How to get the spark back in a broken relationship logo

How to get the spark back in a broken relationship

Photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez

The reason new couples seem so positively giddy is a result of the ventral tegmental area (VTA) of the brain going into hyperdrive, flooding the system with the powerful neurotransmitters dopamine and norepinephrine which is responsible for feelings of euphoria and intense energy. Unfortunately these chemicals fade as the relationship progresses into the attachment stage. 

Almost every study into love and marriage shows that the decline of romantic love over time is inevitable hence why an understanding of relationship building skills are vital. 

The butterflies of early romance calm as the chemicals surge in the brain is reduced as you move into the long-term attachment stage of the relationship. Several experiments show that novelty can however bring back the excitement, recreating the chemical surges of early courtship. In order to maintain your bond as a couple, sustaining passion and excitement is essential for the survival of your relationship. 

You’ll therefore have to indulge in activities that will trigger the release of the dopamine and norepinephrine since they are no longer naturally produced by the body.

Date night is therefore the solution to this problem. Indulging date night is very important for couples or long term married couples. The theory of date night is based on science. New experiences activate the brain’s reward system, flooding it with dopamine and norepinephrine. Date nights should go beyond visiting the same familiar restaurants or hanging out with the same friends, instead couples should plan their date nights around new or novel  activities that they both enjoy. 

The key to keeping things fresh is novelty, you and your enamour must engage in fun, exciting, and new experiences.Choose activities that are new, carry some element of perceived risk, and should interest both of you. Although taking on new challenges is always best, changing up your routine in subtle ways can make a real difference in the level of passion in your relationship. The idea is to get the dopamine and norepinephrine flowing to ignite passion and excitement.

Novel Ideas for couples

Research shows that a reduction in novelty due to the familiarity of being with the same person for a long period is the reason for the decline in sexual attraction. According to Olds, the chemicals from initial romance lessens and this causes passionate love to change to compassionate love. However, this does not mean that the romantic spark has extinguished but it will need work to be maintained. Our imagination is responsible for romantic love. The lack of desire is often attributed to the lack of imagination.

Animals mate, mating is our basic need, as important as food. But animals move on after mating. Yet we indulge for hours, we can enjoy it by just thinking about it. Therefore, it is important to use imagination to build a strong lasting bond or to reignite the passion with your partner. Dopamine increase in the brain is attributed to exposure to a novel environment which is essential for maintaining sexual attraction and strengthening connection in romantic love.

We live very busy lives but we should set aside time to indulge these activities a few times a year. The idea is to keep the dopamine flowing to create the excitement for stronger longer last bond. The aim of date night is to:

  • Keep the dopamine flowing in a long-term relationship
  • Keep the oxytocin flowing with sex and intimacy.
  • Maintain some independence

Novel activities ideas

1. Make an erotic photobook of me and him

2. Role playing is very good to stimulate childhood memory. Stimulate childhood memories,strange and familiar like a deja vu childhood memory slightly irrational and dreamlike. Invite your partner to participate in roleplay for example a favourite book. Buy snakes and ladders or play strip poker to it, rent old movie(jaws), bed jumping, pillow fight, wheelbarrow, blindfold, go for a walk in the woods and go tree climbing or do leapfrog, sack race, kite flying, spring dodger, water gun fight, trampolining.

3. Fantasise about the person you are with and share those fantasies -dangerous, naughty, vulgar, never be ordinary or limited. Write a story about your fantasy and read it to your partner.

4. Read erotic short stories to your partner or come up with your own erotica/fantasy stories, send short stories to partner or narrate. The more graphic the details the better.

5. Pick up sex games from any sex shop.

6. Do couples yoga or laughter yoga.

7. Create poetry and art (painting, drawing sculpture) in their honour.

8. Go stargazing; download a night star app, pack a blanket, wine, treats and find a quiet place and cuddle beneath the stars.

9. Heightened experiences such as artistic or spiritual lingers in the mind much longer. Visit a museum, do live drawing or create art of the person, create a love look with a story, go to a concert, a play is a spiritual encounter. Experience something more elevated with you.

10. Leave a panty or note in his jacket/car.

11. Let your partner watch you with a girl at a club or sex party (if you’re into that).

12. Give your partner a lap dance. Learn from YouTube.

13. Many men have a lesbian fantasy. Watch two women having sex together at a sex party such a Killer Kittens or online.

14. Go away for a dirty weekend or go skydiving, parasailing or zip lining.

15. Sex in strange place; isolated field, car on a lone road, shower, parking garage, on a bear rug in front of the fire place, in a pool of jello, on a horse, on someone else’s counter, at the movie, in my office, on a ladder, hotel room balcony, library, locker room at gym. Keep the edge, do something different.

16. Watch a scary movie at the cinema or at home. Or watch a movie centered around erotica.

17. Go to a concert or play (live music or performance, candle light concerts).

18. Make love with candlelight and soft music (reiki) and burn a familiar or aphrodisiac scent.

19. Practise mindful and tanric sex

20. Burn incense during sex.

21. Do live drawing.

22. Go dancing together, go to a dance party (soul motion, s rhythms, biodanza, dance to tambourine music, ecstatic dance, core connexion, salsa, bachata, rumba, kizomba, Argentina tango, merengue, pole dancing or sensual dancing, zouk from Antilles, flamenco).

23. Create a music playlist and listen together especially during sex

24. Create a steamy bucket list together and take time picking things off.

25. Spend time in nature-create a vegetable patch, go hiking, cycling or walk in a beautiful place, visit a treehouse, spend time on a beach or at a lake- plan a trip where there is water.

26. Get a tarot reading together.

27. Read stories by the fire on a fur rug by the fireplace.

28. Go to a comedy club.

29. Fresh flower in bedroom (aphrodisiac flowers).

30. Go to a murder mystery.

31. Cabaret or jazz club or burlesques.

32. Candle making.

33. Go to an intimacy retreat to practise tantric sex (merge lover body, mind and spirit). It brings sex together with awareness, as a meditation, as a spiritual experience and is one of the aspects of tantra, an ancient body of knowledge from India.

34. Do karaoke.

35. Burn aphrodisiac scents when you’re together or during sex or a favourite childhood scent.

36. Go horse riding.

37. Visit a natural power spot such as a vortexes, ashram, church, labyrinth.

38. Join a circling group as it’s a mediation art and group conversation combined with spirituality.

39. Volunteer at a dog shelter walking dogs, restore bikes for kids, work at a community garden, volunteer at a homeless shelter.

Nutritionist, Cornell University, MS

I believe that nutrition science is a wonderful helper both for the preventive improvement of health and adjunctive therapy in treatment. My goal is to help people improve their health and well-being without torturing themselves with unnecessary dietary restrictions. I am a supporter of a healthy lifestyle – I play sports, cycle, and swim in the lake all year round. With my work, I have been featured in Vice, Country Living, Harrods magazine, Daily Telegraph, Grazia, Women's Health, and other media outlets.

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