There has always been a certain type of stigma circling long term relationships. From magazine articles to online forums and entire websites dedicated to love and dating tips, almost everyone has something to say about how to revive relationships and bring the spark back. They show statistics and colorful infographics – as if to ease the blow – about how relationships change over time. They show numbers, they quote scientists and they throw in some more numbers and graphs. But are they showing the whole truth and nothing but the truth?
Heraclitus of Ephesus, a Greek philosopher known for his doctrine of change, said that the only “… constant about life is change.” In other words, everything around us is moving, transforming, changing. This ultimately creates a chain of reactions where we inevitably adapt or grow in a cycle of never-ending change.
Inevitably, this shifts the paradigms of our relationships – not because our relationships are going downhill, but because we, as separate individuals, are changing. But not all change is bad. In fact, most of them are welcomed and should be encouraged. Why wouldn’t we want our partners to become the best possible versions of themselves, not for us, but for their own personal fulfillment?
Of course, some relationships do hit a stagnant phase where everything becomes a routine, from having to show face at weddings to what happens inside the bedroom. Unfortunately, the internet has fueled the fire by putting thousands of doubts into the minds of people who visit their websites looking for advice. If you’re on this page then something is definitely wrong with your relationship. Your partner may be cheating on you. If you don’t have sex anymore then you need to start loving yourself first. Sure, some may be viable advice but it doesn’t apply to everyone.
My boyfriend and I have been together for three wonderful years and have come a long way from the days of having to go out for dinner and always having something to talk about. Now, we have learned to enjoy the simpler things; we don’t need to surprise each other with flowers or go out to fancy restaurants to enjoy ourselves. Instead, we find total satisfaction in spending quality time cooking with each other and working on our projects in separate corners of the same room.
This 180 degree change is due to many factors. Not only are we 300% more comfortable with each other, but we have created bonds that have taken root deep inside our very existence. We are both independent in many ways, but our foundations are linked; our hopes and dreams of the future have adapted to the wants and needs of the other, and there is no other way we would have it.
But how have we not only maintained this level of closeness but also developed it into new forms of love and desire over the last three years? How have we not hit a rut?
I do not have any answers for this, but I do know that my partner and I are not afraid to try new things. Besides planning our next adventure and putting together plans for next weekend with a group of friends, we try new things separately. I have taken up boxing and he has dedicated two nights a week to read his books at the coffee house next door – and this has worked wonders. It was never planned for; these were simply things we went for just because. And now, not only are we hooked on our new hobbies, but we always have something to tell each other about.
Esther Perel, a psychotherapist and insightful speaker about relationships and sexuality, said that we feel most attracted to our partners when we see them in their element – whether it is on stage, in a gym, with paintbrushes or an instrument. Her words couldn’t resonate more.
The second key to a successful relationship, based from my experience, is to savor every moment together and apart. This means enjoying silent dinners and singing out loud to The Backstreet Boys in the car together. It means tackling your boyfriend as he’s getting dressed and initiating a wrestling match. It means stroking his hair as he falls asleep on your lap on a Friday night. It means realizing just how precious every moment is – after all, isn’t that what life is about? And when apart, we realize just how much we miss them, and in that form of gratitude, all bonds are strengthened.
So, yes. Relationships do change, but that is perfectly fine because relationships must change. They need to grow, they need to allow room for the bad and the good, they need to adapt to life’s curve balls. The trick is to welcome it all – what it can do for you can surprise you!