Spicing Up Your Relationship

Spicing Up Your Relationship

By Samantha Motto, (CBI Intern) 2/25/2022

 

How many times have we entered the words “spice up my relationship” into a search engine? Perhaps a title such as this has caught your attention on the cover of a magazine near the check outline at your grocery store. It is common for people in long-term relationships to want that same sense of excitement and possibility one is filled with at the beginning of a new love interest. Naturally, that sense of intrigue fades as you begin to learn about the person you’re dating and especially after you’ve decided to be committed to them in some way. While we can admit that this seems to be a normal progression in adult relationships, the desire to keep your interactions with the other person engaging and interesting isn’t a negative sign but rather a positive one. 

 

In a 75 year-long study conducted by Harvard researchers on adult development, the findings illustrated peoples’ need for love and good quality relationships to feel they’ve had a fulfilling life. In the world of psychology, many clinicians measure the quality of a relationship through attachment theory. John Bowlby’s work on attachment styles dates back to the 1950s but is still used to talk about childhood and adult development in the present. The most common style is a secure attachment style. The foundation of a secure attachment is usually formed in childhood, where the person’s needs were met by their parents from infancy through adolescence, and they feel a sense of purpose and belonging as an adult. Securely attached people can regulate their emotions, self-reflect, and can relate to others. In summary, a securely attached partner can create a sense of safety for their intimate partners, they are reliable and can bring up and discuss issues with their partner in a respectful way. 

 

While stability and safety make for a secure attachment, both partners may feel the relationship has gone stale. Thus, google searches begin and self-help books are purchased in the pursuit of maintaining that attachment, while also adding excitement to the life of you and your partner. These tips were written to give you the best of both worlds: continuity of a stable, satisfying relationship with just enough spice added to arouse curiosity!

 

  • Change the Scenery – Whether we fell victims to complacency or ended up in quarantine due to COVID-19, many couples have traded in their nights out with nights in watching Netflix. While there’s nothing wrong with snuggling up to your partner as you watch the latest TV series on your favorite streaming platform, the novelty quickly wanes. If you feel comfortable, try dressing up and going out on a proper date! Use this as an opportunity to get creative as you pick a theme for the night, decide to dress up or down, stay local or go out of town for the day. The variations are endless. If you’re intentionally setting aside time for your partner in new locations, you’re communicating to them that you are open to experiencing new things with them. 
  • Meditation – Stress is the ultimate mood killer. The longer you’re in a relationship with someone the more likely you are to share stress as you each become more exposed to the other’s daily tasks. Meditation is often seen as an isolated practice, but increasingly more couples counselors are encouraging couples to meditate together. Michele Clarkson, MSW, LCSW, and Diplomate Sex Therapist, is a professional relationship counselor with 38 years of clinical experience. She likes to use a technique called Mindful Touch, which she says, “is touching with awareness and being present with the sensations of giving and receiving. It’s not about getting stimulated. The toucher follows his or her curiosity, instead of directing the experience, so that it becomes a ‘dance of sharing,’ a conversation between the fingers of the toucher and the skin of the receiver. Both partners direct attention to the point of contact and notice anything that interferes with their being present at that moment.” This practice helps partners highlight thoughts and feelings that may prevent them from being fully present during intimacy. If this exercise seems too daunting or intimate, you may try a shorter guided meditation in tandem with your partner. Headspace provides this free, 10-minute couples meditation that may be a good starting point. 
  • Kind Gestures – When my husband and I were dating, he would constantly look for my parked car at our university and leave me little love poems and notes on my windshield. Once we moved in together, if he needed to communicate something to me, all he had to do was shout from the other room. While the familiarity and security of a long-term relationship made me happy, I’ll admit I still missed the love notes. It was a pleasant surprise to see them reappear later on in our marriage. You can reinstate a fun and flirty behavior from the early days of your relationship as my husband did, or form a new habit you hadn’t thought to try before. Either way, your partner will appreciate the extra recognition and it will break up the monotony of their day. 
  • Work on Yourself – Toward the start of a relationship our partner often sees all our best qualities. Over time, however, they may begin to recognize a pattern of our behavior that’s less than ideal. Furthermore, we may have old wounds that prevent us from being fully present in our current intimate relationships. The best way to experience change and improvement in the future is often to reflect on our past with a trained professional. Therapy and counseling services can help us become the best version of ourselves. If the law of attraction has any truth to it, then the positive work you accomplish in therapy will bring more positivity into your life.
  • Sex Talk – “This is not an easy topic for people to talk about,” says  Megan Fleming, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist and sex therapist in New York City. “You need to feel that the person is open-minded, they’re not judgmental, they’re going to help you explore.” This comes more naturally to some than others. Before bringing new ideas into the bedroom, it’s a good idea to touch base with your partner about their sexual preferences and you’re own. What’s currently working and what’s not? Sometimes these aspects of our lives can be difficult to articulate with a partner. Going into a conversation like this with a few prompts may help you both to feel more comfortable with the discussion. Here are a few starting points:
    • What are my beliefs about sex and where do they come from?
    • Do my current sexual beliefs fit with me or are they a combination of beliefs I have accumulated from church, my childhood, school, early sexual experiences, etc? 
    • Do I feel anything has been holding me back from expressing my full sexuality?
    • How have my sexual behaviors impacted my partner?

All of these suggestions are merely starting points that you and your partner can tailor to your specific interests and preferences. If you’d like more information on any of the topics mentioned here, please visit the following references used for this article. 

 

References

Buescher, L. (2021, November 1). Attachment Styles and Their Role in Adult Relationships. Attachment Project. Retrieved December 2021, from https://www.attachmentproject.com/blog/four-attachment-styles/

Grant. (2015). Harvard Second Generation Grant and Glueck Study. Https://Www.Adultdevelopmentstudy.Org/Grantandglueckstudy. Retrieved December 2021, from https://www.adultdevelopmentstudy.org/grantandglueckstudy

Headspace. (2021). Couples Meditation. https://www.headspace.com/meditation/couples

Parade Magazine. (2020). Sexual Healing: Mindfulness Therapy for Couples. Https://Parade.Com/718197/Parade/Sexual-Healing-Mindfulness-Therapy-for-Couples/. Retrieved 2021, from https://parade.com/718197/parade/sexual-healing-mindfulness-therapy-for-couples/