Often, it seems like there just aren’t enough hours in the day – you and your partner can feel like passing ships in the night as you juggle the demands of everyday life – especially seeing as the past year has been more difficult for us all.
Work, children, ageing parents – there are plenty of reasons why couples can struggle to find the time for romance.
According to a recent survey, just over half of married adults (51%) feel like there’s ‘no romance’ there, while 45% are unsatisfied with the lack of sex in their marriage – indeed, over 20% revealed that sex is a no-go.
The research, commissioned by new podcast Real Fix, also reveals that 47% of married adults are only staying for the kids and that almost 14% actually wish they’d never married their spouse.
With our busy lifestyles and numerous commitments, how can we bring romance back to our marriages? We asked experts for their views on how to keep the flame alive.
‘Let’s face it, life is not easy under lockdown,’ says Counselling Directory member Beverley Blackman. ‘We’re fed up, bored, Zoom-fatigued, cannot go to the gym, cannot see friends – and we are mostly confined to our living space. It’s easy to focus critically on our partner’s behaviour or actions, and we can end up taking our difficult feelings out on them. For many people, lockdown is not a recipe for a happy relationship.’
Make an effort to be physically intimate with your partner. Working from home can give you more opportunity to do that,
‘Take advantage of having more time in the mornings to introduce more intimacy into the day,’ says Alex White, an in-house therapist at sex therapy app Blueheart. ‘For example, you could start by asking your partner for a cuddle for a few minutes each morning before you get up. This will introduce a new point of physical intimacy into your daily routine, which may then lead on to creating moments that lead to sex.
‘This time to touch can help you and your partner bond. This is not just about touching sexually, but cuddling, kissing, tickling, holding hands, or hugging. All little acts of affection can help you to bond with your partner and ensure that you connect romantically, regularly.’
Ivana Poku, life coach and maternal mental health advocate, agrees and suggests spending an entire evening in bed with your other half: ‘Intimacy is an inseparable part of any relationship and it is very easy to slide into a routine where sex is no longer sensational but rather a mean of physical satisfaction. Spend one whole evening in a bed, be playful, talk, explore, have fun.’
Reflect on why you first got together
What initially brought you and your spouse together?
‘Perhaps shared interests, such as a love of adventure, or a love of cooking,’ suggests Beverley. ‘If the former, perhaps it’s time to sit down together and plan a holiday or weekend away, throw ideas around, tell your partner where you’d love to go if you could and why – build a fantasy few days away that you can translate into reality once lockdown is eased.’
‘If the latter, hunt up a new recipe to try, or have a wander down memory lane and recreate your first meal together! Cook together, be in the moment, and make the process part of ‘date night’. Engage with your partner in a way that both of you will appreciate,’ she continues.
Don’t forget to communicate
It sounds obvious, but ‘communication is key’, says psychologist and psychotherapist Charlotte Armitage.
The founder of Outsourced Psych explains that ‘romance is personal and unique to each couple, and in fact each individual. Understanding what each other wants, and responds to, is vital in establishing what romance means in your relationship.’
Go back to basics and forget about the huge gestures: ‘Listening, talking and paying attention are all core foundations of creating a romantic bedrock for any couple.’
Make time for each other, but don’t neglect ‘me time’
‘Even with a long term relationship, it’s important to have some space to yourself, and to embrace it,’ says Beverley.
‘In lockdown, this isn’t easy. Take a walk alone; have a bath alone; go to bed a little earlier than your partner; take account of the space. Revel in the ‘me time’ so that you can bring your best self to your relationship, and give your partner space too, if they indicate that they want it – don’t be offended if they ask for time on their own.’
Particularly if you’re both working from home, it’s also important that you spend time together that isn’t just the both of you working on your laptops in the same room.
Beverley suggests putting some definition into your daily timetable: ‘Plan your days; negotiate when you can stop work. Focus on making the time you spend together something to appreciate. Make time for laughter; make time to talk if you need; listen to your partner if they need to talk.’
She finishes: ‘Sharing what’s happened in our day with a partner, especially if it’s been tough, can help us feel supported and help shift our perspectives on things.’
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