It doesn’t matter whether you’ve been with your partner for a few weeks or a few years, sooner or later you might find yourself in a rut. Between work, school, commuting, paying the bills, childcare, and everything else life throws at us, time can seem to fly by until one night, you look up from your phone and feel like there’s a stranger sitting next to you on the couch, the blue glow of Netflix washing over their face.
Whether you feel like you’ve hit a rough patch or you’re just going through the motions, relationship ruts are totally normal—but it doesn’t mean we want to stay there! Here are a few ways you can deepen your connection, kickstart your communication, and get out of a relationship rut.
This can be a specific time of day or it can even be once a week or once a month, but it should be a recurring time so that it happens regularly and it should be protected time, meaning nothing else is able to encroach upon it.
What you talk about during this time is up to you. You can share what’s top of mind for each of you, go over something important that happened since you last spoke, plan for the future, or share something interesting that you have learned recently.
It might seem like talking to your partner should come easily to you, but if you’re in a rut, sometimes it can be hard to talk about anything other than daily to-dos. If you need a little nudge, go through some prompts or questions, such as:
You can also try to highlight both something to celebrate and something where there is room for growth. For example, you can celebrate that you reached your savings goal for the month as a couple and acknowledge that you spent more time watching television than you both wanted. Then the next time you check in, you can see where you stand in the area where you noticed room for growth.
An affirmation, or a positive message that communicates your appreciation for another person, can be incredibly powerful when you feel like you’re in a relationship rut. Communicating your love and respect to your partner can show them that you appreciate them and notice them and can help increase their sense of self-worth and their bond with you.
An affirmation can be as simple as:
It doesn’t matter when you do it—that’s up to you as a couple. Maybe you do it over breakfast, send a text when the workday starts or ends, check in at lunch, when you sit down to dinner, or before you go to sleep. Whatever works best for both of you!
You can start to use affirmations and hope that your partner catches on or bring it up as an activity you can both try. And if you’re more of a written person than someone who likes to say things out loud, handwritten notes, texts, or emails work just as well.
It can be hard to know whether what you're going through is "normal" or whether you feel like you have enough of a problem to work with a professional. But contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to wait until there’s a serious problem to work with a therapist or coach!
“It can feel risky to admit that you would like to work on your relationship!” says therapist and MyWellbeing community member David Horne. “In our society, we usually hear about couples going to therapy because the relationship is really on the rocks.”
A therapist or coach can help you learn more about your partner, your own needs, and how to communicate them. You’ll be able to explore things that might be present in your partner’s past that resurface in ways that might surprise both of you. Ultimately, working with a therapist or coach can help you and your partner grow closer and more intimate together.
“Let your partner know that you are thinking about ways to support yourselves in exploring your relationship, what’s working, what isn’t, what needs are being met, maybe what is confusing or frustrating, or what you are afraid of talking about,” says David. “The important thing is to let them know that you are considering therapy as a way to strengthen your relationship and to increase your sense of agency, aliveness, and fulfillment in that relationship.”
If there is an issue you know you want to work on, even if it’s just that you’re in a bit of a rut, therapy or coaching can provide a safe, secure container for you both to explore and a third party to help you process.
And even if there is no pressing problem or issue, you can still try couple’s counseling to help you understand what has helped shape who your partner is today, learn what makes them tick, learn how to de-escalate if an argument does come up, learn how to share hobbies with your partner, and help you both learn how to better communicate your wants and needs.
“If things aren’t too dire, and you just want to be better together, I would think about it in terms of support for your growth together,” says David, “It can be kind of exciting to focus on each other with someone there who can facilitate communication and help address areas that neither of you may see on your own. One of the things nobody talks about with regard to couples therapy is the sense of increased appreciation that often comes out of working on your relationship. Appreciation for the relationship itself, as well as for you and your partner in that context.”
If you’re wondering if couple’s therapy or coaching might be right for you and your partner, this quiz can help.
Most of us lead busy lives where one day seems to run into the next and we can lose track of time. Then we realize a day or week or month or even year has passed and we can’t remember when we last felt a deep connection with our partners. And maybe, when you do get the opportunity to spend time together, you’re buried deep in your phones or your mind is elsewhere, like at work.
Whether you’re setting aside time to talk, prioritizing affirmations, or embarking on a couple’s counseling journey, dedicating time and attention to your partner and your relationship is a great first step to get out of a rut and back into your groove.
Caitlin is an organizational change strategist, advisor, writer, and the founder of Commcoterie, a change management communication consultancy. She helps leaders and the consultants who work with them communicate change for long-lasting impact. Caitlin is a frequent speaker, workshop facilitator, panelist, and podcast guest on topics such as organizational change, internal communication strategy, DEIBA, leadership and learning, management and coaching, women in the workplace, mental health and wellness at work, and company culture. Find out more, including how to work with her, at www.commcoterie.com.