Stuck In A Rut? 10 Ways to Revive A Stagnant Relationship

Cynthia McKay, JD, MA, LAC, MFT, LISAC / Relationships

Stuck In A Rut? 10 Ways to Revive A Stagnant Relationship

Written by Cynthia McKay, JD, MA, LAC, MFT, LISAC, Psychotherapist & Licensed Addiction Counselor

Woman leaning against her boyfriend, happy with her eyes closed, illustrating the revival of joy in a relationship.

Have you ever looked across the dinner table and wondered where the laughter went? Does it feel like your relationship is on autopilot, or that you’re living parallel lives that intersect less and less?

In the journey of a long-term relationship, it’s not uncommon to experience periods where things feel more predictable than surprising, and certainly not every night can be date night. But if it feels like your relationship isn’t growing anymore, or worse — that you’re actually growing apart from each other — it’s time to be proactive.

After all, stagnation goes a lot deeper than just a sense of boredom or complacency. If it’s not addressed, it can slowly erode the foundation of your relationship.

The good news is that you don’t have to accept a stagnant relationship as something inevitable. These types of relationships can and should be fixed. And the sooner you can stop that sense of disconnection from deepening, the easier it will be to get things back on track.

It’s time to explore some of the tools and techniques that can transform your relationship from stagnant to vibrant. Using even a couple of these tips can go a long way in creating the conditions for a more fulfilling, dynamic, and connected partnership.

What are the signs of a stagnant relationship?

Before you can start rekindling the spark in your relationship, it’s essential to be honest with yourself about whether stagnation is the real issue. Sometimes, life throws curveballs that temporarily leave less time and energy for your relationship. But if you’re noticing several of signs like these below on a consistent basis, it’s time to dig deeper:

  • Your Conversations Lack Depth: Small talk about work and logistics has replaced meaningful discussions about your dreams, fears, and personal growth.
  • Routine Feels More Stifling Than Comforting: Dates and quality time feel more like obligations than exciting moments to connect.
  • You’re Drifting Apart Emotionally: Sharing vulnerabilities or seeking comfort with your partner feels awkward or strained.
  • You’re Feeling Bored: You struggle to find fun activities together and have fewer shared passions and interests.
  • Unresolved Issues Seem to Linger: Old disagreements fester quietly, creating a sense of underlying tension that never fully goes away.

The Power of Awareness… and Embracing Inconvenience

Recognizing these signs isn’t about judging your relationship or yourself. It’s about empowering you to take steps towards positive change.

Addressing the issue of relationship stagnation head on can be uncomfortable at first, but it’s worth it if it opens the door to revitalizing your connection and deepening your bond.

As I tell my patients though, relationships are an inconvenience. It takes a great deal of effort to show your partner you’re really in it for the long run. But if you do it right, “putting in the work” can feel fulfilling and meaningful, and absolutely worth the “inconvenience.”

10 Tips for Getting A Stagnant Relationship Flowing Again

1. Open the Lines of Communication

Before tackling any other changes, honest and open communication is essential. Find a comfortable time and space to initiate a conversation focused on your desire for closer connection. And remember to start your sentences with “I” to express your feelings. This will help minimize your partner’s defensiveness and promote collaborative problem-solving. For example, try “I miss feeling emotionally close to you” instead of “You don’t care about connecting with me.”

Also, be empathetic and prepared to listen to your partner’s perspective and feelings. Don’t assume you know what your partner will say. Active listening means truly hearing and processing your partners words and being attentive to what they’re telling you about their needs. This first step is the hardest, but it lays a strong foundation for the changes to come. 

2. Quality Time is Non-Negotiable

With busy schedules, it’s easy for quality time to fall to the bottom of the list. Carve out specific, distraction-free moments just for the two of you. Put away phones, shut the TV off, and dedicate time for connection. This could be a conversation over coffee, a game night, or a walk in nature – the activity is less important than giving each other focused attention.

3. Shake Up the Routine

Spontaneity can do wonders for a stagnant relationship. Try a surprise date night at a new restaurant, take an impromptu weekend trip, or experiment with a hobby you’ve never considered before. Fighting predictability with small bursts of novelty brings back a sense of excitement and creates new shared experiences.

