Reader’s Question: The first year with my boyfriend was amazing.  We connected so well. Now, in year two, I feel like he takes me for granted, and I do the same to him. I have to admit that this has happened to me before. What can I do to stay contented in relationships when the “in love” stage of the relationship starts to wears off?

Dear Max,
The beginning of a relationship, during the “in love” stage, is delicious. We feel euphoric. We enter into the intoxicating feeling that we are “at one” with another person. However, according to long-range studies, the romantic obsession stage only lasts an average of about two years.
Then what? 
The first romantic stage happens by instinct. The second, longer stage of relationships takes some effort. When you and your partner move into the reality that you are two different people, you are going to need additional fuel to sustain the closeness over the years. 
There are five major food groups for relationships. If you know which of the five your partner wants the most, you can focus on giving him food that best nourishes him. And once you know your own favorite food you can ask for it often.

Dr. Gary Chapman calls these five food groups The 5 Love Languages in his very popular book of that title. Here they are. Which is your primary dialect?

1. Words of Affirmation. Some of us especially need to hear that we are good, attractive, funny, kind or loveable.
2. Quality Time. This is when your partner has your focused attention. In quality time, there are no electronic screens present.
3. Receiving Gifts. For some people, visual symbols of love mean the most. This doesn’t mean diamonds and furs, but can take the form of love notes, token surprises, and thoughtfully conceived homemade gifts.
4. Acts of Service. These are actions like making dinner, dealing with the landlord, or doing the laundry.
5. Physical Touch. This includes sex, but can also be hugs, cuddling, back scratches, or holding hands.

What If I Don’t Know My Language?
If you are trying to figure out your primary “love language,” Chapman suggests you ask yourself one of these questions:
1. What have I most often requested of him?
2. What does he do—or not do—that hurts me the most deeply? The opposite of that could be your love language.
3. How do I regularly express my love? You may offer what you, yourself most need.

It’s Efficient
If you don’t know your partner’s primary love language, you could be spending a lot of energy giving him something that doesn’t have much impact. If his love language is physical touch and you put a lot of time into creating thoughtful gifts, you still might not be giving him what he needs. 
With less energy expended on your part you could be stroking his head while you watch the dog sleep, and it could be a much more powerful way to express your love.

Is This The Whole Answer?
So if I figure out his favorite love language and give it to him regularly, can I be assured of a successful long term relationship?
Um, no.
While Chapman’s book makes it seem like that’s all we’ll need, I believe there’s a little more to it.  (Easy answers sell a lot of books, but they don’t usually work out so well in real life.)
However, customized expressions of love, plus good communication skills, are a powerful combination that can get a couple through a lifetime of trials.

What are good communication skills?  If you can talk about a difficult subject with him and end up feeling closer afterwards, rather than farther away, then you already have very good communication skills. 
If you can’t do that yet, there is always time to learn. I admit to being biased, but couples counseling is a great place to learn it.

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