You Need Help: When Relationships Feel Sorta Dull

Welcome to You Need Help! Where you’ve got a problem and yo, we solve it. Or we at least try. 

Q:
I know that I am REALLY in love with my girlfriend: we know we want to spend our life together; we have the same life and we love doing the same things; I think that she’s the most beautiful girl in the world and she feels the same for me.

However, we are both lawyers, we work a lot during the week and we don’t live together. When we see each other we’re always tired or always doing something outside together (restaurants, movies, gigs, etc).

I have the feeling we lost the craziness and the passion we had at the beginning, when we were never tired, when we passed days making love, and always felt our love physically. Sometimes I’m feeling that we’re already old, that we’re missing our life.

Is there a way to feel that passion and that craziness again after 2.5 years together?

A:
No you are totally fucked JUST KIDDING.

Ok well, first of all — you have lost the craziness and passion that you had in the beginning, because that level of intensity isn’t sustainable and you’d probably both die of heart attacks or go insane! According to Quality Health:

Romantic love triggers reward systems in the brain. When we fall in love, our body releases chemicals-neurotransmitters-that make us feel good. This is the first step in the process of bonding, which is nature’s design to perpetuate the species.

Neurotransmitters form in our brain and then our brain sends them out to the rest of the body. While many neurochemicals play a role, three in particular make up the chemicals of love.

Norepinephrine. This neurotransmitter may not be familiar to you, but its alternative name probably is. Noradrenaline causes your heart to race and your palms to sweat when you are emotionally charged. High levels of norepinephrine increase our experience of joy and reduce our appetite (that’s why falling in love is a great way to lose weight).

Dopamine. Dopamine stimulates pleasure centers in the brain, producing feelings of euphoria and increasing sociability. It’s the precursor to the third primary love chemical, phenylethylamine.

Phenylethylamine. This neurotransmitter prompts the body to release large quantities of dopamine and norepinephrine and increases our physical and emotional energy.

Other chemicals also play an important role in falling in love. Oxytocin, which is present in high levels in female orgasm, is called the cuddle hormone. It’s linked to early socialization, social cognition, and trust. People who have recently fallen in love also have lower levels of serotonin, which is also low in people with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Low levels of serotonin may explain why we become so preoccupied with our new lover.

Chloe Shani Malveaux also brings up an interesting point about how relationships are depicted in media and how that shapes the expectations and limitations we put on our own relationships:

There is a scientific basis for this perception that love is less intense over time. It is because relationships shift from passionate love to long term attachment. Literally if you looked at a picture of your love the first week in the relationship, and then a picture of them 10 years later, you may still love them, but different parts of the brain are being activated and responding depending on where you are in the relationship with that person.

Infatuation love fades, it is supposed to, but what it also does is it gives the initial push to spend as much time with that person to be able to develop long term attachment to that person by the time the infatuation fades. This is a point where some relationships fail, when the infatuation fades but the attachment never stuck. And people get bored and unsatisfied in the relationship, wondering why they were with the person in the first place. They realize that they no longer love this person anymore because the infatuation love has faded and the long term attachment love never took its place.

But I can see another reason why some relationships fail at this stage is due to our cultural perceptions that infatuation love is true love and it should remain consistent throughout the relationship. That if infatuation love ever wanes then it is an indicator that true love is waning, and therefore the relationship is failing.

So all of this is to say a) TOTES NORMAL, this feeling you’re feeling, and b)  y’all probably just need some new stuff to do! Here are some ideas off the top of my freckled head.

Do Things Apart

You seem to have limited downtime, but maybe carve out a few hours to do something new by yourself. Get separate hobbies, read a weirdo book from a genre you don’t usually consider, learn something, volunteer, be really early for something and find a way to fill that time with whatever’s around and then write about it. This can be hard if either of you is maybe a little clingy, but you really have to stand up for your Me Time, even if you’re standing up to yourself. Did that sentence make sense?

"i can't wait to tell my girlfriend everything i've learned about pigeons today!"

