Relationship 'Magic' in 2021: Myth or Must?
She revealed that she has a “bedroom eye” make-up routine at night to “keep the magic alive” in her marriage. This understandably attracted some criticism online. I certainly had to laugh – I barely have a day time eye make-up routine, let alone a bedtime one!
Can you keep the magic alive during a pandemic?
Many of us have been stuck inside with our significant others 24/7, for months on end. Is she seriously suggesting wearing make-up the entire time for fear that they might see what we really look like? Will the spark really be gone if your partner sees unlined eyes or natural lashes? I certainly hope not, or I’m in trouble.
Charlotte’s ‘advice’ sounds like something from a copy of a vintage 1950’s Women’s Own. But I wondered if there was a more realistic, 2021 version of this long term relationship magic?
We can all be guilty of taking our partner for granted or saving the best version of ourselves for others. I know I can relate to this. Busy lives, commitments with work, friends and kids can also mean we don’t prioritise quality couple time.
So, ridiculous bedtime make-up routines aside, what can you do to work on your spark as a couple?
I enlisted the help of Hampshire-based Accredited Relationship Therapist, Elinor Harvey to tackle the topic.
Taking stock of your relationship
“Now is a really good time to take stock of your relationship and to work out how you’re each feeling, what your needs are, and how you are communicating those to each other, as well as how satisfying you find your emotional and physical intimacy.” Elinor says.
………“The Pandemic has had a really interesting impact on many relationships, for better and for worse. In most relationships, we are not meant to exist in isolation and we require stress relief through a variety of activities and supportive input from friends, colleagues and family members.
……….So for lots of couples, there has been a real sense of extra stress on their relationship, and it has been hard to escape that. Plus, all the fear of getting ill, the financial impact and potential trauma of losing loved ones to the virus – it’s not surprising many couples have really struggled and feel they have lost their spark.”
Is there any magic left?
Many of us missed the fun of date nights, holidays and meeting up with others over lockdown.
Even now with the majority of restrictions easing, it’s been such a testing time, is there any so-called magic left? Elinor assures me there is, and thankfully, it doesn’t involve looking flawless at all times (hooray!).
“I’ve never met a couple who say that each other’s physical appearance is 100% responsible for keeping the spark alive! I think it helps if you are attracted to each other of course, but that attraction is so much more than the makeup or clothing that someone wears; it’s more about how you view each other, how you pay attention to each other and keep a space for affection and intimacy.
……….In long term relationships, we often feel that we know our partner so well and nothing feels new anymore, but it is so important for couples to maintain curiosity in each other. So visiting new places together, learning new skills, having new conversations, trying new things in their sex life: all of these can help maintain a sense of curiosity rather than the belief or expectation that you can mind read each other. Mind reading is pretty terrible for the spark: how can you be excited about someone if you think you know everything about them?”
“Communication is key too. We often think we communicate well, but I find many couples focus too much on what they want to say, rather than putting emphasis on actually listening to each other and making sure they really understand their partner.”
Emotional transparency, intimacy and novelty
So, it seems that ‘the magic’ in a relationship really is to continue getting to know your partner.
Keep listening and learning, just as you would in a new relationship. Of course, this is certainly easier said than done when you’ve been together for many years. But it’s definitely going to be more beneficial than trying to convince my husband I wake up looking perfect (it’s a little late for that anyway!).
To help achieve this continued sense of curiosity, Elinor offered some practical tips:
“My top piece of advice has got to be working on what I call ‘emotional transparency’: working out how you FEEL, and then communicating those feelings to your partner. Letting your partner into your emotional world helps them to understand and feel closer to you.
………..Next, working actively on increasing affection and physical intimacy. I’m not just talking about sex, but also about holding your partner’s hand, keeping good eye contact, touching them as you talk, kissing for longer than just a quick peck. As animals, we need physical touch to help soothe us and release good bonding chemicals like oxytocin.
………..Finally, relationships need novelty. It’s a constant tension in long term relationships between the familiar and novel, but being willing to try new things together can help you to feel the buzz and rush that we usually only get early on when dating. So making time for just the two of you to go out together, without the pressures of kids or work, is a really important way to show your partner how you prioritise them and your relationship.”
The magic of staying curious
Elinor’s advice has given me a lot to think about.
It’s so easy to get into a routine in long term relationships and assume you know everything about your other half. But ask yourself, are you the same person you were five or ten years ago? You probably feel that you’ve changed. And, it’s likely your partner has too – but have you noticed? Have they noticed how you’ve changed?
If you can have those conversations, keep learning about each other and trying new things, you might crack “keeping the magic alive” – no bedtime make-up required.
If you’d like support with any of the topics in the article talk to Elinor at Hampshire Relationship Counselling.
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