Everything is new and exciting with young love, but as months turn to years, the passion fades and people grow apart. What can one do to keep the spark alive and passionate over years?
Is boredom a common reason for a long term relationship to break down?
Yes, it is, but actually it's not so much the boredom that finally ends things, but loneliness. Because while it's obviously a good idea for couples to keep coming up with new ideas to maintain their passion for one another, many are happy just enjoying their familiar routine.
But couples do worry about slipping into a rut, because at the beginning of a relationship, everything's new and exciting, so everyone thinks relationships are all about excitement. But inevitably, all that excitement starts to fade sooner or later. And perhaps one of them starts to neglect the other. Their emotional intimacy falls as they spend less and less time talking together. And so their physical intimacy also starts to drop.
So lots of spouses end up feeling 'lonely' in their relationship. They're bored too, and long for the excitement they felt back in the beginning. But what really does the damage is that they no longer feel their partner cares about them. And if that continues, then the relationship will eventually fail.
How soon does this 'boredom' commonly set in after a relationship starts?
Some couples stay fresh and passionate their whole lives. Others start to drift within months. A lot depends on whether the couple consistently puts their relationship first, or allows family, children, career or social life to come between them.
What are some of the signs of boredom setting in?
There are many, but a key one is that bedtime's no longer the most exciting moment in the day! You hardly ever talk about anything other than the children, and whose turn it is to take the trash out. You find yourself spending more time at work or with your friends rather than with your spouse. And there are many topics you can't talk about anymore, you no longer remember anniversaries, and have forgotten what size clothes your partner wears, or what their favourite foods are.
What are the common causes of that lull in a relationship?
Mostly it's caused by getting distracted by work, social life, your wider family, and especially childcare. You work late, attend endless family functions, and the children's routine has become more important than your time together. You're perpetually tired, rarely talk together alone, and so you start to drift apart.
What's the biggest intimacy killer in a relationship?
Above all, criticism. It's part of human nature to criticise our loved ones, it seems, but the natural result is that your partner will start editing what they say to avoid getting their ear chewed! And before you know it, you're no longer being completely open and honest with one another. And little seeds of distrust are beginning to grow. So resist the urge to criticise! There's always another way to get what you want.
What do you do to bring back the sizzle once the boredom begins?
Put your relationship first in your priorities, and start organising things to have time to talk together. Every day. Send the kids to bed on time, and switch your phones off! Rediscover each other by talking all about what's going on in your lives, and start being affectionate again. Remind yourselves of all those wonderful things you did when you first met, start talking again about what turns you on, and let your hair down! And schedule some time for sex! I know 'spontaneous sex' sounds better, but trust me, it never happens. So unashamedly put it in your diary!
What makes for a longer lasting relationship? People with different personalities and interests or people with similar interests and personalities?
The most stable couples are generally those who share similar backgrounds, culture, education and so on. But there are always loads of exceptions! Lots of international marriages are very successful, for example, despite the couple's different cultures and backgrounds. Shared interests can be helpful, but I also know loads of successful relationships which have no interests in common. And almost all couples have different personalities. We actually seem to be attracted to different personalities when dating, probably because having two differing points of view in a relationship makes for better decisions - despite the many irritations it causes!
What should you do if your partner ever says they're lonely?
Take them very seriously. Loneliness ends more marriages than all the other problems put together. Look at the amount of time you're spending alone together, and what you talk about. Think about your sex life. Resolve any underlying issues. And if any of that's difficult, see a counsellor together.
HOW THEY KEEP THE SPARK ALIVE
DONALD & ROSE OHON
Married for 16 years
"Our happiness is because we invest in our marriage. Our love just keeps on increasing. I also have weaknesses, but even if there are issues, God has given us wisdom. You have to create time for each other and revive those memories of when you were younger."- Donald Ohon
MANU &ARUNA CHANDARIA
Married for 62 years
"Marriage is what you make it. If it is your aim to make it something good and wonderful, you will succeed. But it has to be the both of you because a home is not built by one person.Holding hands in good times is easy, but holding hands even in difficult times makes the marriage last" - Manu
PITSON & CAROLINE NYOKABI
Dated for seven years and married for three
"The ability to look at yourself in the mirror and admit that that person in the mirror is the problem, is what saved my marriage. I resolved to work on myself so that my family would be together. When it comes to marriage, this is it. This person is your life partner. Work things out. When you look at Pitson now, groomed and with all these things, you might want me but you do not know my story. You do not know that this woman gave me."- Pitson
ESTHER & AARON ZUNGU
Dated for three years and married for three
"We go for retreats. We do random dinners. Sometimes we even take our son to my mum so we can have some 'us' time. We kiss a lot. Even when mad at each other, we have to kiss goodnight kiss and pray together. We keep the memories alive, remember what it was like when we first met...always reminding each other of the good times."-Esther