Months of working from home and furlough may have got you both into a routine (Picture: Getty)
The pandemic – as well as the pressures around furloughs and lockdown – undoubtedly changed our relationships.
And it seems that these changes weren’t always positive.
Research by Sainsbury’s has revealed that 42% of Brits in long-term relationships believe the spark has gone, while 30% believe they are in a rut.
Over half of respondents said they felt they’d fallen into a boring routine, while a similar proportion said the stresses of the last few years have had an impact. In fact, on average, couples are spending 23% less time together than they did before coronavirus.
The aforementioned spark is a ubiquitous concept, and it’s hard to force chemistry where there is none. If you’re already together and have simply misplaced that initial lust, though, it’s a lot easier to get it back.
Anna Williamson, who’s working with Sainsbury’s as part of their campaign to encourage couples to cook together, said: ‘Couples are really feeling the strain at the moment, with the stresses of modern-day life taking a toll on relationships.’
When the spark goes out in an otherwise healthy relationship, breaking out of old habits can reignite things romantically.
Instead of choosing the path of least resistance of an evening (scrolling through your phone, putting a ready meal in the oven, streaming the same TV shows you’ve seen over and over again), prioritise doing something together.
It doesn’t need to be expensive or elaborate – just quality time to help remind you why the fires started burning for your partner in the first place.
We’ve got a list of activity ideas to reignite the spark in your relationship if it’s feeling stale, to hopefully get you out of a rut and back on track.
Take a class or join a club
One problem many couples who’ve lost their spark have is that their lives move in separate directions.
Of course it’s going to get boring if you have no shared interests or can’t relate with each other in conversations about your passions.
Rectify that by learning someone new together, whether that be a salsa class, a Dungeons and Dragons group, or a weekend boot camp session.
Play the Gottman Card Decks
You likely feel like you know each other inside out after a few years in a relationship, but having new conversations will lead you both to find out new and exciting things about each other.
Try Gottman Card Decks, which is available to downloads via Android or iOS.
This free app from The Gottman Institute provides ‘helpful questions, statements, and ideas for improving your relationship’, with over 1,000 cards so you’ll never run out of fresh topics.
As part of its research, Sainsbury’s also found that 29% of people in relationships felt their partner didn’t cook for them enough, and that the average couple hadn’t sat down to a romantic home-cooked dinner together in seven months.
The supermarket recommends its Inspired to Cook range, which includes measured ingredients for a variety of dishes – so you do the cooking but don’t have to worry about loads of prep.
Even if you’re physically together, you need to be present with your partner (Picture Getty)
Alternatively, give recipe boxes like Gousto, HelloFresh, or Mindful Chef a go. The idea is to bond while making food with your partner, so don’t get too bogged down in exactly what you’re making – just try and enjoy the ride.
This doesn’t have to be every night either. A lavish, from-scratch meal from time to time can be just as effective, as you’re switching up dinner from a chore to a date night.
Take a break
If the stresses and strains of everyday life are taking their toll, the best way to escape from a negative frame of mind is to physically remove yourself from the negative situation.
Take a holiday with your partner where ‘mundane’ tasks (like cleaning or looking after kids) are done for you, so you can focus on each other without the weight of your day-to-day duties affecting your mood.
This is obviously something that not everybody can stretch to, but remember it doesn’t need to be lavish. If you can afford it, try a night in a nearby B&B or head to a holiday park by the seaside for quality time in a new (responsibility-free) environment.
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Schedule regular walks
It may seem counterproductive to break out of a rut by creating a regular schedule. However, we can all be guilty of letting time run away with ourselves and prioritising practical things over time together.
Putting a recurring activity into your diaries where you can just talk without any outside pressure will make quality time part of your routine going forward.
Walking is ideal for this as it’s totally free and can be done anywhere. For some, a daily stroll together works best, while other couples will be better suited to a weekly perambulate-date.
Catch up on your days, talk through issues you’re both having and have a vent, and hit your step count, too.
Retrace your steps
You don’t need to create a spark when you’ve already had one, merely find where you left it when other things got in the way of romance.
Looking back on the moments that cemented your partnership should remind you of those feelings and send them all flooding back.
This can be done in a physical way, like going for a pint at the pub you first met or seeing a band you bonded over in the early days, or by mentally going down memory lane through scrapbooking or watching home videos back.
Have ‘memory days’
Now you’ve gone on a trip down memory lane, start making new memories together to reinvigorate your relationship.
Plan a date that involves something you’ve never done before. That might be a restaurant with a new cuisine you’d like to try, a high-octane activity like skydiving, or a road trip where you chuck the map and just go with the flow.
Showing spontaneity is attractive, especially when you make an effort to choose an activity they’d love. These surprises and shared moments will be the ones you look back on as you grow old and tell your story.
Carve out time for intimacy
In a relationship that’s showing signs of getting stale, a lack of intimacy is often to blame.
Perhaps you’re tired after long days at work or struggling to feel sexy without emotional intimacy from your partner – either way, it’s an issue that needs to be addressed.
Tony Robbins, for his sins, says ‘where focus goes, energy flows’. This is a good way to rationalise a dry spell in a long term relationship.
When you don’t stay emotionally connected, it’s hard to feel physically close too (Picture: Getty)
It’s not that a reduced libido means you’re doomed in the bedroom, but that you haven’t been giving your attention to this side of things, which is why it’s fallen by the wayside.
If time is the problem, set aside specific time in your week where you promise not to get distracted. Put the kids to bed (if you have them) and remind yourself that cleaning or organising can wait – make that your time as a couple.
If you’re feeling emotionally neglected, start by communicating this to your partner. Let them know you’ve been withdrawing because you don’t feel connected and, as this is dealt with, your desire should return.
When you do carve out this time, try not to put the onus on sex specifically. Touch each other, hug each other, kiss each other: if things ramp up, great, but if not you should still feel physically and emotionally closer as a couple.
Write love letters
Many of us find it difficult to vocalise how we feel, which can make it hard to get what we need from a partner or show them our love and appreciation.
Sit down together and each write a letter to the other, focusing on why you fell in love with them and how the relationship makes you feel. Then exchange the letters and read them privately so there’s no pressure to react a certain way.
The practice of highlighting your partner’s favourite traits puts them in the forefront of your mind, and you can keep the letters to read how they feel about you whenever.
Give therapy a go
Have you tried everything and still aren’t feeling any butterflies? There may be a deeper issue at play.
Relationship counselling is often touted as something for couples on the rocks, but is useful for anyone looking to improve their understanding and communication.
A therapist acts as an impartial voice, getting to the root of complicated feelings and helping you move forward.
You can view local Relate services on the website.
Sometimes things are unfortunately not meant to be, and it may be the case that your heart’s just not in it and you choose to go your separate ways. A split is understandably devastating, but it’s better for everyone involved to be true to your feelings.
However, if you both want to make it work and put in the effort, you can build strong foundations for a healthy relationship that lasts.
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