There’s a lot of joking about “letting yourself go” when you get into a long-term relationship. A lot of times people are referring to superficial concerns. Like gaining a few extra pounds. Not taking the same care to dress attractively.
That sort of thing.
But there’s a bigger threat, I think, to long-term relationships — that can be addressed the same way. Because it’s so easy to stop trying once you get comfortable with someone else. And no, I’m not talking about diet and exercise. A haircut. Stylish wardrobe. Whatever.
No, I’m talking about time and attention. It’s easy to take someone you’re seeing for granted. To assume that they’ll always just be there. And to stop taking extra pains to let them know you care. To let yourself go through the motions — in conversation, in the bedroom, in everyday life — and stop really being present.
This is an insidious kind of checking out. One that’s frankly pretty damn easy to do — because we’re wired for that sort of thing.
There’s a concept in psychology called “habituation to a stimulus,” and I really believe the principle translates well to long-term relationships. When a person is around in a relatively unchanging way, they don’t stick out as much to you. And after a while, you can literally start to look past them. To stop really seeing them. Really experiencing them in a vivid way.
That is, unless you make an effort. Because the reality is that there is something we can do.
It’s So Easy to Stop Trying Once You Get Comfortable. Don’t.
We can consciously focus our attention on the other person and look for things we may not have noticed.
We can ask them questions that we don’t know the answers to. And if you can’t think of any, there’s an abundance of free lists of questions to ask your partner like this one I found online.
And we can check in with them. See what would be exciting for them to see from us. Instead of assuming we know. Or assuming that there’s nothing at all.
Yes, it’s so easy to stop trying once you get comfortable. But don’t.
You can appreciate that comfort and use it as a bridge to reach other exciting new territory.