Signs your relationship has lost its spark (and what you can do)
Romantic relationships have many ups and downs. It’s hard to comprehend at times how much two people can go through together over the course of a relationship. Our romantic partner tends to be the person who sees the best and worst of us, and who at times we can feel the closest most open and vulnerable with, and at other times we can feel so far apart from them.
The ups and downs that occur in a relationship may be the result of external life changes such as having children, grief, new jobs, stresses, and juggling the many demands of a busy life, or they may simply be part of the reality of being with the same person for a significant time and all the uncertainties, frustrations, and mundanity that can bring.
This can leave us wondering where the spark has gone in our relationship.
What is the spark?
But what do we mean by ‘spark’? This is the emotional and physiological feelings of desire, intimacy, connection, and a sense of aliveness in our relationship. Often at the start of a relationship, we can feel as if a spark has been ignited within us, I think of this as turning into a flame as the relationship progresses - one which at times is stronger than others.
Why does the spark change?
Relationships are rarely linear, we can have periods of uncertainty, ambivalence, and stuckness. Often this can include a lack of desire and intimacy - be it sexual, romantic, or that intimate connection that we once shared with our partner. This can leave us wondering where the spark went - what was once a roaring fire of connection, intimacy and desire can become elusive or perhaps completely absent.
The loss of romantic spark can be a worrying realisation and can leave couples at a loss. Perhaps you feel:
- unsure of whether the spark has gone or not
- wondering whether it's the relationship, or you that’s changed
- uncertain of how your partner feels
- alone, lonely, frustrated…
Firstly it’s important to state that it’s very common for the spark to change during the lifetime of a relationship. The fairytale, lust, and intrigue, that we may have felt at the start of a new relationship typically lessens. In some ways this can be relieving as these feelings often come with heightened emotions - this may bring excitement, but also worry and anxiety for some people.
Often after this first honeymoon stage where we fall for the fairytale of our partner and what the fledging relationship may bring us, we begin to settle into stages of development of a relationship - we become an established couple, a team, we may create established boundaries around our relationship by setting up a home, maybe getting married, perhaps having children and other dependants.
Whilst this gives us and the relationship stability and dependability it also brings more responsibilities, and perhaps creates a more monotonous, sometimes dull, or lifeless energy to the relationship. The merging that needs to happen to create a team to take on these relationship and life changes impacts our relationship dynamic, at times we can feel less like romantic partners and more like teammates. Too much of this is deadening for desire, sexual energy, and aliveness within the relationship.
It is one of the constant contradictions in romantic love that we want both security, commitment, and reliability whilst at the same time we want to sustain desire, intrigue, novelty - and all the things that create aliveness and the spark. Ester Perel sums this up beautifully, she describes this contraction as “reconciling the erotic and the domestic is not a problem to solve but the paradox of marriage”.
Signs the spark may have gone
So what are some of the signs that you may be struggling with this contradiction, or paradox as Perel calls it, and that the spark is on its way out, or even gone?
Such signs may include:
- Not making time for each other - do you find too many excuses to not prioritise your relationship?
- Stuck in a routine - you’re in a place of comfort, doing all the same things, life is familiar. Family life demands this, but the relationship needs variety, chance, and sufficient uncertainty to create dissonance.
- Not arguing - (healthy) arguing can be a sign that we care, it can also be a way to increase vulnerability as we try and express the authenticity of how we feel.
- Lack of sexual desire - passion, erotic desire, and longing is lacking.
- Lack of curiosity about your partner and relationship - a sense of apathy and disinterest is creeping in.
- Lack of playfulness - have you stopped having fun with your partner?
So many of these signs are an absence or fading of something. This is because often the comfort, security, and certainty that we can long for at the start of a relationship can become the conditions that suffocate the the flames of desire and intimacy.
What a lack of aliveness in your relationship means
The good news is a deadening of a spark does not have to mean the end of your relationship. In fact, it is very natural for relationships to go through a period where we may have become overly comfortable or complacent. Rather I see a lack of spark as a sign to sit up and pay attention.
Unfortunately, few of us are truly taught how to be in a romantic relationship or even what it is. It’s not something that we get lessons on at school, we learn from the environment around us - our families, films, magazines, our friends. However, I have seen time and time again that this can create very high expectations, and often a ‘rom-com’ view of the ‘right’ relationship. These expectations often don’t include the ebbs and flows, the ambivalence, uncertainty, and frustration that can dominate periods of a relationship. They also don’t include the reality that we need to work at how to create a balance between the comfort and perhaps mundanities of an established relationship and family life, and the intimate alive connection that fans the flames of an ongoing spark in your relationship.
What you can do about it?
So what should you do if this article resonates with you and you feel the fading or lost spark?
- Listen - look out for the signs and sit up and listen to them.
- Acknowledge - talk to your partner, gently and with care to let them know your concerns. They may be feeling similarly. You may both feel relieved that you care enough to try and reignite the spark.
- Act - make time to talk and to have fun with your partner, remember what aliveness, desire and intimacy felt like, commit to acts that can reignite this aliveness, and reclaim the erotic desire.
- Get support - relationship and couples therapists are here to work with you on how to support the reigniting of the spark, don’t struggle alone, we all need support to change behaviours and dynamics at times
If you can relate to what I’ve shared and would like some support this is a subject I help clients with. So if you’d like to learn more about how we can work together visit my profile and get in touch.