When you’ve been with your partner for a while, be it years or decades, you can start to fall into a routine where it feels like you’re more like roommates and less like lovers. Busy days, jam-packed schedules and work and social commitments might leave you little room to focus on your intimacy, which is why relationship experts stress the importance of prioritizing date night and even scheduling sex so that it actually happens. Another important way to keep your love alive is to engage in frequent meaningful conversations. After all, non-verbal communication will only get you so far and can easily be misinterpreted.
“Verbal communication is much more effective, especially if you practice direct communication,” Claudia Six, Ph.D., sexologist, relationship coach and author of Erotic Integrity, says. “When you communicate indirectly a big part of your message is implied, not stated and you expect others to be responsible for interpreting your message correctly…which they don’t always do.”
If you’re looking to reignite the spark in your relationship that might have grown dim over time, these conversation starters can help get things going.
“I appreciate the way you…”
When you’re so used to the way your significant other does things, be it how they take out the trash every few days like clockwork or rub your feet after a long and hard-earned day, it can be easy to neglect expressing your thanks. But even more than the words “thank you,” “I appreciate you” conveys a more pervasive sense of gratitude. “Appreciation pertains to overall traits your partner brings to the relationship, that help you in your life, and make you happy,” says Dr. Six. “Expressing that has your partner feeling heard and valued.”
“You look so great in that outfit.”
It comes with the territory of seeing someone day in and day out that we often forget to dole out compliments. Instead, we reserve those niceties for someone we’re just seeing for the first time in a while. In fact, people are much more apt to tell their partner something negative rather than positive, according to Dawn Michael, Ph.D., clinical sexologist, relationship expert and author of My Husband Wont Have Sex With Me, but they are much more apt to think positive things and not say it. Even a simple, “That shirt looks so nice on you!” can go a long way. “We all want our partner to think we look good. It makes us feel seen and desired,” adds Dr. Six.
“What are your expectations for…?”
One of the best ways to keep fighting to a minimum is to openly and outwardly express your expectations in the relationship. This could be anything from how much you should be spending that month or where you will be spending the holidays to when and if you will one day have a family. “Let your partner know what you are asking of them and how they think and feel in a situation instead of assuming what that is,” says Celeste Holbrook, Ph.D, sexologist and author of the online course "Elevate: Overcoming Sexual Barriers." “This lets them know that you are not jumping to conclusions based on history, and that you are willing to take each and every situation at face value.”
See more: Are Our Marriage Expectations Too High?
“This is what I need from you.”
This phrase might sound a bit forward, but experts agree that expressing your needs, desires and wants in the relationship will go a long way in re-igniting a spark that may have been blown out over time. “Tell your partner what simple things they could be doing that would make a big difference to you in your relationship, and then ask what you could be doing in return,” Dr. Holbrook says. “This expresses your needs, helps to resolve them, but it also lets your partner know that their needs are just as important to you, and that you are just as willing to change to have a strong relationship.”
“How can I help you?”
When you see your partner is down in the dumps, whether it’s the result of a disagreement with a family member or friend or a stressful day of work, don’t ignore it or assume it’ll blow over by the following day—address it. While your first instinct might be to dole out advice, Dr. Michael suggests asking how you can help instead. “This way, you are acknowledging that you were listening and second giving them advice that they need, not what you think they need.”
“Let’s get into bed early tonight so we have time to be together.”
Dr. Six explains that expressing sexual desire with no pressure can be an effective way to initiate sex. “Too often couples throw out the baby with the bathwater: they avoid affectionate touch because they don’t want to seem like the only time they touch their mate it’s for sex, or because they are afraid that if they express affection their beloved will automatically assume they want sex and then they’ll feel obligated to follow through on something they may not be into,” she says. “Inviting your lover to be sensual together with no strings, and it really has to be no strings (otherwise they’ll know and it’ll backfire), is a way to get closer…and possibly get it on.”