What is habit in a relationship?
Habituation in a relationship causes mutual fascination to slip away. We think we know our partner perfectly well, their behaviour and their needs, and that the relationship we have created will last for many years. This is often the point at which we stop courting the other person, having deeper conversations and learning about their current needs. It is not uncommon for desire to disappear along the way because routine has crept into the bedroom, making sex predictable. A relationship out of habit is characterised by the disappearance of intimacy and the spark that used to ignite us. There has been a routine in the relationship and a repetition of the same patterns. We persist in it for a variety of reasons. Sometimes we are brought together by common issues such as credit, a business or raising children. Sometimes we are unable to leave because we are afraid of being alone and have low self-esteem. We assume that nothing good will ever happen to us again and that no one will love us. We also decide to have a relationship out of habit when we have low psychological flexibility and are uncomfortable with change. We would rather continue with a predictable relationship than open up to a new one that brings uncertainty.
Is habit in a relationship good or bad?
Habituation in a relationship is often confused with stability. When the infatuation phase, accompanied by the release of the chemicals responsible for the love “high”, ends, we enter a new phase. The butterflies in the stomach become a memory, but we can create a stable and mature relationship together. If we develop love, we will still derive satisfaction from the relationship. Tenderness, care, empathy and interest will provide us with a safe haven. It will make it easier to cope with difficulties, and we will also maintain optimal arousal and avoid excessive stress by having emotional support from our partner. The stabilisation phase brings with it numerous advantages; sometimes we mistakenly equate it with habituation in a relationship. The latter is an undesirable state, as it leads to the disappearance of the bond. When we treat our partner as a permanent fixture in our lives that requires no effort, we distance ourselves from them. It doesn’t matter whether the relationship lasts a year, five years or 35, it is always worth showing interest, care and tenderness to each other. Otherwise, the place of love will be taken by indifference in a relationship, which has been identified by John Gottman as one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.
Love or habit – how do you tell the difference between love and habit?
Many long-established couples wonder how to tell the difference between love and habit. If you are in doubt, take a look at your relationship and answer the following questions.
-Does everything your partner does cause you irritation?
-Have you been avoiding planning your future together for some time?
-Do your declarations of love resemble a question spoken automatically?
-Has your sex life become severely restricted or practically non-existent for some time?
-Have you stopped trying to find a partner?
-Do your conversations focus on organising your life, rarely touching on deeper topics?
If you have answered yes to most of these questions, it is a sign that habit has crept into your relationship. Fortunately, it does not always lead to a break-up. Often the relationship can be repaired with the commitment of both partners.
What are the symptoms of habit in a relationship?
A crisis in a long-established relationship is usually inevitable, due to the dynamics of the relationship. In the beginning, we want to spend every free moment together and we obsessively think about our partner because the concentration of phenylethylamine remains high in the body. This chemical is responsible for the love “high”. If it circulated in our blood throughout our lives, we wouldn’t work or raise children, because we would be driven by lust. For this reason, nature has resolved the issue so that phenylethylamine only accompanies the phase of falling in love. When we enter the stage of mature love, its place is taken by oxytocin and vasopressin – the hormones responsible for attachment to a partner. Unfortunately, sometimes the affection fades and its place is taken by indifference in the relationship. How can you recognise a relationship out of habit?
Automatic declarations of love
Are you in love or in a relationship of habit? If you are looking for an answer to this question, consider how you show affection to each other. At the beginning of a relationship, we attach great importance to declarations of love. Each one brings great joy, which is intertwined with excitement. When routine creeps into the relationship, declarations of love are automatically uttered without much commitment. The romance disappears somewhere along the way, but you can try to resurrect it. If you care about your partner, send them a nice message during the day. Little things like this help bring back the old ardour.
Lack of common topics of conversation
In the beginning, when love blossoms and habit seems to be a problem for other couples, we pay a lot of attention to each other. Later, the situation changes and we reach a difficulty we did not expect. The lack of common topics of conversation leads to a fading of closeness. We think we know our partner well, so we don’t ask them about their dreams, plans and concerns. We forget that life writes surprising scenarios every day, which entail a change of priorities in life. In addition, we mature and look at the same issues differently. Communication problems often go unnoticed because we assume that since we are talking about renovating the flat, we are close. The organisation of everyday life has nothing to do with strengthening the relationship and nurturing it. If you want to reconnect and break the habit, arrange a date that will give you an exciting experience.
The disappearance of longing in a relationship
Habituation in a relationship is often indicated by the disappearance of longing. Initially, we cannot imagine that we could spend a weekend apart. When life forces us to separate for a short time, e.g. because of the upcoming holidays, we miss and keep in touch with our partner by phone. Over time, we begin to cope better and better with the other person’s departure. As phenylethylamine levels drop, obsessive thoughts about the partner disappear, so we can nurture other important relationships in our lives. The problem arises when the other person is indifferent to us, so we don’t miss them. Sometimes we even get the impression that it feels better when he or she goes to live with our parents, because we can finally be alone for a while.