“i can’t wait to tell my girlfriend everything i’ve learned about pigeons today!”
via shutterstock

"oh you think i look sexy with my new soccer ball? wait 'til you see the jersey."

“oh you think i look sexy with my new soccer ball? wait ’til you see the jersey.”
via shutterstock

You’ll have so much to talk about the next time you see each other, also you’ll be more interesting in general, which is neat. I’m sure you’re very interesting now though, for the record.

Do Things Together

Get out of your house/city and take a field trip to a new place. This gives you some new memories to remember! Together! Even if the trip is a disaster and everything was went wrong, you still did it together and came back together and just ALL THE TOGETHERNESS. Bonding forever. But probably everything won’t go wrong and you’ll have a fabulous time.

Also: hotel sex.

"should've taken that left turn at albuquerque. oh well! we can still have sex on this rock maybe."

“should’ve taken that left turn at albuquerque. oh well! we can still have sex on this rock maybe?”
via shutterstock

"I'm not wearing any underwear! what kind of flowers did you say these were?"

“I’m not wearing any underwear! what kind of flowers did you say these were?”
via shutterstock

Do Things in the Company of Others

This is my personal favorite. Maybe it’s some version of the thrill of the chase, but watching your person interact with other people is somehow really fucking sexy. I theorize this is because you can’t just makeout with her right there on the spot — I mean there are people around and she’s in the middle of a sentence, it’d be totally rude. So no matter what kinky thought is going through your dirty little mind, you have to wait. This is usually when I think back to all of the hottest sex we’ve had, or even just what she looks like topless, and then I think, “OMG I KNOW WHAT SHE LOOKS LIKE WHEN SHE [all the things] AND YOU JERKS HAVE NO IDEA (hopefully). FUCK YEAH ME DOT COM.” That leads to me thinking about how we’re a couple, you know? Like a real couple with a past and a present — we’re a little team, and that’s totally fucking adorable! We cuddle on the sofa together and she knows I like straws! And then all the oxytocin floods my system, I’m assuming, and I fall in love again. Right there at SoAndSo’s birthday party.  Thanks, SoAndSo!

"babe seriously you have no idea how hot it is to see you pushing other people in swings."

“you have no idea how hot it is to see you pushing other people in swings. i love your corset top. holy shit.”
via Bina Hammer Photography

Do Things That Scare the Shit Out of You

This one comes to you via my main bitch, Megan, who thinks that maybe doing something really terrifying and thrilling together will make you both feel super alive and bonded even more, because you’ve lived through this horrifying event. I’m scared of scary things, so I think this is nuts, but I think she’s talking about haunted houses and rollercoasters — something that’s out of your comfort zone — not car accidents and tornadoes. “Egg somebody’s house,” she’s saying from the kitchen. I don’t know, I think you can get really creative here.

but remember when dee's virginity went from technical to non-existent?

remember when dee’s virginity went from technical to non-existent?

Do Things Happily

This might not apply to you, but sometimes it’s easy to turn your relationship into a 24/7 therapy and venting session. Don’t do that. It brings everyone down and puts a blanket of stress and blah on top of everything. If a lot of negative shit is happening in your life, definitely take some time to decompress and get some support from your person, but then temper that shit with some positivity. This will also keep you from being a really negative person overall, because you shouldn’t dwell. That’s what my grandmother always said and she grew up during the Depression with five siblings in a house with a dirt floor and hardly any food, so.

"i was going to tell you about my misogynistic boss, but i think i'd rather talk about how cute you look in those jeans, or how cute you look out of them."

“i was going to talk about my misogynistic boss, but instead let’s take in this sunset. fucking lovely.”
via shutterstock

Buy New Underthings

Do you need some new underwears? Probably. New underthings will make you feel 100% more excited about taking off your clothes, having someone’s face between your legs, throwing a bra at someone’s head while they’re tied to a chair, having a bra thrown at your head while you’re tied to a chair, grocery shopping, climate change, hangnails, etc. Lucky for you, Autostraddle has put together an extensive collection of underwear-related shopping/feelings guides.

