The Internet was all a-Twitter last week about the breakup of highly Instagrammable couple Taylor Swift and Calvin Harris. Don’t worry, they’re still managing to get to the gym.
Post-breakup, a source told E! of the pair: “It seemed like they were more friends than lovers.”
This struck a chord for me, as my last relationship also ended on an “Oops, we’re just buddies!” note. That was after 8 years. In a long-term relationship it’s easy to replace passion (sex) with companionship, and romance (sex) with routine. Let’s face it; sex is the big dividing line between a friend and a “special friend.”
But even in a shorter relationship like the Taylor-Calvin union, which lasted for 15 months, you may need to work to keep things decidedly non-platonic.
“People think that romantic love is supposed to be effortless, but it’s only effortless when the hormones do the work in the beginning,” says Dr. Bonnie Eaker-Weil, relationship and marriage counselor and author of Make Up, Don’t Break Up.
After that, you have to do the work to keep romance alive. Here’s how:
1. Stimulate your hormones.
The feel good hormones that cause couples to get that fluttery feeling in their stomachs and make everyone around them uncomfortable by staring at each other for too long wear off after a few months, Dr. Bonnie says, and after that you have to keep stimulating and recreating them if you want to stay in love.
How? Make sure you share a 30-second kiss and a 20-second hug each day. This will stimulate that oxytocin and dopamine that made you feel all goofy for each other in the first place.
She also suggests cuddling every night for 5 or 10 minutes before going to sleep. If you’re doing your 30-second kissing right, it might even lead to sex.
This may seem counterintuitive, but Dr. Bonnie says, “When people don’t fight, the relationship goes into friendship. Because passion comes from conflict. You end up with what I call a “polite relationship,” with no passion. Plus, learning to resolve (not ignore) conflict as a couple is important for the relationship’s overall health.
3. Don't talk so much.
More specifically, don’t text so much. “You can text a relationship to death,” says the doctor.
When you text and email each other all day about every minute detail, not only are you not getting a chance to miss each other, you’ve got nothing left to talk about when you get home in the evening.
She suggests keeping a running list on a little piece of paper or Post-It of things you want to remember to tell your partner about. Then spend 10 minutes that evening just talking and connecting. You can discuss anything except your children or your problems.
4. Create novelty and excitement.
The more comfortable you get in your relationship, the easier it is to become “just friends.”
Dr. John Curtis, marriage and family counselor and author of The Business of Love recommends setting aside a night to act like you’re dating again. And it’s not enough to just go to your regular restaurant or bar–you need to try things that are new, exciting and different. Maybe even surprise your partner by not telling them your destination in advance.
Most importantly, take the opportunity to “market yourself” to each other – shave, put on a new outfit, get yourself fixed up, maybe sext a little beforehand.
The sweatpants and Netflix side of a partnership can be amazing, as long as you don’t neglect the aspects of your relationship that made you fall in love in the first place. In the best relationships, you’re best friends and lovers.
And don’t forget to have sex. (Did I mention that?)
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