For better or for worse, most of us who have been in a relationship is quite familiar with the so-called honeymoon phase—that early period when your romance feels like a whirlwind of no-holds-barred passion. While we can all agree that love and affection should be the foundation for a healthy relationship, having those elements doesn't necessarily guarantee that you and your partner can keep the flame burning. Like a fire, a strong bond needs to be tended to before it fizzles, and the same can be said for most romantic partnerships.
And though it's probably for the best that some relationships don't work out in the long run (like toxic ones, for starters), there are also some that are worth salvaging, according to relationship expert Suzannah Galland. The Beverly Hills-based life coach explains that if you're wondering how to rekindle a relationship, the first step is to assess whether or not you're going back to an unhealthy situation.
Galland points out that fear is one of the main reasons that drive our decisions when it comes to relationships, whether it's the fear of being alone or of facing potential heartbreak. Regardless of whether you're having second thoughts on a recent breakup or you feel like and your S.O. have hit a romantic plateau in your relationship, keep reading for Galland's top tips.
Step 1: Assess Whether Your Relationship Is Healthy
Do you feel respected and adored?
Whether you're at a crossroads in your relationship or if you're wondering whether or not to get back with your ex, Galland suggests looking back on the last one to three months of your relationship, then ask yourself if you felt adored and respected by your partner. "One of the reasons [that people break up] is misinformation or misunderstanding on the word 'respect'," she says. Think about moments in which you felt cherished, respected, and comfortable enough to act naturally. "In those moments, how much they earn or why they haven't gotten promoted [among other reasons for breaking up]—all that stuff goes out the window. That's where intimacy [has a chance] to grow."
Do you feel like you constantly need to "fix" your relationship or partner?
Some people may have what's called a "master/slave" dynamic in their relationship that's defined by "love with pain; it is not a love that grows, and it's not [a relationship] where you're respected," Galland explains. In this type of toxic situation, "most abusers want you when you're not with them, and most of them constantly want you to heal [them]," and you'll fall into a trap of staying in the relationship with the belief that you can fix your partner—and it should go without saying that this is precisely the kind of situation to avoid returning to, she says.
Step 2: How to Rekindle a Relationship
While your relationship won't change overnight, Galland explains there are ways to make sparks fly again over time. Here, she shares the key dos and don'ts of stoking the flames of intimacy.
Don't look to sex to reignite passion.
Galland advises her clients not to focus on using sex as a way to mend a relationship because it's not a guarantee that the romance will return. "The sex might not be as amazing because of all the expectation or anticipation, which is why touch and looking to into each other's eyes and growing love from a fresh perspective becomes so rewarding," she says. "Some people go, 'The sex wasn't as good. Maybe I don't want them anymore.' You want to give it a little time to get to that moment again of trust or feeling cherished and adored. It's about feeling that connection again, building that trust, laughing and feeling, and getting that intimacy strong."
Make more eye contact.
"In a relationship, eye contact is about trust, love, and connection. Most of our relationships aren't necessarily vocal," says Galland. "Take some time in the day to be thoughtful and look into each other's eyes. If you can't look in someone's eyes for five seconds, that's the number one clue right off the bat whether you want to be with someone because it's a place where you're vulnerable."
Be more sensual.
You don't need grand, rom-com worthy gestures to prove that you're serious about giving your relationship another shot, says Galland. It can be as simple as showing your sensuality, which isn't always defined by sex, she says. It can be in the flirtatious way you say "thank you," a gentle touch on the cheek, or wearing something that makes you feel sexy. "As long as it's not too contrived, make the extra effort—even if it's just a smile or a laugh. Tenderness is what most human beings desire, but it's not something they ask for [out loud]," she explains.
Take time to laugh together.
It may seem like a no-brainer, but many couples forget to carve out time to laugh together, share thoughts, or cuddle. "Start with five minute moments that unite [the two of you]," like enjoying your favorite foods or TV shows, says Galland.
Designate time to talk about any concerns about your relationship.
Similar to the way that you might schedule an appointment with your accountant to discuss your finances, Galland explains that it's essential for couples to designate a specific time to talk about any issues or concerns about your relationship. "It's not rude, it's actually being thoughtful. It's essential for couples," and oftentimes it's the unexpected arguments that contribute to the downfall of the relationship in the first place, says Galland. "You don't have to call it an appointment. You can just call it 'our time' and say, 'Let's see, what's a good time for our time, is it Sunday at 1 p.m.?' It should be somewhere where you guys know you have freedom—and not in the bedroom, that's out of bounds. You're not allowed to have any heavy talks in the bedroom whatsoever."
Listen to your partner.
Speaking of your scheduled discussions, make sure you're actively listening to your partner and not just unleashing your frustrations or criticizing their behavior. "Think about what you can do to support them. Usually, it's just listening and making them feel empowered. I mean, that's what we all want. That's where we're at our happiest with relationships," says Galland. "If your partner is not responding or contributing, then your rekindling efforts are not really gonna last no matter where you go or what you do."
Up next, 25 at-home date ideas to try that won't break the bank.