Get Out Of A Relationship Rut!

Are you and your sweetie getting bored of your usual dating routine—and maybe each other? Never fear; help is here to spark some spontaneity.

By Lisa Cericola

t happens to the best of couples: One night you’re happily cozying up on the couch with a pizza and Netflix... then, six Saturday nights later, you’re sick of pepperoni and your sweetie’s sick of your sci-fi obsession. No matter how much you care about someone, falling into predictable patterns is inevitable when you’re constantly spending time together. And while a little familiarity is nice, too much can make once-happy couples feel bored with each other—and possibly itching to get out of the relationship entirely. Most of the time, however, all these couples need is a small change in routine to keep things interesting. “There’s an old saying along the lines of, ‘If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you always got,’” says Lisa Daily, author of Stop Getting Dumped! “If you can’t stand the thought of another 36-hour ESPN fest or another weekend of antiquing, come up with a plan B.” For inspiration, take a tip or two from these couples below who got over the hump and are still happily together.

Introduce your mate to your interests
One couple’s case history: “When Aaron and I moved in together after a year of dating, we quickly fell into a routine—I’d come home from work and cook my heart out while he lounged on the couch, mesmerized by baseball. Though I’m a foodie and he’s
Taking interest in your partner’s entire life—including facets you don’t initially take a shine to—can instantly rejuvenate your relationship.
a sports nut, I felt separated by more than just the kitchen/living room wall. Why couldn’t he learn to appreciate an apple tarte tatin? Shouldn’t I see what was so exciting about watching a Martinez-Smoltz match-up?” says Abby Phillips of Chicago. “So we came up with a plan: Every so often, he’d buy a ticket for me to accompany him to a ball game. In return, I’d take him out to the restaurant of my choice. Now he’s eating pappardelle bolognese, and, though I can’t tell the difference between a breaking ball and a slider, I can name most of the players in the Mets lineup.”

Love lesson learned: Mutual interests, whether it’s a love of dogs or shooting pool, are often what bring a couple together in the first place. But taking interest in your partner’s entire life—including facets you don’t initially take a shine to—is what will keep you together in the long run, says dating coach Liz Kelly, author of SMART Man Hunting. The reason: Whether your partner’s passion is baseball, gourmet food, or some other activity, it’s an opportunity to learn tons about a new topic and, for that matter, what makes your sweetie tick. There’s no way you’ll feel bored with this double-dose of new info and experiences!

Daydream about the future together
One couple’s case history: “My partner Dan and I have a lot of shared interests, but there are always times when we find ourselves sitting on the sofa, staring at each other out of sheer boredom,” explains Matt Levinson of New York City. “Lately, when we hit a slump, we grab the newspaper or go online to look for open houses because we both dream of owning a big house upstate, out in the country. And even though we’re not prepared to buy yet, sometimes when we find a listing we like, we’ll take a little road trip for the day to check it out and explore the surrounding towns. House-hunting gives us something new to talk about—how we’d fix up the house, how else we can save up money to buy a place in the future. It might take awhile for our plans to pan out, but it’s fun to dream big together in the meantime.”

Love lesson learned: A relationship that’s static can definitely feel stagnant, but that’s easily fixed by setting some goals together. Just ask yourself (and your partner), “In your wildest dreams, what would the two of us be doing three months/six months/a year down the line?” Then do something small—say, window-shopping for a home, or playing with puppies in a pet store even though you’re not prepared to take one home yet—that keeps you in touch with that dream. Even new couples can adopt a sense of direction. Maybe you both fantasize about flying to Cancun for a long weekend on the beach. Try browsing guidebooks together or set up a “Cancun fund” where you each contribute $20 per paycheck. “Even if your big plan is very far away, taking baby steps together can bring you closer to your goal,” says Daily. “And to each other.”