+ Every Underwear Week Post
+ The Bra Issue: Queer Fashion Guide For Various Shapes, Sizes and Gender Expressions

Of course, you can and should talk to your girlfriend and see how she feels.  Some good old fashioned lesbian processing could help you get to any deeper issues that might be there. I think everything’s going to be ok, I really do. If you weirdos have some advice or stories of your own to share, tell us in the comments!


 

Send your questions to youneedhelp [at] autostraddle [dot] com

Please keep your questions to around, at most, 100 words. Due to the high volume of questions and feelings, not every question or feeling will be answered or published on Autostraddle. We hope you know that we love you regardless.

Profile photo of Laneia Nicole

Laneia is the Executive Editor and founding member of Autostraddle, and she thinks you're fucking rad. She's 33, has two kids, two dogs, one Megan, some personal essays and a lot of emails in her inbox.

Laneia Nicole has written 352 articles for us.

31 Comments

  1. Thumb up 26

    Please log in to vote

    This is all great advice.

    I’ve been in a relationship with my wife for 12 years now (holyshithow) and yeah, that initial thrill has been gone for quite some time now. But I still look at her and feel so goddamn happy that I get to wake up next to her every morning because she is awesome and amazing.

    Some more advice:

    Communicate. If something’s bothering you, talk about it! But not in a fight, just in a normal conversation. This can be little petty things like leaving your shoes in the hallway up to big scary things like whether or not you want to have kids.

    Be grateful. Even if it’s my wife’s turn to do the dishes or make dinner, I always thank her. Why? Because it’s easy to take people and their awesomeness for granted, and this ensures that I don’t. And everyone loves being appreciated!

    Experiment with new sexy funtimes stuff. Nothing gets the thrill back in like a new toy or a new position, amirite? This goes back to the “communicate” point – if you want to try something new, you’ve gotta tell your partner or else it’s never ever gonna happen!

    • Thumb up 9

      Please log in to vote

      All of this! For added “fun” and to tag on to that “Do things in the company of others”, make a date with your other half to meet up someplace. And then, try to pick her up. Like, send a drink, stroll up and start a conversation, see if you’ve still got the moves to peak her interest. Plus the added fun of people watching you and not knowing you’re likely to be successful no matter how lame your approach. Mostly, make her feel pursued and wanted.

  2. Thumb up 15

    Please log in to vote

    I have two things to add (in addition to all the awesome ones mentioned above!) that have worked for me in the past; YMMV. Each relates to a different part of the idea “all the time we spend together we’re either tired or out doing things” in your question.

    1) “always tired”: make intentional time. Are you both working more now than you were before? Are you both more tired now than you were before, across the board? If neither of those things (both of which are lifestyle issues that are bigger than just relationship issues), then perhaps you need to deliberately start setting aside time when you aren’t tired that’s you-two time. It’s easy when you’re in a long-term relationship to be like, “it doesn’t matter if I’m tired/in a bad headspace/not giving 100% attention/whatever with my SO today, because we have all the other days!” which is true to some extent, but can start to become a pattern over time.
    2) “Always out doing things”: keep a running list of at-home or non-social kind of things you’d like to do together. (baking things! crafty things! decorate-y things! playing with cats at the shelter things! having a 2-person at-home jam session! Minecraft! whatever you guys like to do.) Whenever you think of one, write it down, since you’re both busy and may not be able to do them all the time. This reduces the trouble of wanting to do something with your SO but all the good things seem to be restaurant/movie type things.

    • Thumb up 2

      Please log in to vote

      I’m going to second that. I heard it for the first time last week and I’ve been scouring the internet to find as much of her writing as I can. Her work is so thought-provoking — especially listen to the part where she lists people’s answers to the question, “when are you most drawn to your partner?” I think that helps confirm why “do things in the company of others” is such excellent advice.

  3. Thumb up 8

    Please log in to vote

    Want to have a bit of fun and hint at what’s in store for your partner later in the evening? Next time you’re together in a public setting, a party or some type of gathering, excuse yourself to the ladies room and upon returning, stealthily slip your panties into your partners pocket and then whisper to her that she can return those to you later when you’re alone. Gives you both lots to grin about with those around you oblivious.

