Most long-term relationships start to lose their sparkle from time to time over the years. “When you’ve been together a while it’s very easy to get complacent and find yourselves drifting apart,” says Relate counsellor Caroline Buchanan, who’s author of The 15 Minute Rule. “But with just a few minutes’ conscious effort every day you can soon have things back on track.”
In your 50s
You both lead busy lives, juggling work and home commitments and barely have a minute for each other
- Make a ‘wheel of life’: Is your life out of balance? Draw a large circle on a piece of A4 paper, then divide it into areas representing the amount of time and energy you devote to each part of your life, eg work, relationship, children, friends and grandchildren. Is one area much bigger, or smaller, than the rest? Are you devoting too much time to your friends or work and not enough to your partner? It could be time to change your priorities.
- Get excited about the future: “Attitude changes everything,” says Caroline. “So instead of bemoaning the fact your children have left home, be grateful for your freedom. Haven’t you both been waiting for years to have time to yourselves? Well, here it is – so don’t waste it! Surprise your partner by asking if he’d like anything special for dinner, or suggest a trip to the cinema.
- Spend 15 minutes REALLY listening:“Everyone can spare 15 minutes, so you have no excuse,” says Caroline. Simply turn the TV off and give your partner 15 minutes to talk about anything he wants – from his rotten day at work, to his plan to buy a new motorbike or his dream to sail round the world. Listen hard and don’t interrupt – then swap roles. Do this regularly and you’ll be amazed how much you can learn about each other.
Top tip: Don’t compare your relationship with others. Everyone is different and every partnership requires different things to make it work.
In your 60s
You probably have more time together than you’ve ever had– so here’s how to really enjoy it
- Create new routine: Make the most of any new-found leisure time. Take turns making each other breakfast in bed, go for a morning coffee once a week at a local café, swim together, buy (or rent) a DVD box set of your favourite comedy and watch one episode every night. “Even the smallest changes can invigorate you both and give you something different to talk about,” says relationship expert Paula Hall.
- Do something scary… and fun!: Push yourselves to do something completely different. It could be anything from taking up tennis to learning Chinese or going on a roller coaster. Sharing an experience that is initially challenging will shake you out of your comfort zone and bring you closer together – as well as impressing your friends and family!
- Good sex starts at breakfast: Sex isn’t just the act, it’s everything about the relationship and how you treat each other from the moment you wake up. “If you wait until the evening to start being nice to each other, it isn’t going to work out so well,” says Caroline. Take time throughout the day to share a joke or give him a hug, and it’s likely you’ll feel much more in the mood for love.
Top tip: Need a hug? “If he’s not the cuddling type, ask him to show you that you’re loved in other ways,” says Caroline. “Cooking dinner, putting the rubbish out, or bringing you a surprise cup of tea are all signs that someone cares."
In your 70s
You’re both wise enough to know what’s really important and even if you don’t argue very much, your relationship can feel dull. If this sounds familiar here’s how to liven it up
- Change the record: Do your conversations centre around tasks that need to be done, or complaints when they’re not done properly? Stimulate new topics of discussions by joining an organisation you both feel passionately about – anything from the Ramblers to a rock choir – or treat yourself to a board game such as After Dinner Arguments (Boxer, £7.99) which challenges you to share your opinions on everything from religion to sex and politics.
- Plan an adventure: Whether it’s a two-week holiday or a day out doesn’t matter, just make sure you plan it well in advance. “Planning a shared experience is worth as much as the experience itself,” says Caroline. So do your research and take advantage of out-of-season special offers on advanced train tickets, hotel and flight bookings. If you’re not sure how to grab an online bargain get someone to help you.
- What could you do better? Stop waiting for him to change. If you start making changes yourself, it’s very likely he will follow. “You can’t ask your partner to do something you’re not doing,” says relationship psychologist Susan Quilliam. “For example, if you compliment him or praise him for doing something right, he may initially be astonished, but he will eventually get the message and return the favour.”
There's more relationship advice in every issue of Yours magazine, out every fortnight on a Tuesday.