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In a Relationship Rut? Here is what you can do

In a Relationship Rut? Here is what you can do
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When you’re over 50, it’s a badge of honor to be in a long-term relationship. The two of you have stood the test of time. You’ve been together for decades. You know each other better than you know yourselves, and there are some distinct perks.

“For those who have been with their partner for several years,” says Allison Cohen, a Marriage and Family Therapist based in Tarzana, California, “the sex actually gets better because each has been together long enough to know how their partner’s body operates.”

“Couples have hopefully had enough conversations about what they both desire,” she adds, “and have spent long enough honing their skills that there becomes a real physical pay off.”

But maybe that’s not your situation. Maybe something’s missing. Stress, medical issues, hormonal changes, ailing parents and even finances may have taken a toll. Have things gotten a bit too mundane? Has that spark you felt for each other early on blown out?

“In a long-term relationship, it’s easy to fall prey to idle habits that breed disconnection and boredom,” says Cohen.

She calls it, “putting on the proverbial sweatpants.” Couples often get lazy and stop trying new things in their relationships. Relationship ruts are normal, but they’re still damaging.

Part of the problem is that communication changes as we get older. We develop battle scars and might start making subtle shifts in how we relate to those we love the most. The key to addressing these types of issues, before they get out of hand, is talking.

Cohen notes, “As simplistic as it sounds, the best thing you can do is to talk to your partner about what they want and need.” And don’t just drop hints and think your loved one will immediately understand what you’re getting at.

“All of the best guesses and mind reading in the world will never pay off like asking direct questions will,” Cohen says.

Another issue is the physical changes that come with age. Togetherness may lessen inhibitions, but intimacy can be hard to achieve if your body isn’t cooperating.

“Partners must approach those issues with sensitivity, understanding and curiosity towards new solutions,” Cohen says. “Sensate Focus exercises, a set of specific sexual exercises for couples and individuals, can help partners turn their attention to touch without the pressure of attempting intercourse and can help couples reestablish sexual comfort and trust.”

Other options include ditching distractions like electronics and the television so you can focus exclusively on each other – and setting aside time for date nights.

Asking, “How can I excite you again?” is also a great place to start. As Cohen observes, “Ask and you shall receive.”

And remember that not all touch has to be sexual. Small gestures like hugs, holding hands, and back rubs can reconnect you.

Taking care of yourself is just as important as taking an interest in your partner’s needs. Personal satisfaction is a key component of relationship satisfaction, so the happier you are with yourself, the happier you’ll be in your relationship.

“Self care is critical at every age,” says Cohen. “Burn out can have serious consequences on our emotional and physical health – and can alter our mood so drastically that it blocks communication, exacerbates disagreements and can negatively color our perceptions of the quality of our relationship/connection with our mate.”

As you move towards retirement together, sharing your visions for the future will help reunite you. Spend some time daydreaming, and consider creating a couple’s bucket list.

“Whether the wishes are big or small, it’s a terrific bonding exercise to sit down with your mate and start dreaming,” says Cohen. “The act alone creates connection because you are sharing ideas, hopes, common interests and working on mutual goals.”

She continues, “The couple’s bucket list can go a long way in painting a picture and starting an important dialogue to avoid miscommunications and assumptions.”

All relationships have ups and downs, especially as we go through the big life transitions that happen in the second half of our lives. It can be alarming, and there’s no simple formula or quick fix to turn things around. But there are actions you can take to kick the monotony to the curb and keep the flame burning for decades to come.



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