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How to Make Romance Last in a Long Term Relationship

How to Make Romance Last in a Long Term Relationship

When you see the word “Romance,” what images does your brain conjure? Perhaps you see ‘Romeo and Juliet’ (just before they die) or you think of ‘Pride and Prejudice’ and the dreamy Mr. Darcy. While both tales are romantic to a point, they’re certainly nothing to base real life upon. They were both written ages ago, and both were quite dramatic!

Now we meet our husbands and wives on the internet or even dating apps, in bars or through mutual friends. No more do we hear about feuding families and the thrill of breaking rules. So why do we continue to think we can make our romance last if we watch another Nicholas Sparks movie or read a steamy novel?

According to the authors of a 2009 study, companionship love, which is what many couples see as the natural progression of a successful relationship, may be an unnecessary compromise. “Couples should strive for love with all the trimmings,” Acevedo said. “And couples in a long term relationship and wish to get back their romantic edge should know it is an attainable goal that, like most good things in life, requires energy and devotion [1].

Love is really hard because…

Do you remember how it first felt to be with your long-time partner? The butterflies, the anxiety? Where did it all go? Now it’s grocery shopping and splitting utility bills. The only night out you get is the one resulting in an empty fridge. Sound familiar?

As time goes by, we get so used to each other, we can predict the others’ response and behavior. We know what makes them tick and what they love. While this is a great thing on some level, it’s certainly not exciting. And if it isn’t exciting, most couples don’t consider it to be very romantic.

While this is all very normal, it doesn’t feel good. We feel bad for being bored with our significant other and we can’t quite pin-point the moment things changed. But there are a few reasons we feel less romantic over time [2].

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Disappointment: it’s normal to feel that the passion seems to have gone

People and relationships disappoint us over time. At first, everything is new and shiny. We are put on a pedestal and feel attractive and desirable. Then our partner becomes more and more human, as do we, and we become less excited and enthusiastic about each other.

Hurt happens, even if we don’t want it

Hurt happens. Some things hurt worse than others, like forgotten anniversaries or an especially ugly argument. But often times, we shut down when we get our feelings hurt instead of discussing what happened. When a wall is built, it’s difficult to overcome. This can lead to everything but romance.

Taking each other for granted

This one probably hits home the most, right? At the beginning of a relationship, we feel so honored to be loved by our significant other, but after years of being together, marriage or even a family, we forget that we still have choices. If either party wanted to, they could call it quits. Instead, we feel that we did all the hard work we were supposed to, and the romantic feelings that were once so strong feel more like emotions amongst roommates and companions.

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Never, ever give up on romance! You don’t have to compromise

Remember that study on Companionship Love I mentioned earlier? Well that same study found that those who reported greater romantic love were more satisfied in both short and long term relationships. Companion-like love was only moderately associated with satisfaction in both short and long term relationships. And those who reported greater passionate love in their relationships were more satisfied in the short term compared to the long term.

So what does all this mean? Well, it means you need to find a partner who is really there for you and feels like a teammate. Romantic love has the intensity, engagement and sexual chemistry that passionate love has, minus the obsessive component. So if you are confident with your partner, and feel that they contribute to the relationship (and of course you are both physically attracted to each other), you’re on the right track.

Bring the romance back. For good!

When you feel like the spark is dying, or even extinguished, it doesn’t mean you should leave the long term relationship. There are steps to take that can bring that feeling back!

Think of 5 positives for every negative thing in the relationship

Yep, it’s a real thing. While the “itch” or desire to leave/cheat can happen around the third year, it seems the worst around year 7. To help avoid those feelings, consider the 5:1 ratio [3]. For every one negative thing between you and your partner, there should be five positives. While you two have a household to run and maybe even kids to raise, your relationship should still be fun and kind-hearted.

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Add something new to reignite the passion

Sure, the early feelings of constantly wanting to undress your partner fade after about a year. After all, new and exciting can only stay new for so long. But things can still be thrilling! Passion, romance and sexual desire/intimacy are essential to any long term relationship. So engage in new activities together! Whether intimate or casual, break out of your comfort zones [4].

Forget about the routine. Do something spontaneous once in a while!

Instead of sitting around and getting depressed about how “bored” or “boring” your partner seems, do something spontaneous! Don’t make your typical plans to see a movie Friday and do brunch sunday; live in the moment! If you’re together right this second, drop what you’re doing and go to a theme park or aquarium.

Seek arousal-producing activities to create that adrenaline rush again!

