In long-term, cohabitative relationships, there sometimes comes a point when your first reaction to receiving a text or email from your partner transitions from sweet giddiness to WHAT NOW. Your online messaging channels turn into a running list of schedule confirmations and daily task reminders – necessary, but highly unromantic.
Marriage is just texting each other "Do we need anything from the grocery store?" a bunch of times until one of you dies.
— Daniel Carrillo (@DanielRCarrillo) July 15, 2015
When you add kids to the mix, these communication lines can feel even more utilitarian. “Don’t forget to bring a sweater for Leo tonight.” “Did you pick up Willow’s immunisation report?” “Hey, what’s this purple stuff in Riley’s belly button?”
I have nothing against relationship mundanity – I view the ability to play Words With Friends with your partner while sitting on toilets on opposite sides of the house as a mark of a strong foundation. But when your interactions become about all the things instead of the person you love and have committed yourself to, that’s when flags begin to rise.
I really liked this idea from relationship and sex therapist Esther Perel, who stresses that eroticism requires “active engagement and willful intent”. On a recent episode of the Dear Sugar podcast, she mentions that she often gives couples the assignment of creating a separate email address or messaging channel where they are not allowed to discuss domestic business. The channel must be a space “where they can only talk to each other as partners, as lovers, and where they really talk to each other from that place, which is exactly what people do when they are courting each other,” Perel says. They can fill the space with inside jokes, funny links, selfies, sexy things, or anything else that says I enjoy you, rather than What’s your ETA?
As Perel explains on her blog, this sense of excitement doesn’t just happen. Instead, she says “it requires that you create your own demarcation between pragmatism and pleasure and that you cultivate a space where a sense of intrigue and curiosity can emerge”. Couples must “develop rituals that stave off neglect,” she adds. Along with creating a separate messaging channel (if you usually text each other all day, perhaps you can use WhatsApp or Google Hangouts for the “fun” stuff), you can also make it a habit to kiss your partner when you get home, or put away all devices every night at 9PM.
These types of rituals, Perel writes, help you to “transition from your roles as parents/business partners/friends, into your roles as lovers”. And when you train your brain to switch gears, you might rediscover something that’s been missing ever since life came along.