Stale patches; those times when your relationship feels about as delectable as day-old donuts. Just as those metaphorical donuts get too hard to chew, your relationship also becomes harder to swallow.
But are stale patches always the harbinger of a breakup? Absolutely not! Sometimes, a rut may be a sign your relationship is structurally flawed; however, it’s possible you and your partner just need to do your best Chip and Joanna Gaines impression. That’s right, maybe it’s time to treat your relationship like a “Fixer Upper.”
Here are three key questions to ask yourself whenever you hit a romantic rut. Depending on the answers, your love may – or may not -be salvageable.
1. Can You Still See a Future Together?
Anyone who’s ever been in a long-term relationship knows there are days when your partner is not your favourite person. It’s hard to admit, but even happy couples have nights when they’re so annoyed with each other, they dread going home. Feeling like your relationship isn’t as fulfilling as it could be isn’t pleasant, but it’s not always an indicator of doom. Ask yourself, do you still see a future with this person? If your partner remains the person you’d call in a crisis, or the individual you’d most want to take Alaskan cruises with when you’re seventy, it’s worth working things out. Try strengthening your bond with activities like couples’ counseling, or perhaps planning a few extra date nights a month. If you can see yourself with someone when you’re a sexagenarian, don’t abandon ship too soon…
2. What Have You Actually Tried To Keep The Romance Alive?
Sometimes relationships hit stale patches because you put romance on autopilot. Has your life becomes so monotonously unsexy that you never do anything new? Have you stopped exploring new brunch spots? Are spontaneous date nights a thing of the past? Relationships can be fun, but only a fool thinks that fun comes easily. After the honeymoon phase ends, it takes effort to maintain excitement. You wouldn’t expect a good performance review at work if you were phoning things in. Well, the same goes for your love life. Even something as simple as binging a new TV series together can inject some novelty into your humdrum routine. So stop eating leftovers while rewatching The Office on separate ends of your Ikea couch. Instead, think of something new to do!
3. Are You The Problem?
The hardest – but perhaps most important?- question to ask yourself when a relationship becomes unsatisfying is this: “Am I the problem?” As Esther Perel, AKA The Goddess of Love, explains, we expect too much from modern relationships. You cannot reasonably expect a single person to be your lover, your co-parent, your bestie, your tennis partner, etc, etc. When it comes to relationships, self-awareness is vital. It’s often tempting to blame ennui on our partners, as it conveniently lets us off the hook regarding our own unhappiness. However, as Sarah Polley movies have taught me, dissatisfaction in your relationship is often a symptom of problems with yourself as an individual. Are you facing a quarter-life crisis? Does the disappointment in your partner stem from absurdly high expectations? Are you under-stimulated at work but mistakenly blaming those feelings on your sex life? Sometimes it’s not even couples’ therapy you need, but an one-on-one session.