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Is it possible to stay in love?

The shiny appeal of celebrating Valentine's Day can wane over time if you've been together... well forever. Is it even possible to keep the love alive in a long-term relationship?

Sarina loved the idea of love. Swooned at valentines messages, felt light-headed at the very idea of being romanced.

The thing is, that Sarina was 15 years old.

Fast forward three decades, and 45 year old Sarina was less in love with love. She was a little more jaded - even though she was in a "loving" marriage by outward standards.

Sarina and her husband Andrew had recently hit a series of pretty rough patches, and it left them both questioning everything. If they didn't feel anything close to the spark they did when they were younger, was it a sign they should just give up?

Andrew had heard from a mate that their marriage had been given a new lease on life after making a commitment to see a psychologist together.

Even though Sarina and Andrew weren't at a crisis point, was it even worth doing relationship counselling?

Andrew's friend asked him to compare how much time they spent on maintaining their marriage compared to other aspects of their life.

"Why do we often let our relationships run into the ground, with less time and effort given than we do servicing our car, going to the hairdresser, or on other hobbies? Mate - do yourself a favour and do a little relationship health check as you would with every other aspect of your health. "

Online relationship therapy and marriage counselling is so accessible, and it's something that needs to have more airtime in the most important relationships in our lives.

What is being in love, anyway?

I guess it's a pretty complicated answer, and can be a little different for every person depending on what examples you saw when growing up, what culture you're from, and of course your own personal experience.

The thing is, there are two pretty crucial things here: one is that we humans seem very geared toward being in a partnership with another human being. And two, is that these intimate relationships most definitely have a massive impact on our mental wellbeing, health, and happiness.

Do we just leave things to destiny? Or can we have a little bit of input when it comes to "being in love", and our relationship health?

Monkey Brain

What's love got to do with... biology and evolution? Well, plenty we'd argue. The entire human existence is predicated on surviving through procreation, after all.

There are plenty of neurobiological processes to describe what happens when we fall in love... but does this really encapsulate the vast and wild experience of love?

But surely we're more than our animal instincts?

Disney Princes and Princesses

Were you brought up on the fairy tale that there was ‘The One’ that fulfils your every need and desire?

Whether we're aware of it or not, the society and culture that we grew up in, and that we're a part of, play one of the biggest roles in how we interpret whatever we're going through.

And there are plenty who say that Disney has a lot to answer for: generations of people who spent their formative years dreaming of the perfect love that they'd automatically get when they grew up.

It's often a rude shock when that doesn't happen.

Falling in Love

As the honeymoon phase fades, couples may find themselves facing challenges such as communication breakdowns, complacency, and competing priorities.

External stressors such as work pressure, financial concerns, and family obligations can further strain the relationship.

However, it's important to recognise that these challenges are normal and can be navigated with patience, understanding, and proactive effort. Rather than viewing them as insurmountable obstacles, couples can approach them as opportunities for growth and deeper connection.

The incredible relationship researcher Gottman says the goal is not solving the conflict - it's dialogue! Then you're no longer gridlocked but you can talk about this and you can have a sense of humor about it and you can be affectionate with one another.

What can we do?

Communication + Quality Time Together

Ah, those old boring things. Yet effective communication lies at the heart of any successful relationship, especially in the long term. Open and honest communication fosters trust, understanding, and emotional intimacy between partners.

Take the time to truly listen to your partner's thoughts, feelings, and concerns without judgment or interruption.

Moreover, don't shy away from discussing difficult topics or addressing underlying issues that may be causing tension in the relationship.

Couples therapy can be a valuable resource for enhancing communication skills and resolving conflicts in a constructive manner.

In the same way, carving out dedicated time for each other is essential for nurturing that bond.

Whether it's a weekly date night, a weekend getaway, or simply enjoying a quiet evening at home, prioritise activities that strengthen your connection and create lasting memories.

Try to be fully present during these moments and put away distractions such as phones or work-related concerns. Show genuine interest in your partner's experiences, aspirations, and dreams, fostering a sense of emotional closeness and mutual support.

It's the small, everyday gestures that often have the greatest impact. Surprise your partner with thoughtful gestures, such as love notes, flowers, or preparing their favourite meal.

Additionally, prioritising physical intimacy and affection can play a crucial role in bonding and deepening emotional connection.

Exploring new ways to reignite the spark in the bedroom and keep the passion alive over the years makes a huge difference.

Do something new together

Shared interests and activities can strengthen the bond between you... but what if you don't have any shared activities!

This is where the fun comes in. It's not necessary that you both find the holy grail of hobbies that you'll both want to keep doing. Actually what matters is that it's something new - fresh and novel.

Find pursuits that you both enjoy and make time to engage in them together regularly.

Know how to cook already? Doesn't matter! Take a cooking class. Not so sure about the great outdoors? Take a bushwalk adventure together.

Shared experiences create opportunities for laughter, exploration, and bonding.

Don't be afraid to step out of your comfort zone and try new things together.

Embracing novelty and adventure keeps the relationship fresh and dynamic, reigniting the sense of excitement and exploration that characterised the early stages of your partnership.

We don't need to desert ourselves to fall in love

Maintaining a sense of autonomy and independence within the relationship allows each partner to thrive as individuals, fostering a healthy balance between togetherness and personal fulfilment. Celebrate each other's achievements and milestones, and be a source of unwavering support through life's ups and downs.

While nurturing the relationship as a couple is essential, it's equally important to support each other's individual growth and development. Encourage your partner to pursue their passions, goals, and aspirations, even if they diverge from your own.

Keeping the love alive in a long-term relationship requires dedication, effort, and a willingness to adapt and grow together.

Remember that every relationship is unique, and there's no one-size-fits-all approach to maintaining love and intimacy. It's essential to continuously reassess and adjust your strategies based on the evolving needs and dynamics of your partnership.

It's not all fun and games - but some fun and games might actually bring some of the whimsy, intimacy, and closeness that we all need at the heart of our relationships.

Having a health check on your relationship with an experienced professional can be invaluable, and as always - the difference between surviving and thriving.



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