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How to Get Out Of a Relationship Rut

Is your long-term relationship experiencing a lull? Here are 4 tips to bring the spark back

Has your relationship become a bit… stale? Whether the conversation has gone dry, your sex life is dwindling, or you feel like your partner is taking you for granted, your relationship might be going through a rut. 

The good news is there are simple actions you can take to get out of a relationship rut, make things feel exciting again, and reconnect with your partner. Keep reading for some expert advice on how to get out of a relationship rut. 

Is it normal to be in a rut in a relationship?

If you feel like your relationship has fallen into a rut, you’re hardly alone. Relationship ruts are a common complaint among long-term couples. 

In her research study that followed over 300 couples over the span of three decades, Dr. Terri Orbuch found that over 42% of the partners felt like their relationships were in a rut — or at risk of falling into one.

Although common, if not addressed relationship ruts can become more than just a blip in the road. Dr. Orbuch also found that partners who said their relationship was in a rut year after year were significantly less happy each year they were together

What is a rut in a relationship?

“A relationship rut can be when the humdrum of daily work and home life becomes the only focus for partner time and couple interactions. Or it can be when the ‘honeymoon period’ has passed and the novelty wears off ie familiarity sets in,” explains Dr. Jacqui Gabb, professor of sociology and intimacy at The Open University and Chief Relationships Officer at Paired. 

Comfort and stability can all be beneficial in a relationship, but Dr. Gabb says you can have too much of a good thing. “Familiarity and daily routines can be positive if they also include ways to appreciate each other and the partnership,” she says. 

“It’s possible that one partner may feel they’re in a rut because of the sense of familiarity, whereas their partner may even feel comforted by the sense of familiarity. What’s important is that familiarity doesn’t slip into taking a partner or partnership for granted. Feeling comforted by familiarity is different from feeling too comfortable and not making an effort. It’s often a fine line. It’s about that tipping point when knowing your partner so well means that you forget to graft. Relationship gifts and meaningful gestures diminish or stop.”

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Dr. Gabb says ruts might be part and parcel of long-term relationships, but they don’t mean the relationship is over. “Being in a rut can also be a temporary stage or hiatus, something that the couple knows is happening due to external pressures or life circumstances take precedence — for example with the birth of a first child.” 

With that in mind, here are four ways to get your relationship out of a rut, according to Dr. Gabb.

How to get out of a relationship rut

1. Focus on everyday gestures

“A grand gesture doesn’t shift the dial and move the relationship out of the rut. So don’t rush directly to the nearest florist and buy a huge bouquet. It’s about thoughtfulness and reinvesting in the partnership on a regular basis.”

2. Date each other 

“A good place to start is to reinstate date nights. If these are still happening but have lost their sparkle, then sex-up date nights. If they’ve become routine, do something different. If it’s always watching a movie on the couch, then turn off the TV and make a playlist of favorite songs. Sing along and maybe dance together.”  

3. Commit to trying new things

“Make a pledge to do something new, for example, start a new hobby together. Write a bucket list of things you’ve always fancied trying out. Pick one of each list and sign up for the taster session together.”

4. Make time for intimacy

“Prioritise couple time and re-engage with intimacy. This could be cuddling up together on the sofa and reconnecting through touch — no words spoken. Just let your fingers do the talking. Be attentive to the sensations and how a caress feels. How a partner’s lips feel in a kiss.

“In the end, it’s horses for courses,” adds Dr. Gabb. “That’s the point: it’s about working out how you’ve got into a rut and doing something together to pull yourselves out of this. The very act of committing to this is positive.”

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