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8 Ways to Rekindle the Spark in Your Relationship

Is your partner feeling more like a roommate than a lover? Here’s how to get the spice back.

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Jon McCormack

In the beginning of relationships, we’re actively courting one another. We’re coming up with cute dates and fun ways to spend time together. We’re dressing to impress, dialing up the flirtation. But then life happens. We get comfortable with our partners and slowly start to take the relationship for granted. We prioritize work, raising families, and hobbies, and we’re exhausted at the end of the night. The spark fizzles and we become more roommates than lovers. ​

An AARP study on sex over 40 revealed that 41 percent of older adults want an increased connection with their partner, and 40 percent of respondents said they hadn’t had sex in the last six months.

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If you’re one of those adults who’s lost that lovin’ feeling, there are steps you can take to find it again – in and out of the sheets. ​

1. Flirt over text … or maybe even sext

Take a quick moment and look through your text thread of past conversations with your partner. Chances are you’ve been texting about your to-do list, what’s for dinner, what someone should pick up at the grocery store, a reminder to check the porch for a package delivery or logistics of family responsibilities.

But when was the last time you used your text messages to flirt? Send suggestive texts about your desires or reminisce about past encounters to heighten the romantic tension between you, says Stephanie Flood, a licensed marriage and family therapist specializing in intimacy. A 2019 study published in Springer’s Archives of Sexual Behavior found that participants who sexted demonstrated significantly higher sexual satisfaction than those who had never sexted.  

2. Take it out of the bedroom

Tired of having sex in the bedroom? That can definitely get stale after a while! “Break away from routine by indulging in intimacy in different locations,” says Flood. Think back to when you were first starting to date and couldn’t wait to tear each other’s clothes off, and embrace that vibe. “Whether it’s the car, living room, backyard or kitchen, the change of scenery adds a new and exciting element to your connection,” adds Flood. You can also take it out of the house and book a night in a hotel.

3. Bring back the pillow talk

Remember lying in bed at night and staying up for hours talking asking each other things like: “What was your most embarrassing moment? Who is your celebrity crush? What was your childhood like? What’s your favorite food?” As time goes by, you stop asking these questions and turn more to the automation of daily life: work, dinner, household chores, TV, bed.

“That lack of curiosity, along with our automated brain, has a dulling effect that makes our daily life that less exciting and allows us to take what we have for granted,” explains Stan Tatkin, who holds a doctorate in psychology and is a certified marriage and family therapist; he’s also the author of In Each Other’s Care and developer of the psychobiological approach to couples therapy (PACT).

And even if you thought you knew your partner well, there are new questions to ask for this current phase of life. “You are not who you were when you married. Life has changed you. Personal growth has changed you. You each have a wealth of information to uncover about each other that can open new experiences and lead to a whole new depth of love,” adds Nancy Landrum, who holds a master’s degree in psychology from the University of Santa Monica and is a relationship coach with Millionaire Marriage Club.

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To break this pattern, try returning to the place of getting to know one another more and more each night. “Making love is about, ‘getting to know you; getting to know all about you,’” says Tatkin.

4. Show some appreciation

We’re often quick to complain when our partner loads the dishwasher incorrectly, but when is the last time we thanked them for just taking the time to load it?

“Begin the practice of looking for and verbalizing something about your partner that you appreciate each day,” says Landrum. “Express appreciation for his meticulous care of the yard or her preparation of nutritious meals. Tell her how much you appreciate her dedication that led to promotions and bonuses at work. Tell him how his eyes sparkle when he wears that blue shirt." Bonus: One study found that partners who expressed and received expressions of gratitude were more willing to meet their partner’s sexual needs.

5. Change the narrative

Are you constantly complaining about your dwindling sex life? Discussing the fact that neither one of you are in the mood anymore? Researchers at Northwestern University investigated the concept of passion decay – the “belief that romantic passion decline is irreversible” to see if believing you can’t get your relationship’s passion back has any effect on the effort a person puts into a relationship.

The team found if a person bought into the idea of passion decay, they were less likely to put focus on improving the health of their relationship. The study suggests that flipping the script – so that you start thinking of dwindling passion as something you can get back – may actually help you do just that.

And according to the National Institute on Aging (part of the National Institute of Health), research shows that older adults can still have fulfilling sex lives – and in many instances even better sex than in their younger years.

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6. Have sex before you go out

You hopped in the shower and got dressed in a fancy outfit. Reservations are booked for your favorite romantic restaurant and you’re looking forward to a great night on the town together. But why wait until the end of the date to seal the deal?  

“There’s this idea that sex comes after you’ve had your romantic night out, but what if you tried doing it first?” says Rena Martine, a certified life coach and the author of The Sex You Want: A Shameless Journey to Deep Intimacy, Honest Pleasure, and a Life You Love. “Having sex before your date makes it less likely you’ll be too tired or full – and also gives you the freedom to go for round two, later,” says Martine, who received a certificate in positive psychology from the University of Pennsylvania. So, the next time you’re all dolled up and ready to hit the town, make a stop in the bedroom first.

7. Buy some props

You know those adult shops you drive by sometimes? Dare yourselves to step inside and do a little browsing. “Explore the intriguing world of toys and games and engage in open communication about what interests each of you,” says Flood.

This could mean trying out a toy, buying a costume to role-play in or getting some lube to make sex more enjoyable. Aging and menopause can lead to vaginal dryness, with as many as 50 percent of postmenopausal women reporting such symptoms, so a little lube can go a long way. “If the idea of a physical store is intimidating, consider pursuing websites like Good Vibrations for exciting options,” Flood, who is based in Campbell, California,  adds.

8. Communicate sexual fantasies

Have something you’ve been wanting to try? Maybe you want to watch an erotic film with your significant other, act out a particular fantasy or engage in some role play. Martine defines fantasies as “any mental image that comes to mind that turns you on – which can be as simple as imagining a new position to try or the thought of taking a bubble bath together.”

“Research tells us that couples who enact their fantasies show the highest rates of relationship satisfaction, but that same research also reveals [that] fewer than half of folks will ever tell their partner about their fantasies,” adds Martine.

One way she suggests doing this is to have you and your partner each write down something you’ve always wanted to try, and seal it in an envelope. Before exchanging envelopes, have a conversation about how you’re feeling about sharing your fantasy. Nervous? Excited? “Once you two feel comfortable enough to swap envelopes, go for it,” Martine adds.

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