Ironically, our culture does not prepare us well for what many humans most desire—having an authentic, lasting partnership.
It prepares us for falling, but not for staying, in love.
The most popular stories in humanity focus on the sparks that happen when people fall in love.
But falling in love is not that different from starting a fire.
While both start out with sparks, that’s generally not the end goal. In most cases, whenever we start a fire or fall in love, we are at least hoping for longer-lasting warmth and comfort.
A romantic relationship has different phases that mirror those we undergo when we build a bonfire: Once we have started the fire, we need to maintain it. This requires something more substantial than the initial tinder.
Here are three lesser known ways of keeping the romance alive and the fire going:
Gazing is actually a spiritual practice that does not seem to be very well known in mainstream spirituality. I was first introduced to it in a workshop in 2009. It entails making eye contact with someone for an extended period of time, much longer than we usually do in normal social interactions. Imagine a loving mother gazing into her baby’s eyes. Their eye contact creates a loving space and an even deeper connection between the two. That is how this spiritual practice can feel like.
Gazing is more than just a beautiful spiritual practice. We can also use it to connect deeply with our partner. To do that, all we need to do is sit across from each other in a quiet space and making eye contact with our partner. You could try to hold hands, but it’s not necessary. The important thing is to look into our partner’s eyes and open our hearts to them as they are doing the same. Initially, this might feel awkward. If we stick with it, we will likely feel closer to them than before. Over time, gazing can melt barriers and blockages. It can remind us of what feels so special about the person we have chosen to be with and how much we care about them.
2. (Some) physical distance
To most people, a long-distance relationship seems undesirable. However, there is some research that suggests that people in a long-distance relationship actually feel closer emotionally than those in geographical proximity.
In my experience, there are some benefits to periods of physical distance: Before I moved together with my partner, we were in a long-distance relationship for over two years. Separated by an ocean, we only saw each other every few months or so. But every time we did, it felt special and new. When we finally moved in together, being able to spend every day together felt like a gift to both of us.
Of course, most of us would understandably not choose to be in a long-distance relationship unless we had to. But is there a way to have the benefits of living together and yet experiencing the same newness that couples in long-distance relationships may feel for each other whenever they meet?
One such way could be to spend a little time being physically apart. If we have vastly different vacation styles or dream destinations than our partner, we can try traveling separately for a change. For instance, I am writing this on my way to Brazil where I am going alone. We can also visit our parents or old friends without our partner which has the added advantage that we can fully focus on being together with them.
When we are apart from our partner, we can oftentimes appreciate more how much we enjoy their presence. A little bit of absence can make the heart grow fonder.
3. Taking emotional risks
If we stay in our comfort zone, life tends to get stale. This can also be true in the area of relationships. In this situation, some people start looking for the feeling of aliveness outside the relationship.
However, there is a way to have more excitement and intimacy within the relationship. It happens when we dare to take emotional risks: Anytime we make ourselves vulnerable or share something that is outside of our comfort zone with our partner, we feel more alive. I refer to this as the practice of taking emotional risks.
By that I mean doing something that feels like the right move while also being scary for us. Examples of this could be expressing to our partner just how much they mean to us or telling them something we have never dared to tell anyone else. All of this is, of course, assuming that our partner is essentially a safe person to take emotional risks with.
When we take emotional risks, our partner can see a different side of us. When our partner does this, we get to experience intrigue once again.
The truth is that all of us are mysteries, even to ourselves. We have so many sides to us and we are continuously growing. When we move out of roles and into what we really are, interactions with our partner feel alive.
With all this being said, here’s the truth about what happens after “The End”: In real life relationships, there is no “happily ever after,” no magical “The End.”
There are just new beginnings.
And that is the real magic.
This article was first published on Elephant Journal here.