There is always an initial excitement and satisfaction when you start a new relationship with someone. Everything is new, fun, exciting, happy, and fun-loving. You go on cute date nights, have fun meeting families and friends, and experience that spark every time you see each other. It is just wonderful. However, over time that may start to fizzle out and all the excitement that was once there is slowly starting to diminish. That is not to say you do not love your partner anymore. You most likely still love them very much, but the honeymoon phase may not stick around forever. There is research out there that posits if you are no longer having your needs fulfilled and lacking self-expanding activities, there is an increase in the susceptibility of infidelity.2 The question then becomes: How do you find the excitement or spark again and bring back the relationship satisfaction?
Keeping things new and fun is probably a lot more challenging than it sounds. On paper it seems quite easy. Try new things. Be there for your partner. All the relationship advice that has been given over the years seems so simple. This begs the question, why is this still an issue in relationships? Another study found that when there was reported marital boredom, satisfaction was lower over the next 9 years.3 It can be easy to fall into a pattern and do the same things over and over again in a relationship. Work starts to pick up, kids may come into the picture, or a multitude of other things that take away from the building of the relationship that started it all. There has to be a way to combat this and gain that excitement back.
Well, you are in luck. There is research that suggests participating in self-expanding activities is correlated with higher relationship satisfaction and closeness.1 When you are trying new things with your partner, those memories and feelings associated with that task become intertwined with your partner. You start to find that spark that was there when the relationship first started. This does not mean the activities have to be arousing. It has been difficult to separate the two concepts from one another as they are often linked and go hand-in-hand.1 A new task that is self-expanding is going to help the relationship get back to that high satisfaction stage.
With all that said, if you find yourself in a relationship that just feels like things are stuck in place and its becoming mundane and boring, before considering finding a new relationship, consider exploring novel tasks that could bring the two of you together. It is amazing what a little excitement in the relationship can do for you, not just immediately, but years down the road, as well.
- Tomlinson, J.M., Hughes, E.K., et al. 2018. Do shared self-expanding activities have to be physically arousing? Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 1-21. DOI: 10.1177/0265407518801095
- Lewandowski, G. W., Jr., & Ackerman, R. A. (2006). Something’s Missing: Need Fulfillment and Self-Expansion as Predictors of Susceptibility to Infidelity. The Journal of Social Psychology, 146(4), 389–403. https://doi.org/10.3200/SOCP.146.4.389-403
- Tsapelas, I., Aron, A., & Orbuch, T. (2009). Marital boredom now predicts less satisfaction 9 years later. Psychological Science, 20(5), 543–545. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-9280.2009.02332.x
4 Replies to “How can you bring the fireworks back in the relationship?”
I think you and Luck talks about a similar topic, so I’ll just comment on something that newly came to my mind. For a long time that we talk about and believe in the positive correlation between marital satisfaction and the engagement of self-expanding activities. However, not many people have the chance to engage in such activities. This brings up two questions of mine: 1) what’s the most efficient way for couples to engage in self-expanding activities. That’s to say, how long can such feeling last father the activities. 2) Is there any way for people to survive the boredom life by not doing anything new? Maybe the change of people’s mindset?
You mention that “kids may come into the picture.” Another blog post discussed the question: Is having kids the saving grace of a relationship? I would be curious to find out whether having children can be classified under self-expansion, as parents make new “memories” and “feelings” as they raise a child. However, findings from that blog post show having a child aren’t enough. I wonder how the results might differ if we consider children a “novel task” for couples to explore together, rather than a band-aid to rescue a marriage.
We touched a bit about this topic in class, but I would like to see the effects of self-expansion activities and marital boredom on minority or low income couples who may not have the time or money to engage in these sorts of activities. Do these marriages experience more boredom? What other options besides something that is cheap like the fast friends task are there for people that cannot afford other self expanding activities?
I thought the solution of self-expanding activities as a solution to a dimming relationship and deterrent from infidelity was really interesting. I wonder, though, with Gottman’s 4 horseman of apocalypse in mind, is there a point in relationships where it’s too far gone and self-expansion no longer has any beneficial effect? How can one measure the effects/limits of self-expansion, and what are the boundaries of its use?