Think back to the early days of your relationship and it’s sure to conjure up memories of romance and the excitement that comes with the first flushes of love. But fast-forward 30, 40, or even 50 years, and that same relationship is likely to look very different.
With the best of intentions, long-term relationships can, by their very nature, become like a pair of comfy old slippers, comforting in their familiarity but as far from fresh and new as it’s possible to be. And with children often being cited as the glue that holds a relationship together, is it any wonder so many people feel despondent when they’ve grown up and flown the nest?
Statistics show the proportion of couples splitting up in their 60s has increased by a staggering 58 percent in recent years and is predicted to keep rising. A study carried out by the relationship charity Relate and the Mature Times newspaper found that a third of the 2,000 over-50s questioned no longer made love or else did so less than once a year on average — a loss of intimacy, experts say, is damaging to any couple.
Relate couples and families’ counselor, Barbara Bloomfield, who co-authored the study, believes there are practical steps towards reviving a waning relationship.
“People can so easily get distanced from each other and it’s surprising just how quickly we can start living what essentially amounts to separate lives,” says Barbara. “But as fast as it can happen, it can just as easily be repaired.”
One of the exercises Barbara suggests is the Ten Touch Test — a fun way of reintroducing intimacy into a relationship. “This isn’t necessarily about reigniting passion in the bedroom, but more of a way of reconnecting with your partner and remembering what it feels like to touch them,” says Barbara.
“One of the saddest things that came out of our research was the number of people who admitted never having a cuddle from one year to the next, when showing affection is the one thing that makes a marriage different to a brotherly/sisterly relationship.”
Barbara recommends thinking of ten different ways you can touch your partner in a week, whether it’s a cuddle when you wake up in the morning or a kiss goodnight.
Another common downfall is lack of communication. “I’m often amazed by how little couples talk to each other, especially about the things that matter in their relationship.
“A common misconception is that when you’ve been with someone for a long time, you know everything about them or what they’re going to say, but if you try to talk to them, I think you’ll be surprised.”
Set aside 15 minutes each week where you can talk to each other without distractions or, better yet, make a date of it by going out for a coffee or to the local bar. Ask things like, "Tell me about your grandmother, I’ve always wanted to know more about her," or choose a series of topics, whether it’s politics or films, and take turns to talk about them.
“The important thing is to listen to your partner, especially when you’re talking specifically about the relationship, and not to interrupt or try to problem solve,” says Barbara.
This article originally appeared on our sister site, Yours.