Many of us who have been in a relationship are quite familiar with the so-called honeymoon phase—that early period when your romance feels like a whirlwind of no-holds-barred passion. But the honeymoon phase almost always dies down, and when it does, you may be left wondering if the passion in the relationship can be rekindled, or if it's better to walk away, but there are also some relationships that are worth salvaging.
Meet the Expert
Suzannah Galland is a relationship expert and life advisor and a contributing author to The Sex Issue: Everything You've Always Wanted to Know about Sexuality, Seduction, and Desire.
Relationship expert Suzannah Galland explains that if you're wondering how to rekindle a romance, the first step is to assess whether or not you're going back to an unhealthy situation.
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 the 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]." 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.
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.
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, looking into each other's eyes, and growing love from a fresh perspective becomes so rewarding," she says. "Some people say, "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. 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 together, 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," says Galland. "You don't have to call it an appointment. You can just call it "our time." 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."