Do an activity together that creates an endorphin and adrenaline rush! When those feel-good chemicals rush to your brain, that state of heightened arousal can be transferred to your partner and relationship. Whether it’s an intense workout, a scary movie or a roller-coaster, give it a try.

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Give yourself enough time to think before leaving

While the feeling of a non-romantic relationship can make you want to call it quits, it’s actually best to ride the wave. When those feelings fade and we start to question if we even want to stay in the relationship, it’s really just because we are no longer caught up in the initial “chase” we loved so much in the beginning. Give yourself some time when those doubts creep up and don’t immediately exit the relationship. But if the doubts come back and the attraction and romance do not, then it may be time to assess the situation [5].

Know that the romance is still there somewhere

All of these points combine to make this one: the romance is still in there somewhere. We get so used to each other and that can lead us to take each other for granted. So plan a spontaneous date night, flirt with each other like you did when you first met. See where it takes you. And above all, communicate and be open to the feeling of romance or lack-thereof. You two fell in love for a reason. Remember that.

Featured photo credit: Freestocks.org via stocksnap.io

Reference

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Heather Poole

Technical writer

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Last Updated on August 20, 2018

How the Stages of Change Model Helps You Change Your Habits

How the Stages of Change Model Helps You Change Your Habits

Change is tough, there’s no doubt about it. Old habits are hard to shift, and adopting a new lifestyle can feel like an uphill battle!

In this article, you will learn about a simple yet powerful model:

Stages of change model, that explains the science behind personal transformation.

You’ll discover how and why some changes stick whereas others don’t last, and how long it takes to build new habits.

What is the Stages of Change Model?

Developed by researchers J.O. Prochaska and Carlo C. DiClemente over 30 years ago[1] and outlined in their book Changing For Good, the Stages of Change Model, also known as the Transtheoretical Model, was formed as a result of the authors’ research with smokers.

Prochaska and DiClemente were originally interested in the question of why some smokers were able to quit on their own, whereas others required professional help. Their key conclusion was that smokers (or anyone else with a bad habit) quits only when they are ready to do so.

Here’s an illustration done by cartoonist and illustrator Simon Kneebone about the different stages a smoker experiences when they try to quit smoking:

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    The Stages of Change Model looks at how these conscious decisions are made. It emphasizes that change isn’t easy. People can spend a long time stuck in a stage, and some may never reach their goals.[2]

    The model has been applied in the treatment of smoking, alcoholism, and drugs. It is also a useful way of thinking about any bad habit. Social workers, therapists, and psychologists draw on the model to understand their patients’ behaviors, and to explain the change process to the patients themselves.

    The key advantages to the model is that it is simple to understand, is backed by extensive research, and can be applied in many situations.

    The Stages of Change Model is a well-established psychological model that outlines six stages of personal change:

    1. Precontemplation
    2. Contemplation
    3. Determination
    4. Action
    5. Maintenance
    6. Termination

    How are these stages relevant to changing habits?

    To help you visualize the stages of change and how each progresses to the next one, please take a look at this wheel:[3]

      Let’s look at the six stages of change,[4] together with an example that will show you how the model works in practice:

      Stage 1: Precontemplation

      At this stage, an individual does not plan to make any positive changes in the next six months. This may because they are in denial about their problem, feel too overwhelmed to deal with it, or are too discouraged after multiple failed attempts to change.

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      For example, someone may be aware that they need to start exercising, but cannot find the motivation to do so. They might keep thinking about the last time they tried (and failed) to work out regularly. Only when they start to realize the advantages of making a change will they progress to the next stage.

      Stage 2: Contemplation

      At this stage, the individual starts to consider the advantages of changing. They start to acknowledge that altering their habits would probably benefit them, but they spend a lot of time thinking about the downside of doing so. This stage can last for a long time – possibly a year or more.

      You can think of this as the procrastinating stage. For example, an individual begins to seriously consider the benefits of regular exercise, but feels resistant when they think about the time and effort involved. When the person starts putting together a concrete plan for change, they move to the next stage.

      The key to moving from this stage to the next is the transformation of an abstract idea to a belief (e.g. from “Exercise is a good, sensible thing to do” to “I personally value exercise and need to do it.)[5]

      Stage 3: Preparation

      At this point, the person starts to put a plan in place. This stage is brief, lasting a few weeks. For example, they may book a session with a personal trainer and enrol on a nutrition course.

      Someone who drinks to excess may make an appointment with a drug and alcohol counsellor; someone with a tendency to overwork themselves might start planning ways to devise a more realistic schedule.

