It happens to even the most passionate relationships.
Over time – after children, changes, and several of life’s inevitable curveballs, relationships lose their spark.
Recently, FemmePharma sat down with Dr. Juliana Hauser – relationship and sex therapist, coach, and educator – to learn why that spark fans out and how we can reignite it again.*
How do you know the spark is missing in your relationship?
When I work with couples whose relationships are the most fulfilling, they often describe their significant other as their “person” – the person they want to call, to spend time with; to share things with. When that dynamic changes – whether it’s within the friendship aspect of the relationship or the sexual aspect – that’s when I start seeing the withering of the relationship – when couples lose that spark.
To know that we are loved – to feel that connection – we need three things: to be wanted, seen, and valued.
These three characteristics are what separates feeling loved by someone from just feeling cared for. If we no longer feel wanted, seen, or valued, the relationship starts to wither. This can happen when we change, or things change in our lives, or the strengths we bring to the relationship are strengths that our partner no longer values.
Is arguing or bickering a sign that your relationship has lost its spark?
I used to think that arguing was a huge red flag that a couple wasn’t going to make it. And it often is – but not always. The difference is in the outcome of the arguments.
If you argue without reaching a resolution – that’s a red flag.
Bickering happens when you’re nitpicking the other person about little things, but you’re avoiding the bigger issue. You’re bickering over details, but you’re not speaking soul-to-soul to each other about what’s really going on – the unhappiness, the unease, the growing apart. Then, the resentment builds…because, again: you don’t feel seen, you don’t feel wanted, or you don’t feel valued.
How important is it to invest in your relationship?
It’s very important. We need to invest in ourselves and in our relationship. We need agency – our own autonomy, self-determination, and interests – so we can show up authentically and connect with one another.
When you’re partnering with somebody, you have to keep reinvesting in that. You have to know who you are and communicate that to your partner, continuously, so your partner can grow alongside you. You’re always reassessing your growth and recommitting to your relationship together. This recommitment is the re-seeing, wanting, and valuing of each other. This is what stokes the fire and ignites that spark again.
How do you counsel couples who are in different places – where one has invested in themselves and the other hasn’t?
I see this a lot, often when a role changes – for example, when someone has defined herself as the mother, but now her children are gone and she’s asking, “Who am I now? What am I going to do?”
In these cases, I start with a simple but direct question: “What’s the point? Why do you want to be together?” This gets them thinking about their relationship. It helps them reassess their value as a partnership, not just as individuals. If they decide they want to stay together, I help them redefine what that means.
So how can couples keep the spark alive in their relationships?
Most relationships are like the embers of a bonfire that are always lit – they have at least one, if not multiple, actions or gestures that can ignite that spark.
To help rekindle that spark, I start by asking couples two questions. The first one is: How do you communicate sexual desire, both verbally and non-verbally? If they can’t answer that, we’ll have work to do.
But it is possible to rekindle that flame. I know couples in their 60s, 70s, and 80s who are having incredible sex. It’s just a matter of getting creative. And we’re lucky in that we live in an era of sexual enhancements – of companies like FemmePharma selling lubricants and products to enhance our sex lives.
Second, I ask about kissing. If that was a passionate component of their relationship, I ask them to think back to how they used to kiss and encourage them to incorporate that style again.
Do they kiss when they’re making out with their partner? Do they kiss them in a nonverbal way? I ask them to let the spark ignite in some of their kissing.
And ultimately, to feel that spark again, it’s about getting back to basics. Have an open, honest discussion with each other. Think about those three foundational concepts of being wanted, seen, and valued, and determine if you can rebuild your relationship.
*For the full conversation with Dr. Hauser, check out the Mia Vita podcast episode.