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5 Ways to Keep Your Long-Term Relationship Fresh

Relationships are no exception to the saying “to everything there is a season,” and I don’t mean that fall is for diving into leaves together, winter is for hibernating (AKA making out in front of a fireplace on a bearskin rug), summer is for river-side picnics, and spring is that time of year when your man picks you fresh flowers daily while you lure birds to your window sill with vocal acrobatics. Maybe it’s more difficult to keep the romantic flames ignited because I live in Florida where fireplaces are as sparse as deciduous trees, but every relationship goes through phases.  In the beginning, smiles, dates, kisses, and skipped heartbeats are abundant, then suddenly…
                                     
You’ve surpassed that 6-month half-iversary you used as an excuse to spend too much at Macaroni Grill. It’s only a matter of time before your actual first anniversary (which by definition, in case you didn’t know, happens ONCE a year), then who knows?  You might be celebrating 5 years-10 half years! Eh, what are you panicking about? You guys are in love. Now calm down and lovingly glance over at the man you fell for as you run your hand adoringly along his defined…wait, where did his triceps go? When did he fall asleep? At least the beer in his hand is still upright. Wait, no, that’s sad! Are we still watching “Lost” episodes? When did he stop shaving his mustache? When did you stop waxing YOUR mustache!?! Didn’t you have more than just this pair of Victoria’s Secret PINK sweatpants? Oh, there they are…on your boyfriend, covered in drool.      

You’ve got the 7-month sorrows. Cheer up, buttercup. Though these things should be common knowledge, most “taken” folk need a little reminding that monogamy doesn’t have to become this isolating, binge-eating, fashion backward, monotonous nightmare. Here are a few suggestions for keeping the ripening fruits of your labor of love “fresh”:
 
1.    Keep your relationship in an airtight container.
Just kidding. In fact, you should sort of do the opposite, metaphorically speaking. When you finally find that person who makes you happy, it’s easy to want to spend every waking, and even non-waking, moment with them – much to the dismay of your friends, who decided to stop inviting you downtown to avoid another rejection that includes the phrase “night in.”  What sort of wing-person would you make now, anyway? While confining yourself to a cuddle cave on a rainy day can be sexy, you need to sometimes let each other out and others in. 
 
Nights exploring each other’s comfort levels while spending quality time together are essential to intimacy, but too much “chilling” is a recipe for freezer burn, and you might come off as cold to your friends.  Don’t let “OMG! You’re dating that hot guy from your apartment complex?” become “OMG! I can’t believe you’re still dating that soul-sucker from your apartment complex.  Oh, is that why you don’t come out at night anymore?  He’s a tanpire. A man-tanning vampire sucking you dry of your friends, your fun, and your leftovers!” Try welcoming your significant other into your friend circle; making group outings happen enough to keep things interesting and your social lives thriving. Also, the occasional separate night out is healthy and helps build trust.
 
2.   Show & Tell
Really, guys?  “I’ll show you mine if you show me yours”? This day in age, odds are that you’ve already done that. What I mean is, after a while, people forget to show and tell each other how they feel. Just because you’ve already dropped the L-bomb, told your significant other everything that made them attractive, brought him or her to a few favorite places, and surprised each other a few times in the beginning, doesn’t mean you have some sort of credits racked up.  The truth is, our egos are fragile (Yes, even yours, well-endowed sir with your muscle-bound upper-body. You still don’t have any calves, and your last girlfriend never telling you that you’re pretty is why you hit the gym in the first place). They need to be maintained. People naturally like to know that people are proud of them or that they make you happy. In addition, think of your feelings for each other as having their own egos needing to be stroked and talk about them – a lot! Even the good feelings! If compliments and lovey-dovey talk is not your style, try sharing tidbits about your day or relaying things that reminded you of your significant other.
 
When you are not verbalizing, small surprises are splendid. Unless somebody explicitly says they hate surprises due to a traumatic childhood incident of some kind, assume they freakin’ love surprises. Extravagance isn’t necessary, and it can be even more meaningful to buy something inexpensive that will make your partner’s day just a little bit better. For example, when it’s that time of the month, my boyfriend buys me chocolate and I buy him dirty magazines. If you don’t want to spend any money at all, leaving a little note or cleaning up a little when they leave can suffice to put a smile on his or her face.
 
While an increase in hurtful words and actions can corrode a relationship, you can’t underestimate the influence of a decrease in the positive words and actions. The mantra “actions speak louder than words” is very true in some ways, but sometimes, well, talking can do all the talking. Him saying “I’d like to give you a massage” doesn’t make your muscles relax, and honking your boobs isn’t the same as saying, “Wow, that shirt looks great on you.”  Not only are certain behaviors appropriate for certain situations, but certain people appreciate certain signs of affection more, depending on their “love language.”  Figure out what you partner’s is and speak to them in their preferred tongue.
 
Speaking of tongue, don’t forget kisses. From pecks to make-out sessions, kissing is one of the most powerful romantic rituals, yet it seems to happen less as relationships go on.  It can seem elementary when you’ve already done the dirty, but besides simply showing somebody you care, kissing burns calories, promotes the production of happy chemicals, and it turns you on more.
    
3.   Change your environment.
Anyone can get cabin fever when they are in one place too much, and having someone else there with you is no vaccine. Perhaps your woes are more because you need a change of place than a change of company. Spontaneous date nights are an obvious combative, but ample money, free time, and energy may not be available. So, if you find yourselves spending a lot more time at one person’s residence than the other, switch it up. If you can’t switch the hangout venue, try giving the one you are in a makeover. Move the furniture, decorate a little more, clean up, or build a fort over the couch, TV, and bar stools and camp out in the living room. Maybe you’re the opposite of the cuddle cave dwellers and you haven’t had enoughalone time. Get away from your roommates/boyfriend’s parents with a “stay-cation” at a local hotel. If you have the means, a weekend getaway is an even better way to enjoy each other without the routine and stressors of home. Power down the television, computer, phone, iPad, and your robot butler “off” for some real alone time.

4.  Play dress up.
You guys are naughty! Of course, when people think about “spicing up” a relationship, they automatically think of incorporating Kama Sutra, lace and leather, batteries, or food items into their bedroom routine. Hello!?! Those things are like, a given, and there are so many other parts of a relationship that need to be cultivated.  It’s awesome that he thinks you’re pretty without any makeup on, and it’s great that you think his bed head is adorable, but it doesn’t hurt to show each other that you still want to impress one another even at the same time as not having to. Wear stuff you can show each other off in when you go somewhere or just wear your butt jeans to his house. Brush your hair. This brings me to…
 
5.  Keep up with yourself.
When you know you have your ideal person on lockdown, you might sort of let yourself go. You have everything you need already. Who do you need to work out, eat right, or um, bathe, for anymore, right? Wrong. Though white lies persist in the unwritten romance rulebook, I can assure you that looks matter a little bit. Plus, who were you doing all that stuff for before you met your Prince Charming? That’s right, you.
 
Looks aside, relationships are time and energy consuming. You may have lost yourself somewhere in the hours of tickling and talking that you used to spend going to the gym or calling your grandma. Shared pleasures have eclipsed the personal hobbies you found so intriguing about one another in the first place. While sharing experiences and being comfortable with each other has its beauty, so does motivating one another to be at your fullest potential and being supportive when your partner is doing something purely for themselves. Regularly improving and maintaining yourself shows your partner that they are a positive in your life, and it ensures that you can be there for them when they really need you as opposed to clinging to them 24/7 at your own expense. “You can’t love anyone unless you love yourself first” is yet another saying that has merit.

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