  4. Thumb up 2

    Please log in to vote

    Pigeon girl has what it takes to create a love that lasts a lifetime. Your use of Shutterstock is truly inspired.

    Honestly, being a lawyer sounds hard. If you are always unexcited about life, maybe it’s not her or your relash, it’s the whole working 80-hour weeks thing. Perhaps you should take a sabbatical and hike the Pacific Coast Trail together!

    Since that is probably not a possibility, you could always super-prioritize your health and self/other-care. It is so hard to sustain those positive feelings that Laneia’s grandmother encourages when you are exhausted and sore and hateful and eating too many processed carbohydrates. Maybe go on a cleanse together. It helps if both people want to go on the cleanse. If one person feels coerced into the cleanse, it does not help the relationship. I am totally joking about the cleanse, that sounds like a horrible idea.

    If you are always tired and have money, it is a good excuse to make your houses the sweetest, most comfortable and beautiful places to come home to and rest in/have sex in.

    You get to spend the rest of you lives together so you need to decide if this LIFESTYLE is sustainable.

  5. Thumb up 1

    Please log in to vote

    “I have the feeling we lost the craziness and the passion we had at the beginning, when we were never tired, when we passed days making love, and always felt our love physically”

    bah … I am with my gfriend for 2 + 1/2 years, I adore her, she is all I want but I do feel the same about our relationship and I somehow I am not sure that the above can help :(

    • Thumb up 3

      Please log in to vote

      Alex- I have been with the same amazing lady for 6 years. We have experienced the up and down and ebb and flow of love multiple times. My advice: You need to communicate to her that you’re feeling blah about things so you can work on changing that together! If you both want to make things better and you talk and try to make the changes you agree on you can make it! It all depends on how much effort you’re both willing to put into the relationship…. and by effort I mean how open you’re willing to be in conversation and how open minded you are while listening. There will be times of sexual duddery but there will also be times of sexual exploration and you will know exactly how to bring each other immense pleasure! Finding someone who wants to stick it out through those “boring” or tough times is a beautiful thing.

      • Thumb up 1

        Please log in to vote

        ^this is very good advice. I think the worst things I’ve ever done for my relationships have been when I was afraid to share something and work it out with my SO, because I was either afraid to admit it or afraid of what their reaction would be. So I tried to address them on my own, and kept digging myself into a spiral of counterproductive fear and confusion. It became a gigantic, trumpeting, looming elephant of doom in the room of our relationship, keeping us awake at all hours and crowding out any room for growth while we desperately tried to ignore it. In retrospect, it turned out worse than the thing I was afraid of that was preventing me from talking about it in the first place.

  6. Thumb up 3

    Please log in to vote

    Thanks for posting my question Laneia and thanks everyone for your answers… I’ll try a mix of everything. At least now we spoke about it, she was also unhappy about the situation.
    I have to admit that coming home around 9 pm and having only two hours together before going to sleep is not easy for me. During the weekend, it’s the same. I hope that everything will be better when we’ll have more time to spend for us.
    I’m also trying to accept that our relationship changed and will never be the same, it will be different bus as good.

  7. Thumb up 0

    Please log in to vote

    Ive been In this relationship for 5 months now and I dont think I like this guy as much as I use to but he asked me to Prom I said yes and I’m gonna go but not sure how well its going to go.. anyway my problem is Idk how to break up with him we don’t talk anymore, he waves at me in the hallway thats all! Plus Ive been looking at other guys but have this feeling like oh I CANT DO THAT!!! But I just wanna be relationship free but yet when he talks to me and says all these cute and sweet things and says he loves me it sets back everything Like how things use to be… I start to remember why I liked him… Any advice would REALLY BE ALOT OF HELP!!! <3 (sorry so long just pooring my heart and thoughts out on here)

Contribute to the conversation...

You must be logged in to post a comment.