In the early days of your romantic relationship, you may have felt magnetically drawn to your partner. The conversations were stimulating, their little quirks made them even more endearing, and you just couldn’t keep your hands off each other.
But to assume you can easily sustain those feelings year after year is wishful thinking.
“In long-term relationships, it’s not uncommon for attraction amongst partners to dissipate,” Nazanin Moali, a Los Angeles-based sex therapist and host of the podcast “Sexology,” told HuffPost. “We take for granted that just because we were attracted to our partner once, the same attraction will stay forever without effort.”
Below, therapists explain why a loss of attraction happens, what to do when it does and how to know if the spark in your relationship can be salvaged or not.
Why People Become Less Attracted Over Time
You’ve become bored with each other.
Stability and security are important ingredients in a healthy long-term relationship, but getting too comfortable with each other can make the partnership feel predictable and stale.
“As human beings, we are wired to like and crave novelty,” Moali said. “The feeling of too much familiarity with a partner might negatively impact our attraction towards them.”
You have unresolved resentment.
Relationship conflicts — whether they’re about money, infidelity, sex, parenting decisions, family drama or unequal division of household responsibilities — can breed resentment if not worked through in a fair, respectful manner.
″[It] makes you feel distant from or angry at your partner and translates to decreased attraction,” said Samantha Rodman, a psychologist in North Bethesda, Maryland.
You stop interacting like romantic partners.
It’s all too easy for busy couples to slip into taskmaster mode and stay there, rarely stopping to nurture the romantic side of the relationship. Instead of sharing a kiss and catching up after the workday, they’re focused on divvying up the household to-do list: make dinner, do homework with the kids, take the dog for a walk, clean the kitchen, get ready for bed, whatever. Wash, rinse, repeat.
“We take for granted that just because we were attracted to our partner once, the same attraction will stay forever without effort.”
“Unconsciously, people may become stuck in their specific daily roles — like parent, boss, caregiver, etc. — and consequently communicate with their partners with the same demeanor,” Moali said. “Long term, this can change our image in our partner’s eyes and reduce attraction.”
You don’t take care of yourselves in the way you used to.
When a couple has a lot on their plates (and who doesn’t?) making time for self-care can be a challenge. The effort once put into looking and feeling good has gone by the wayside, which can affect how you feel about yourself, as well as how your partner perceives you.
Taking care of ourselves isn’t just about aesthetics, either: It’s about being healthy, feeling confident, improving our mood and having the energy to go out and enjoy life.
“Many may see it as being vain, but we owe it to ourselves and our partners to be at our best, which includes eating healthy, getting rest, exercising and working on our mental attitude,” said Kathy Hardie-Williams, a marriage and family therapist in Portland, Oregon.
What To Do If You’re No Longer Attracted
If you’ve noticed that your feelings of attraction for your partner have faded, don’t assume the relationship is doomed. We asked our experts to reveal their best advice for navigating the issue.
First, ask yourself a few questions to get clarity on when and why you began feeling less attracted to your partner.
Moali recommends starting with the following questions to help determine the source of the problem and point you toward potential solutions:
Was it a gradual or sudden loss of attraction?
What happened before you noticed the shift?
How have you tried to address the problem so far and what was the result?
Consider that the shift may have little to do with your partner.
Before pointing fingers, think about any role you may have played in the loss of attraction. Perhaps there’s something you don’t like about yourself that you’re transferring onto your partner. Or maybe you’re not making the same effort you did earlier in the relationship, which, in turn, affects your partner’s behavior.
“For example, if you used to be more kind and patient with your partner, and you are now more impatient and short with them, this is likely impacting how they act with you,” Rodman said. “This then results in them acting less romantic or not caring as much about impressing you.”
Major life changes — like death of a loved one, a health issue or layoffs at work — “may bring on feelings of loss and grief that if not dealt with, might get misplaced toward our partners,” Moali said.
Prioritize couple time, even when you’re busy.
If you can’t recall the last time you had a date night where you got dressed up and went out to eat, danced at a concert, saw a movie or just did something fun together, it’s no surprise the spark has faded.
“The most common thing I’ve seen in couples who lose the attraction is that they become too comfortable or too stressed, and consequently don’t make the couple part of their relationship important,” Hardie-Williams said. “Make sure there are date nights.”
Even setting aside some time to connect at home — by holding hands, cuddling or having deep conversations — can do wonders.
“Carve out time for intimacy. Take time every day to check in with each other without any other distractions,” Hardie-Williams said. “Be present. Be thoughtful. Know each other’s love language and communicate through that.”
Try new things together.
“Research shows that relationships often benefit when partners are partaking in a new hobby, visiting new places or introducing novelty in the bedroom,” Moali said. “Seeing your partner in a new context might help rekindle the attraction.”
If you decide to tell your partner about the dip in attraction, do so with sensitivity.
“I often encourage individuals to first decide if disclosing this information can lead to meaningful change,” Moali said. If so, be sure to approach it gently and tactfully, not in an accusing or critical way.
Because these conversations can be emotionally charged, focus on communicating the changes you’ve observed in the relationship and make it clear that your goal is to reignite that spark, said Shannon Chavez, a psychologist and sex therapist in Los Angeles.
Make an appointment with a couples counselor sooner rather than later.
Enlisting the help of a trained therapist may be helpful, given the delicate nature of these conversations. You don’t need to wait until you’re on the brink of a split to start counseling, either — the earlier, the better.
How To Know If Your Attraction Can Be Rekindled
Generally, it is possible to revive the feelings of attraction in the relationship. But it requires a commitment from both partners, honesty and a willingness to work on any underlying issues before it’s too late.
Another important factor: Was there even a mutual attraction between you to begin with? If not, it’s often more difficult to develop those feelings down the road, Chavez said.
“I have also seen cases where there was no attraction from the beginning and the relationship began for other reasons such as security, attachment or loneliness,” Chavez said. “Once these needs change or shift, a person may feel no desire or connection for that person.”
“There is a difference between a normal decrease in passionate attraction and a feeling of disgust or complete aversion to your partner.”
While some fluctuation in your levels of attraction is normal, a sudden, drastic shift can be more concerning.
“There is a difference between a normal decrease in passionate attraction and a feeling of disgust or complete aversion to your partner,” Rodman said. “The latter signals something is very amiss in the relationship as a whole.”
If you’ve felt unattracted to your partner for quite a while, in spite of efforts to reignite the spark, there is always the chance the relationship has simply run its course.
“People are constantly growing and evolving in a relationship,” Chavez said. “Sometimes it happens that they grow apart or what you are attracted to changes over time. It’s important to talk to someone about these changes so you can make an informed decision about the relationship.”