In the realm of human connection, long-term relationships are an animal all their own. You've been with the same person long enough for social norms and rules of etiquette not to apply to you. The early days of butterflies, late night phone calls and spending hours on your appearance are but a distant memory, and you may be worrying that you've lost your initial spark. There are many phases long term relationships go through though, and luckily, most of them are just that — phases to be worked through.
I've been with my husband for four years now, and although that may not seem like much in the grand scheme of things, it's been enough time for us to have gone through just about every relational phase under the sun. The "Can't Get Enough of You" phase? Been there. The "Please Leave Me Alone Before I Unleash The Rage of 1000 Suns On You" phase? Done that. Between our jobs and trying to keep two small children alive, you can bet that our relationship has been stretched to it's limits and then brought back to a healthy place again.
Although there are certainly some "phases" that aren't just something to be worked through, the majority of the time long-term relationships go through their fair share of ups and downs — and that's okay.
1The Boredom Phase
Although getting bored with your relationship can seem like a huge road block to some, in long-term relationships it's usually just a normal phase couples go through. If you find yourselves longing for more spontaneity, try switching up your usual way of doing things. Something as simple as a spontaneous date night or switching things up in the bedroom can work wonders.
2The "What If" Phase
It's natural to occasionally wonder what your life would be like had you not met your partner. But dwelling on the "what ifs" can be detrimental to the health of your relationship. Focusing on how you can make the best of the present moment is always the best route to go.
3The Annoyed Phase
There will be days (or weeks or months) when every little thing your SO does seems annoying. You'll fight over random, inconsequential things. This isn't a sign that you need to throw in the towel, but rather a sign that there is something bigger that needs to be addressed. Does one of you feel neglected? Are you prioritizing something over your partner?
4The Expectation Phase
When you've been with the same person for a while, you develop routines and expectations of each other. For example, if you always eat dinner together on Tuesdays and your partner bails for a night with friends, your expectations have been let down. Although it may not seem like a big thing, distrust and other larger issues can easily creep in if your expectations aren't kept at a reasonable level.
5The Sexual Exploration Phase
And no, this doesn't mean exploring with other people. Simply put, your sex life will probably get boring at some point. The good news is that working through the "dry spell" and trying new things can make things just as exciting as they were in the beginning.
6The Doubting Phase
It may come after one of you makes a mistake or has a change in behavior, or it may have no rhyme or reason at all, but there will be days when you just don't believe what they're telling you. Unless you have good evidence that they're lying to you, it's probably mostly in your head.
7The Alone Time Phase
Granted, you will always need time apart to recharge and care for yourself. If you've been wanting to just be alone recently, chances are it has less to do with your partner and more to do with outside stresses or worries you may be dealing with.
8The Not Caring Phase
When you're with someone long enough, things that seemed like proper etiquette when you first got together no longer matter. Body hair, bodily functions, bed head, morning breath... all of that ceases to matter. And honestly, this one really isn't a phase.
9The Trust Phase
Once you've gone through some of the phases above, you should reach a place of trust with your partner that is less of a phase and more of a commitment.