Long term relationships: The goal isn't just to stay together forever; you want the years together to be good ones. With anything that unfolds over time, it's easy to get caught up in the day-to-day and not notice that something is slowly deteriorating right before your very eyes. You start with something fun and vibrant, and you end up with something sad, tired or boring. And this doesn't just happen with relationships. Think about SeaWorld. Or the hairstyle on that lady who runs the register at Hobby Lobby. The point is this: To keep something fresh you have to tend to it. You have to pay attention, make adjustments and keep evolving.
There are tons of articles on the warning signs to look for when it comes to whether your significant other is losing interest, or worse yet, having an affair. But what are the warning signs that your own feelings are changing? The following are four signs that your relationship might be in danger of flatlining. If you catch this early enough, you have a much better chance of correcting course before it's too late.
Love Song or Lullaby? Cue up Ed Sheeran's love ballad "Thinking Out Loud" and have a listen. If this song doesn't make you want to drop what you're doing, drive to wherever your significant other is, interrupt whatever he's doing, gaze into his eyes and cry tears of love, either your feelings for him are cooling off or you're dead on the inside. Either way, it's a problem.
Not into Ed Sheeran? What's wrong with you? You know what? Nevermind. We'll tackle the issue of your musical taste (or lack thereof) another day. Right now we're trying to figure out if your relationship is off key. So pick a love song that resonates with you, listen to it and figure out who comes to mind. If it's your kids, it's time for a little re-prioritizing. It's not wrong for you to love the stuffing out of your kids. But it is a problem if songs that are designed to make you go weak in the knees over your hubby are causing you to get all dreamy about your children instead. And if you realize that you're not thinking of your husband or your kids, but rather you're daydreaming about that guy Jeff from corporate headquarters, stop reading this right now and go book an appointment (or 10) with a good marriage counselor.
Love vs. Lust. If Fifty Shades of Gray taught us anything, it's that (1) obscene amounts of money makes even creepy stuff seem hot to some, and (2) there are many different kinds of sex. It's the second lesson that I want to focus on here. When it comes to most couples, there are generally two categories of sex: loving sex and hot sex. While there is some overlap between the two, these are distinct categories. Ideally, long-term relationships should feature some of both kinds of sex. Sometimes the sex might be super hot; other times it might be deeply moving. It doesn't have to be the most meaningful sex of your life every single time, of course; but if you can't remember the last time you and your significant other were intimate in a way that was loving and/or if you can only get in the mood if masks, props, feathers, role playing, or a secret fantasy about Jeff from corporate is involved, you might have a problem. And if you aren't interested in sex with your spouse at all, it's definitely time to sound the alarm. Sex is the thing that makes your spouse more than just a roommate that you may or may not have kids with. Don't let that fade to black.
Texting... One, two, three. You can tell a lot about your relationship based on what you feel in that initial fraction of a second when you realize that an incoming text you just received was from your significant other. To help you gauge this, take the following test:
Imagine you're at work and your phone chimes indicating an incoming text. You grab your phone to check to see who it's from. When you see it's a quick hello from your spouse, you [circle the one that applies to you]:
(a) Break into a smile. There's nothing like knowing that your sweetie is thinking about you in the middle of the day. You steal a quick minute to text him back.
(b) Make a mental note to reply later when you get a second. You're slammed and don't have time right now. You know he'll be fine with this. He knows how crazy it gets for you at work. That's why you make such a good team.
(c) Kind of get annoyed. You've got a demanding job and even the interruption of looking at the phone for a noncritical text from him takes valuable time away from things that genuinely need your attention. Unless he's texting to say the school called and your kid broke her arm, he can wait until you get home to talk to you.
(d) This question doesn't apply to you. He would never text you just to say hi. Maybe when you were first dating, sure; but you're married now. You just don't have that type of relationship.
If your answer is (a), or a mixture of (a) and (b), your pass the text test. But if (a) is never how you feel, you have a problem. How big of a problem depends on how far down the list you had to look before you found the answer that applies to you. You can also cross check your answer by comparing it to how you feel when get a text from a friend or coworker. If you're happy to hear from one of them, but annoyed to hear from your spouse, suffice it to say you flunked.
Table for Ew. Date nights: They're not just for those who are dating. They are the key ingredient to keeping your romance hot and spicy rather than cold and clammy.
A couple in love craves one-on-one time. A couple in trouble has no appetite for that at all. If going to dinner with your hubby sounds like a chore, and you'd honestly rather stay home and eat a bowl of cereal on the couch, you need to figure out why. Either you're an extreme homebody, or you like going out -- just not with you spouse. Show me a couple who doesn't like the idea of dinner (or a trip!) for two, and I'll show you a couple either on the rocks or dangerously close to them. There's nothing wrong with mixing it up and including friends, family, and your kids sometimes. But a steady diet of that to the exclusion of time alone with your significant other will leave you with a heaping helping of ho hum before you know it.
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