Relationships are a lot like bonfires. For real. To ensure either lasts, you must devote time and energy to building a foundation and maintaining the flames. After an initial spark, the fire grows and eventually you’ve got a steady source of warmth and light that’ll get you through dark moments. If the flame fades, you either have to rekindle or risk letting it go out completely. Wondering how to rekindle a relationship (or a bonfire)? All it takes is some time, attention and, more often than not, a little ingenuity.
Why do sparks fade in a relationship?
The fiery, sexy energy experienced in the first stages of a relationship is mind-blowing–literally. Falling in love raises cortisol and dopamine levels in the brain, meaning you’re in a constant state of pleasureful stress. According to Harvard Medical School’s associate professor of psychiatry, Richard Schwartz, love also lowers serotonin levels which makes us obsessed with our new person. So, what changes make these sparks fade? Honestly, lots of stuff. And it happens to everyone.
First, the novelty of any romance wears off organically if you continue the relationship long enough. As we get to know our partner better and their habits become more familiar, there’s less to discover. Our brains balance themselves back to neutral.
Second, we often develop expectations about what a healthy sex life should look like, according to books, movies and media. If and when our real lives don’t meet these (highly unrealistic) expectations, sparks might fizzle out for us.
Then, any number of significant life events can decrease the passion and sexual energy between two people. A family crisis, moving, relocating for work and a diagnosis of a chronic illness are all intense occurrences that can wreak havoc on your sex life. Not to mention the natural fluctuation of a person’s libido (a variation that can be heightened by both life events and/or a new medication).
Simply aging, a thing we all do, all the time, alters hormone levels and changes how our bodies look and feel. Dr. Tameca N. Harris-Jackson, a Nationally Certified Sexuality Educator with the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors, and Therapists, tells Healthline these types of changes can lead to a negative mind-body correlation, making sexual intimacy difficult or unappealing.
If you feel the need to rekindle your relationship, take a gander at the ideas below and start warming yourself up to the idea of trying something new.
1. Be honest with your partner about your feelings
SKYN Sex & Intimacy Expert, certified sex coach, sexologist, and author Gigi Engle says there’s just no way to rekindle a relationship without talking about it. Discussing why you believe rekindling needs to happen and what you feel is lacking from the relationship is key to making it happen. Don’t expect your partner to be 100 percent on the same page, however. Each person’s experience is valid and theirs will almost certainly be different than yours. Remember: the key to building and maintaining a healthy relationship is ensuring all parties involved feel heard, respected, fulfilled and safe.
2. Flirt more often
One super simple way to begin the rekindling process, which can feel awkward or forced at first, is to flirt with your partner more often. Think back to the first days of your romance. What were some flirting techniques you used on each other to elicit giggles and demonstrate interest? Try that again! Try something new! Incorporate touch, compliments and…
3. Sext each other—even if you’re in the same room
...Sexting! Sexy text messages not only let your partner know you’re thinking about them, they’re a great way to build anticipation. (Here’s our how-to on sexting.) Many couples find themselves falling into a more casual routine after a long time together—a routine that often includes lounging next to each other on the couch staring at their phones. Especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s easy to lose track of how much time you spend with technology, instead of with your partner. The next time you find yourself on your phone, launch a sext and see what happens. Keep it tame and sweet or go for something racy and raunchy. It’s all about letting your partner know you’re thinking of them in an intimate way.
4. Change one thing
Rekindling a relationship can feel daunting. You do not have to tackle every aspect of reigniting the flames at once. Start by changing up one thing in your relationship. This could mean having sex in a spot you’ve never tried before (like the shower or a guest bedroom), wearing new lingerie, trying a fresh position or bringing in some, uh, support. Finding something that is foreign to both of you not only increases the novelty of the whole situation, it bonds you together in a shared experience.
5. Make sex a priority
Think about your daily and weekly to-do lists. Why not toss date night or sex onto that list? If rekindling that fire is important to you, it’s got to be a priority. It takes effort and dedication. Instead of watching reruns of The Office on Netflix, spend that time getting to know each other’s bodies again. We promise Netflix will be there when you get back.
6. Browse and buy a new toy together
A surefire way to rekindle a relationship—or at the very least, intrigue—is by searching for a new toy to incorporate into your sex life. This is definitely doable alone (and see below for why that’s a great option), but browsing with your partner can be very fun. Not only will it remind you both of being intimate together, it will provide opportunities to ask them about fantasies or desires they haven’t voiced before. Next step: trying it out.
7. Warm yourself up (without your partner)
Sex and relationship coach Lucy Rowett is a huge proponent of self-pleasure. Sometimes it’s difficult to know what to ask of your partner if you’re uncertain what makes you feel good. Women often have more trouble embracing and exploring their own sexuality than men, though this isn’t always the case.
“Sex has always been triggering and taboo in the western world and in patriarchal societies and cultures,” says Rowett. If you’re not finding ways to be erotic with yourself, becoming erotic with your partner will be even more difficult.
Invest in some alone time doing things that make you feel sexy without your partner. You may be surprised by how empowering and clarifying it can be.
8. Try out responsive desire
Sexologist and author Dr. Jess O’Reilly, Ph.D, notes there are two unique types of desire. Spontaneous desire happens on its own, for no reason other than you want someone and you want them now. Responsive desire occurs as a result of another act. Perhaps you catch your partner’s eye across the room or lightly kiss their lips. This gesture could ignite a fire in the two of you that leads to something even hotter. Investing more time in responsive desire could help break down barriers in the bedroom.
Big disclaimer here: Responsive desire must always be consensual. It doesn’t mean accosting your partner with a kiss against their will and hoping they’ll change their mind. Any intimate act has to be okay with all parties involved.
9. Go on a staycation
Travel these days may not be the most appealing activity, but there’s always a staycation. Plan a weekend at home with the sole intention of reconnecting and reigniting the fire. Even an overnight stay at a local hotel can cause sparks to fly. Again, the novelty of something fresh you both discover together is key to keeping that bonfire burning.
If you do decide to stay home and focus on simply reintroducing yourselves to each other, we recommend The 36 Questions That Lead to Love.
10. Read or watch something…exciting
Rowett is an erotica fan and encourages her clients to find something similar that stokes their fires. Reading erotica out loud to your partner or even having a two-person romance novel book club could be the catalyst your relationship needs. Watching sexy movies together that turn both of you on is another way to not only get into the mood but share desires and preferences in the process. What about the book or movie excites you? What excites them?
11. Consult and meet with a sex therapist
Some couples find sex therapy to be incredibly helpful. It’s a terrific way to bounce issues off of a third party who is trained to guide couples through dry spells and ruts. Sex and couples’ therapy can also assist partners in defining their individual needs and developing a healthy vocabulary for tackling tough moments in the future.
Sometimes, there is lingering resentment getting in the way of intimacy. Whether due to past infidelity or a discrepancy in sex drives, therapy is a healthy, safe way to dissect resentment and learn to deal with it right away.
How you rekindle your relationship will not look identical to the ways other couples do it, and this is OK. In fact, it’s necessary! Avoid comparing yourself to others at all costs. The only people that matter are you, your partner and that fiery flame between you.