Quite often, a love relationship will start out as a breathless sprint, a frenzy of romance and activity, dates, gift-giving, sweet notes and texts (lots of heart emojis), chocolates, sex, sleepless nights spent thinking about the other person. While all this can be fantastic fun, and usually is, there’s no way to keep it up for years.
Eventually, inevitably, the relationship becomes – if it lasts – a marathon. That’s a completely different experience from a sprint, and requires a very different attitude.
If you watch the athletes at the Olympics, there’s an obvious difference between 100-meter sprinters and long-distance runners. The sprint is over almost as soon as it’s begun! Less time than ten seconds doesn’t allow for prolonged reflection or a change of heart. Barely any time to think at all – just breathe, run hard, pump your arms and you’re done. At the end you can hardly stand and you’re breathing through your ears.
But a marathon lasts hours, and gives you a lot of time to think, to worry, to doubt yourself, to lose heart. An Olympic marathon is long – after those first hundred meters, there are still forty-two thousand and ninety-five more meters to go!
It’s common for anyone running a marathon to want to quit at least once during the race, if not many times (some people grit their teeth because they want to quit every step!). And that kind of worry and anxiety is also common in long relationships. It is difficult to stay focused on a long-term relationship or marriage the same way you did at the start, when it felt like a breathless sprint.
One common problem that troubles people in long relationships (and sometimes even in shorter ones!) is when they or their partner seem to start losing interest. If your partner appears to be losing interest and to be less attracted to you, that can really shock, sadden and depress you. Often, it leads to a lot of self-doubt and self-criticism – “Am I getting old, fat, out of shape, less attractive? Am I too serious and less fun to be around now that our lives have changed and I have so much more work to do?”
The tendency is always to blame yourself. But it is important to avoid taking all the blame for any relationship problems all on your own shoulders. A relationship requires two partners, and you are both responsible for how happy and successful it is. So try to be realistic about your share of the responsibility.
Are there concrete steps you can take to counteract your partner’s lack of interest? Yes, of course there are, though they might not be the obvious ones you think of right away.
Remember the important caveat that applies to all relationships and all relationship advice. You don’t really have much control over your partner. Yes, you have some influence over their thoughts, feelings and actions, but in truth that influence is pretty limited.
What you do have some influence over is yourself – your attitude, your thoughts, your feelings and your actions. So that is where you should focus most of your energy. What can you do in this regard to improve your significant other’s interest in you and your relationship?
Start by working on your attitude. A bitter and negative attitude, with plenty of complaining and nagging (“You don’t care about our marriage anymore!”) is not very helpful. Browbeating your partner may change their behavior, but it will be at best a superficial change, and may lead to them feeling guilty and angry, which doesn’t help your relationship at all.
Make “gratitude lists” frequently – some people do it every day – where you simply take five minutes or less to write down all the positive aspects of your relationship. What about your relationship and your significant other are you grateful for? Ignore any negatives and just list the positive things. This is a good exercise because it reminds you of all the benefits of your relationship and also trains your mind to look first for the good things rather than the bad.
Next – and this may seem somewhat paradoxical – take some time to focus on your life beyond your relationship. Cultivate friendships and activities outside your relationship. Take some classes to stimulate your mind, or join a club or recreational sports league. Get some exercise regularly – that will not only help you get in better shape, which could contribute to renewed interest from your partner, but more importantly, it will help you feel better about yourself, making you a happier and more positive person. Having interests and activities outside your marriage makes you a more attractive and interesting person within your marriage. It gives you things to talk about – read a book now and then, rather than just your endless social media feed – and that kind of genuine conversation leads to deeper friendship and a closer bond with your significant other.
You may also propose some joint activities to increase interest between the two of you. A daily walk will stimulate conversation and improve your health. Or suggest taking a cooking class together, for example – that’s something creative and intellectual that the two of you can do together, and it’s fun. Later, you can continue to benefit from the class by trying some of the recipes you learned in your own kitchen at home.
Shake things up a little by taking a trip together – even a weekend away or a day trip in the car to a new and unfamiliar town can give you a shared adventure to enjoy and talk about.
A loss of interest often happens because of a long period of routine, where everything seems to happen the same way, time and time again. Sometimes, as you may find, routine is very comforting and necessary. When you come home from a brutal day at work it is wonderful to know that you will be able to just sit beside each other watching television on the couch. But it is important to have some variety now and then. Shared adventures give you both something to talk about – even a road trip where your car broke down in the middle of nowhere, or where you got lost, can be something you talk together and laugh about for years afterward.
So, to sum up, if you’re worried that your significant other is starting to lose interest, focus on what you can change first – your own attitude. Then take steps to make your own personal life, outside the relationship, more fulfilling and interesting. This will not only make you happier, but it will make you a more interesting and attractive person to your partner. And, finally, try shaking up your domestic routine with a few adventures you can share together, whether they turn out well or not.