When first courting a love interest, we are so keen to present the best version of ourselves to a potential partner. We’re clean, we're shaven, and we smell fantastic.
We’re funny–even charming! We make the effort to go out, visit nice places, and do fun activities. We make cute little gestures to show this wonderful new person that we care about them. Our faces ache where we can’t stop smiling.
In many relationships, this glorious honeymoon period can last a few months or even a few years, but as sure as gravity will eventually bring a balloon down to earth, our fiery hot relationships all seem to eventually deflate too.
Why does this happen? Is there any way to keep the flames of love burning forever?
Less than perfect
The first thing to realise is that it’s completely natural to stop putting the effort into pleasing our partner.
We are naturally wired to try and get things done using as little energy as possible. Studies have shown that the brain craves routine so it doesn't have to exert effort…so when a man learns how to get good sex without having to charm anyone or change his underwear, his brain will favour this option. Similarly, if a girl finds a good man who will still love and care for her while she’s not dolled up to the nines, her brain will find that appealing.
We eventually learn we can get away with being less than perfect, so our relationships turn less than perfect, and as time goes on we become less and less perfect.
We forego dates, fart, and gain weight. We show up five minutes late…in sweatpants. We start as princes and princesses but slowly turn to frogs sitting in boiling water. We tell our fellow frogs we still love them in spite of their flaws, but at this point it's no longer the fiery passionate relationship we adored.
It’s a dull, yet comfortable one.
‘Reachers’ and ‘Settlers’
So, what's going on here? It's often claimed that every relationship has a ‘reacher' and a ‘settler', but both of these stereotypical roles encourage the formation of stale relationships.
Typically, the ‘reacher' treats their partner like royalty because they needily feel like it's the only way to keep them. The ‘settler' enjoys the comfort of not having to be at their very best to impress their partner, even if it's not a fairytale romance.
These relationships typically end one of three ways:
1. The reacher reads the settler's behaviour and feels more comfortable demonstrating settler behaviour themselves, creating a settler/settler relationship destined for dullness.
2. Sick of unreciprocated affection, the reacher seeks a partner who appreciates them.
3. The settler is woken from their comfortable coma by a true catch. They are reunited with the thrill of the chase, and then they stray.
It’s tough to get out of the rut of a lazy relationship. It takes some couples years before one snaps out of the cozy coma.
Perhaps they’re scared to start from scratch with someone new. Our brains crave routine, after all. Sometimes, though, one half of a loveless relationship can muster up the courage to bail and leave the other in the wilderness wondering where it went wrong.
So what’s the solution?
The key is to aim higher when finding a life partner. Reject anything less than the best. Find your Prince Charming or your Playmate Of The Year. Then treat them like your perfect ten. Give your whole heart to them. Spend every date like the first date. Win your lover’s affection again and again.
Be the reacher in every sense of the term, rather than acting like a needy worm. Do it as a favour to this fantastic person. Be your best self whether you need to or not–in every aspect of life. Be so brilliant that your other half can't help but feel like they're reaching as well. Ignore the voices that say it's OK to just be OK.
Yes, this sounds exhausting. Yes, you're leaving your heart open. Yes, it's tough when this love is unreciprocated. You may have your heart broken. You may have to ditch some half-decent partners, but we’re not aiming for half-decent here.
Anything worth having is worth working for, and there's nothing worth having more than the sensational relationship.
So, throw endless amounts of effort into this, and your relationship will be the balloon that never deflates. It will be a hot-air balloon floating through a sky with forever-lasting fireworks…but only if you aim high.