Have you been married for decades or are you a couple of years into a relationship? It doesn’t matter how committed your union is, the experts say it is common for most relationships to suffer from periods of waning desire, spontaneity and intimacy.

The important part, according to Cottesloe Counselling Centre clinical psychologist Trent Faulkner, is to recognise the rut and do something about it.

“In the beginning of a relationship we often have that wonderful sense of ‘I can really be myself with this person’, and it feels liberating. But over time we tend to settle into certain fixed ways of being with each other, ” Mr Faulkner said.

“It’s important to stay curious about who your partner is. If you decide you know them really well, you will stop being curious.”

Ask yourself “who is this person?” about your partner — and be prepared for spontaneity and surprise.

“A couple which is stuck in a rut would do well to take up an activity together which requires mindfulness (used in yoga and meditation).

“Its task is to simply observe one’s own internal processes and the paradox is that the more you are able to pay attention to your own internal states, the more sensitive you will become to your partner.”

Mt Lawley Counselling clinical psychologist Elyse Frankel said getting the relationship out of apathy or disinterest could be challenging and that was where engaging a professional relationship counsellor could help.

Ms Frankel said some couples ran into problems or fell into a rut through becoming complacent and resigned to the way things were.

“Other reasons can be assuming the other person is the problem and not taking responsibility for one’s own part, not prioritising and putting enough time and effort into the relationship, avoiding difficulties or relying too heavily on the relationship to meet all one’s needs, ” she said.

For couples wanting to put some spark back into their relationship, Ms Frankel suggested taking the time to give more consistent and deliberate attention to the relationship, addressing difficulties within the partnership or those that were affecting it and being open and honest with your partner — letting your guard down and taking the risk to share more of yourself with them.

Clinical psychologist and author John Aiken, whose book, Making Couples Happy ($29.95, Allen & Unwin), said it was ironic that people had no problem calling in a doctor, personal trainer or accountant when they needed help, but rarely sought help with relationships.

Sadly, Australia’s divorce rate has now reached an all-time high at 33 per cent.

Aiken and co-author Alison Leigh said there were four key relationship areas — talking, supporting, connecting and dreaming — which needed to be fully functioning for a great relationship.

Sex was also an important part of committed relationships, according to Sexual Health Australia director Desiree Spierings.

“Often when things in the bedroom are great, sex doesn’t seem that important. But when there are difficulties in the bedroom, it can really have a huge impact on a relationship, ” Ms Spierings said.

“There is no normal when it comes to sex. Couples should worry about the frequency if there is a desire discrepancy between the two partners; if there isn’t it is often not a worry.”


© The West Australian

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