Break some rules
One couple’s case history: “When my long-distance girlfriend and I moved in together, we thought we’d have tons of fun together, but it didn’t take long before we got caught up in our work schedules,” says Brenden Smith of Orlando, FL. “One Wednesday
Surprises keep a relationship interesting because they show your sweetie that there’s more to you than meets the eye.
night we were both lying around exhausted when my girlfriend jumped up, grabbed her bag and announced, ‘Come on, we’re going out!’ We went to a bar down the street, and had such a great time that we stayed out until two in the morning! Sure, we were even more exhausted the next day, but I couldn’t stop thinking about how great it felt to ‘break the rules’ and stay out late on a weeknight. Now, whenever we’re feeling trapped by our schedules, we do something spontaneous that we know we shouldn’t really do—say, going out for ice cream sundaes instead of making dinner. It never fails to keep things fun and interesting.”

Love lesson learned: There’s something about rebelling a little that can instantly alleviate tedium—plus it can be a bonding experience for couples, instilling an us-versus-them attitude. So if you think your relationship has been weighed down by what you’re supposed to do lately, ask yourself, “What do I really want to do?” and follow your impulses with your paramour in tow. Go ahead and stick your feet out the window on a road trip, duck out of the office party for a make-out session in the coat room, or stay up till sunrise even when you know you two have a family event the very next day. As long as your actions aren’t illegal or harming anyone, these moments will remind you that your love life can take some interesting twists and turns once you stop caring so much about doing things the “right” way.

Plan the unpredictable
One couple’s case history: “Because of our busy schedules, my boyfriend and I usually only see each other on weekends. And while absence (until Friday) makes the heart grow fonder, we often found ourselves going to the same restaurants, watching our favorite TV shows or just having dinner at home,” recalls Renee Edwards of Emmaus, PA. “To spice things up, I suggested that we try planning ‘surprise dates’ for each other. Not only was my boyfriend a good sport about my idea, he totally charmed me by taking me apple-picking last fall. It was exactly the kind of outdoorsy thing I love to do, but would have never thought we’d do together. In return, I surprised him with reservations at a BBQ restaurant I knew he wanted to try. Keeping each other on our toes date-wise reminds us that it’s always important to keep trying, even when you’re in love and comfortable with each other.”

Love lesson learned: Surprises are the cornerstone of keeping a relationship interesting because they show your sweetie that you don’t take them for granted—and that there’s more to you than meets the eye! So keep an eye out for any opportunity: If your sweetie mentions a play he or she wants to see, buy tickets on the sly and slip them in a pocket or purse with a note saying “You, me, and Shakespeare on Saturday?” Or, just tell your amour to keep a certain date clear for you—then don’t reveal what you’re doing. The anticipation will keep your honey wondering all week what it could be and add extra zing to your plans, whether it’s reservations at a new restaurant, a night camping in your back yard, or going back to the bar where you shared your first kiss. What you’ve planned doesn’t really matter—when it comes to surprises, it’s truly the thought that counts.

Escape the ordinary
One couple’s case history: “After starting a new office job, I didn’t have as much time to spend with my husband. Every day seemed to run into the next at warp speed. We were definitely falling into a rut, so he suggested that taking a weekend off to go camping. I wasn’t sure what to expect; we hadn’t spent that much time together in months,” says Lisa Price of Traverse City, MI. “As we made the campfire the first night I thought, what are we going to talk about for the next five hours? But it didn’t take long before we found ourselves talking about lots of amazing things (even some big-picture issues). Over that weekend, time finally slowed down and if felt like we were the only people left in the universe. There were no distractions and the conversation flowed like it was a first date that was going really well. We returned home energized and ready to deal with our hectic schedules again—and reminded of the fact that we never have to stop getting to know each other.”

Love lesson learned: “Sometimes it feels like the world will stop spinning if we stop what we’re doing for one minute,” says Daily. “The truth is, it won’t. Life will go on, even if you take a few hours off.” Even if you don’t have an entire weekend for uninterrupted “us” time, take little time-outs to recharge your romance on a regular basis. Daily suggests setting an unbreakable lunch or dinner date every week—mark your calendar, if necessary. Or substitute separate workouts at the gym to take a long walk or hike together—you may be surprised where your conversation leads or what new tidbit you find out about your paramour!

Lisa Cericola is a New York City-area writer. When it comes to spicing up a relationship with surprises, she thinks the kind of surprises known as presents work really well.
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