Loneliness in a relationship
Although it is hard to believe, loneliness in a relationship is a common problem. It seems that by living under the same roof and eating dinner together, we have someone to turn to for help. Sometimes we face adversity alone because we do not find emotional support in our partner. Loneliness in a relationship often afflicts couples who choose not to separate because of habit. Unfortunately, the feeling, which was accompanied by a sincere interest, has managed to burn out.
Lack of shared plans with your partner
How do you distinguish love from habit? It is worth paying attention to whether the relationship is developing. A crisis is often indicated by a lack of joint plans for the future. If the only thing you agree on together is a holiday trip, consider what this is due to. Sometimes a relationship does not bring us satisfaction, so we subconsciously avoid commitments. We don’t feel ready for certain changes, such as moving in together, getting married, having a baby or adopting a pet. In such a situation, ask ourselves whether we would be willing to make these commitments with another partner. Sometimes behind the lack of joint plans are maladaptive beliefs that need to be reformulated into more realistic ones.
Avoiding moments spent just the two of us
When there is a habit in a relationship, we avoid moments spent just the two of us because these moments do not bring us exciting experiences. They very often remind us of the disappearance of intimacy and emotional distance. In order not to confront uncomfortable topics, we meet in a larger group. Sometimes we even plan a holiday trip with mutual friends. It is normal to want to keep in touch with other people. Each relationship brings something to our lives and meets different needs. The problem arises when the thought of spending time just the two of us makes us uncomfortable and friends are there to protect us from intimacy.
Seeing your partner’s behaviour as annoying
Each of us is different and unique, which can sometimes create difficulties when sharing. When a partner wakes us up on a Sunday morning by turning on the radio in the kitchen adjacent to the bedroom, it is normal to feel uncomfortable. A relationship of habit, on the other hand, is indicated by the fact that for some time we have perceived every behaviour of the other person as annoying. We don’t like the way she eats her meal, wipes her hands, packs her shopping, ties her sneakers, etc. If we are annoyed by issues that go unchallenged, let’s take this as a wake-up call for our relationship.
What behaviours can lead to a relationship out of habit?
Not all of us experience the problems characteristic of relationships out of habit. There are certain behaviours that contribute to their occurrence, behaviours that we often do not pay attention to in a daily life fraught with many responsibilities. I briefly discuss the most important of these below.
Lack of open communication
Relationship habituation often occurs in those couples who do not communicate openly or misunderstand communication. If we do not start speaking from the perspective of our own emotions and needs, we often unconsciously make the other party feel attacked. As a result, it shows no willingness to engage in dialogue and work out a compromise. Sometimes we are unable to express our needs and emotions openly because we are out of touch with them. We don’t know what is behind our anger, and as a result, we don’t know how to talk about it with our partner. Sometimes we know what our needs are, but we are used to meeting the expectations of others.
The touch that accompanies everyday expressions of affection and sexual elation contributes to the release of oxytocin. It acts as an attachment hormone that strengthens the relationship. Adequate levels of oxytocin are particularly important in couples who have entered the stage of mature love. It acts as a bonding agent that strengthens a long-established relationship. Unfortunately, repetition makes sex less exciting and thus fails to arouse our interest. Sometimes we would rather watch an interesting TV series than spend time on erotic games with our partner, because we know the scenario well. Fortunately, we can always modify it a bit by introducing new sexual positions, disguises or gadgets. Sometimes it is enough to swap the bed for the kitchen worktop or the shower.
Lack of shared passions and activities
Couples who experience new things together enjoy spending time with each other because it is fun. During this time, happiness hormones are released, including endorphins and dopamine, which strengthen the relationship. It is understandable that we do not share all the passions of our partner. We can always find activities that we both enjoy. For example, your partner enjoys historical re-enactments, while you prefer literary events. On Saturday you each have time for your own hobbies, but Sunday you already spend together on a bike trip.
Sometimes we assume that since we have met the right person with whom we want to share our lives, the stage of vying for their attention is over. Meanwhile, a relationship is like a garden, where it is not enough to plant a tree for it to grow and bear juicy fruit. It needs pruning, protection from pests, fertilisation and watering. When we forget to nurture the relationship with our partner, it deteriorates. It is worth finding time to please the other person, for example by preparing their favourite dessert or taking them to the theatre.
Routine in a relationship
Routine in a relationship is when a couple is in a stable but often monotonous and predictable cycle. The symptoms of routine in a relationship can vary. It is important to note that routine in a relationship is not necessarily a negative thing. For some couples, it provides stability and a sense of security. However, if the routine becomes too dominant and leads to a loss of passion, intimacy or satisfaction in the relationship, it is worth taking action to refresh the relationship and introduce novelty.