Your efforts don’t have to be extreme here. Even a handwritten note or bringing home your partner’s favorite dessert can make a statement of love and appreciation.

4. Create Rituals of Connection

Yes, I just encouraged spontaneity, but there’s a time and a place for being a little predictable. Rituals that are exclusive to you and your partner can make you feel more secure in your relationship and strengthen your emotional bond.

Your rituals could include a weekly movie night, a monthly weekend getaway, or even just a daily check-in by phone or text. Don’t feel pressured to do something expensive. Letting your significant other know that you’re thinking about them is priceless.

5. Prioritize Physical Touch

Physical touch is a powerful form of nonverbal communication that fosters intimacy (and it might even be your partner’s love language). Simple things like holding hands, a hug after a long day, or a sweet and unexpected kiss can express volumes and encourage the emotional and physical connection between you and your partner.

There’s science involved here too. Regular touch promotes bonding by releasing oxytocin (the “cuddle hormone”) and can even ease stress. So if you’ve drifted into a relationship of less physical affection, consider reintroducing it to help make your partner feel loved and acknowledged. 

6. Make Expressing Gratitude a Habit

It’s easy to take the good things our partner does for granted over time. You can actively practice gratitude by noticing and verbalizing things you appreciate – big and small. Thank them for making dinner, offering a thoughtful compliment, or simply their presence in your life. No matter how busy my day gets, I try to take a moment each and every day to express gratitude for my partner.

Gratitude isn’t just a warm, fuzzy feeling – it actually makes changes in the brain! Expressing appreciation releases feel-good chemicals like dopamine, creating a positive feedback loop and strengthening your connection.

7. Relearn Your Love Languages

The way you express and receive love might have evolved over time. Revisit the concept of the Five Love Languages (Words of Affirmation, Acts of Service, Gifts, Quality Time, Physical Touch). Are you and your partner effectively communicating love in a way that registers most significantly for each other? If not, discussing your primary Love Language creates an opportunity to better express care in ways that feel the most fulfilling. 

8. Encourage Individual Growth

An unhealthy relationship often develops when couples suppress one another. It’s best to support your partner’s ambitions and aspirations so that both of you can flourish independently. As each person evolves, they bring new energy and enthusiasm into the relationship, which then helps you flourish together.

Some people can be intimidated by their partner’s advancements in life. Don’t be. Instead, embrace and encourage growth and you’ll be loved and appreciated even more.

9. Practice Forgiveness and Then Let Go

Holding onto resentments can create a barrier to intimacy. Once you address past issues, practice forgiveness and letting go. Releasing bitterness from the past allows your partnership to move forward and grow while fostering a renewed sense of trust and understanding. And moving forward is the opposite of being stagnant.

10. Seek External Support When Needed

Sometimes, reviving a stagnant relationship requires guidance from a neutral party. Don’t view couples therapy as a last resort, but rather as an investment in your partnership. Finding a great therapist near you can help you gain new communication tools, work through unresolved issues, and develop strategies to maintain the closeness you regain. If both partners are committed to revitalizing the relationship, professional support can make a profound difference.


Remember, even the healthiest relationships experience periods of stagnation. The important thing is to recognize when you’re in a rut so you can be proactive and make positive changes.

Even just small daily steps can help you reclaim the magic that drew you to your partner in the first place.

Couple spending time together holding hands

Do you need a professional perspective on your relationship? We offer psychotherapy and counseling for adults and couples, families, and teens. Schedule an appointment with Cynthia or Taylor today, or book a free 15-minute consultation here if you have any questions.

Cynthia McKay, JD, MA, LAC, MFT, LISAC

Cynthia McKay, JD, MA, LAC, MFT, LISAC

Cynthia is a clinical psychotherapist, licensed addiction counselor, and our lead therapist at Ballen Medical & Wellness. She specializes in a myriad of treatment modalities ranging from general psychological concerns to relationship/marriage & family therapy, depression, anxiety, addiction, grief, pre & post-divorce issues, sexual abuse, co-occurring disorders, and trauma-informed systemic psychotherapy.

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