      Stage 4: Action

      When they have decided on a plan, the individual must then put it into action. This stage typically lasts for several months. In our example, the person would begin attending the gym regularly and overhauling their diet.

      Stage 4 is the stage at which the person’s desire for change becomes noticeable to family and friends. However, in truth, the change process began a long time ago. If someone you know seems to have suddenly changed their habits, it’s probably not so sudden after all! They will have progressed through Stages 1-3 first – you probably just didn’t know about it.

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      Stage 5: Maintenance

      After a few months in the Action stage, the individual will start to think about how they can maintain their changes, and make lifestyle adjustments accordingly. For instance, someone who has adopted the habit of regular workouts and a better diet will be vigilant against old triggers (such as eating junk food during a stressful time at work) and make a conscious decision to protect their new habits.

      Unless someone actively engages with Stage 5, their new habits are liable to come unstuck. Someone who has stuck to their new habits for many months – perhaps a year or longer – may enter Stage 6.

      Maintenance can be challenging because it entails coming up with a new set of habits to lock change in place. For instance, someone who is maintaining their new gym-going habit may have to start improving their budgeting skills in order to continue to afford their gym membership.

      Stage 6: Termination

      Not many people reach this stage, which is characterized by a complete commitment to the new habit and a certainty that they will never go back to their old ways. For example, someone may find it hard to imagine giving up their gym routine, and feel ill at the thought of eating junk food on a regular basis.

      However, for the majority of people, it’s normal to stay in the Maintenance period indefinitely. This is because it takes a long time for a new habit to become so automatic and natural that it sticks forever, with little effort. To use another example, an ex-smoker will often find it hard to resist the temptation to have “just one” cigarette even a year or so after quitting. It can take years for them to truly reach the Termination stage, at which point they are no more likely to smoke than a lifelong non-smoker.

      How long does each stage take?

      You should be aware that some people remain in the same stage for months or even years at a time. Understanding this model will help you be more patient with yourself when making a change. If you try to force yourself to jump from Contemplation to Maintenance, you’ll just end up frustrated. On the other hand, if you take a moment to assess where you are in the change process, you can adapt your approach.

      So if you need to make changes quickly and you are finding it hard to progress to the next stage, it’s probably time to get some professional help or adopt a new approach to forming habits.

      The limitations of this model

      The model is best applied when you decide in advance precisely what you want to achieve, and know exactly how you will measure it (e.g. number of times per week you go to the gym, or number of cigarettes smoked per day). Although the model has proven useful for many people, it does have limitations.

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      Require the ability to set a realistic goal

      For a start, there are no surefire ways of assessing whereabouts in the process you are – you just have to be honest with yourself and use your own judgement. Second, it assumes that you are physically capable of making a change, whereas in fact you might either need to adjust your goals or seek professional help.

      If your goal isn’t realistic, it doesn’t matter whether you follow the stages – you still won’t get results. You need to decide for yourself whether your aims are reasonable.[6]

      Difficult to judge your progress

      The model also assumes that you are able to objectively measure your own successes and failures, which may not always be the case.[7] For instance, let’s suppose that you are trying to get into the habit of counting calories as part of your weight-loss efforts. However, even though you may think that you are recording your intake properly, you might be over or under-estimating.

      Research shows that most people think they are getting enough exercise and eating well, but in actual fact aren’t as healthy as they believe. The model doesn’t take this possibility into account, meaning that you could believe yourself to be in the Action stage yet aren’t seeing results. Therefore, if you are serious about making changes, it may be best to get some expert advice so that you can be sure the changes you are making really will make a positive difference.

      Conclusion

      The Stages Of Change Model can be a wonderful way to understand change in both yourself and others.

      While there’re some limitations in it, the Stages of Change Model helps to visualize how you go through changes so you know what to expect when you’re trying to change a habit or make some great changes in life.

      Start by identifying one of your bad habits. Where are you in the process? What could you do next to move forwards?

      Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

      Reference

      [1]Psych Central: Stages Of Change
      [2]Boston University School Of Public Health: The Transtheoretical Model (Stages Of Change)
      [3]Empowering Change: Stages of Change
      [4]Boston University School Of Public Health: The Transtheoretical Model (Stages Of Change)
      [5]Psychology Today: 5 Steps To Changing Any Behavior
      [6]The Transtheoretical Model: Limitations Of The Transtheoretical Model
      [7]Health Education Research: Transtheoretical Model & Stages Of Change: A Critique

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