loved as a whole.

4. Prioritize the Relationship

In the beginning, our hormones and the new status of the relationship makes it easy for us to prioritize the other partner and the relationship. As time moves on, however, we begin to share our focus on other relationships and obligations. We become invested in children, work, aging parents, or any other part of life that demands our attention, and our focus on our relationship begins to wane. Whether it’s simply returning our awareness to our partner, or scheduling time for our relationship, prioritization is crucial for a relationship that will last.

5. Spend Time with Happy, Healthy Couples

As social creatures, we tend to mirror what’s around us. Hanging out with couples who are happy in their relationship can offer us something to strive for. Additionally, when we surround ourselves with couples who inspire us, we surround ourselves with couples who can model the behavior and connection we seek in our partnership. Equally important, learning from other couples can help us set reasonable expectations for a long-term relationship, which doesn’t necessarily match the expectations we learn from relationships portrayed in the media, or even schemas learned from role models who taught us unhealthy relationship patterns.

6. Take Time Alone

Absence makes the heart grow fonder. If you’ve been inseparable for an extended period, the rut you’re experiencing may be from spending too much time together. Humans value novelty, and if both partners are always only around each other, there is nothing new to bring into the relationship. Spend some time apart, then bring back and share what you’ve experienced during your time alone. 

7. Avoid Friends Who Complain About Their Partners

To be clear, there is a difference between venting and complaining. Healthy venting is relieving pressure so that the path forward becomes more clear and energy is renewed for the next steps forward. Complaining is a tendency to find fault, without effort toward resolution. Next time you’re out with friends, notice how they speak about their partners and relationships in general. Are they overly negative? Do their venting sessions lead them to new insights and growth within their relationships? Do they speak about their partner with love, even when they’re upset? Negativity and positivity are both contagious – be selective about what you choose to be immersed in.

8. Set Boundaries with Toxic People Close to the Relationship

When a relationship feels stale, outside negativity can fuel a downward spiral. Set boundaries with family, friends, and any people close to the relationship who show up in a toxic, unhelpful way. It can be very difficult to focus on nurturing your relationship when you have people pointing out all the things they see wrong with it or get involved where they shouldn’t. Set boundaries, or even take a break from toxic people. You can reassess their standing with you once you feel your relationship is back on solid ground.

9. Set a Long-term Goal That Motivates Both of You

Dig up old goals that died out, or come up with some new ones. Whether it’s learning a new hobby together, tackling an activity you’ve been putting off, or working towards a dream vacation, setting a goal that motivates both of you can renew the excitement and sense of teamwork in your relationship. We are goal-oriented creatures that thrive when we push ourselves outside of our comfort zones. Choose something that is fun and requires esteemable actions to achieve, and take notice of the boost it gives you, your partner, and your relationship. 

10. Seek the Help of a Professional

Don’t be shy about reaching out for help. Find a qualified couples coach or therapist that can offer the leverage you need to get unstuck. Whether short-term or long-term, seeking help for the relationship, and even for each individual within the relationship, can help you see things in a new light and make adjustments that bring you and your partner back to the same page.

This list is in no way exhaustive, but it should give you some places to start if you’re wanting to freshen up a stale relationship. No matter which path you choose as you move forward, remember that all relationships take work, many get stuck in ruts, and a stale relationship does not mean it’s over… it’s just a chance to grow.

If you and your loved one would like to see how a professional can help you, take a look at the benefits of hiring a certified relationship coach.

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