Does the thought of your partner make your mood drop or make you anxious? If you feel like the relationship is as much work as walking through water, you could be in a stagnant relationship.
All relationships go through ups and downs. If you’re feeling stagnant, you might be experiencing what psychologists now call ‘languish,’ as described here. Essentially, you might have lost interest and live in a constant fog.
As you can imagine, this may impact your mental health in the long run. So, let’s see what we can do about a stagnating relationship.
What is a stagnant relationship?
If we have to define stagnancy in a relationship, it refers to a partnership that has ceased to progress or evolve in a positive direction. It typically involves a lack of growth, emotional distance, and routine that can lead to complacency and dissatisfaction.
Communication may dwindle, issues may go unresolved, and intimacy may wane. In such relationships, there’s usually a sense of being stuck or in a rut, and the partners may feel disconnected from each other’s lives and goals.
To address a stagnant relationship, it’s crucial to recognize the signs and take proactive measures to rejuvenate it, such as improving communication, rekindling intimacy, and addressing unresolved issues.
However, if these efforts prove ineffective, it may be necessary to consider whether the relationship is worth preserving or if it’s time to move on for the well-being of both individuals.
What does a stagnant relationship look like?
Knowing the stagnant relationship meaning, the next thing to look at is what it actually feels like. Of course, every experience is personal, but there are some common themes to every stagnant relationship. The first and most obvious feeling is that the magic has gone.
Life is complex, and we can get lost in responsibilities and to-do lists such that we forget to live in the moment and may take people for granted. It can happen to the best of us. Regardless, this can lead to feeling stagnant in a relationship.
Sometimes, you get to the point that you can’t even remember happy memories and dread going home to your partner. By this stage, you usually know in your gut that something is wrong, even if you can’t quite put your finger on it.
When you’re in a stagnant relationship, everything may basically feel dull and sluggish. In any long-term relationship, there are moments when the initial excitement fades, and couples may find themselves in a stagnant phase.
Understanding the factors contributing to this stagnation is the first step toward revitalizing your connection. Here are some common reasons why a relationship may stall:
1. Fixed mindsets
Overall, a stagnant relationship feels just a bit like being in a body of still water that has no life or energy. This indicates that both parties are fixed in their opinions and will not budge on anything, including life decisions.
Moreover, either person can become so disillusioned and miserable that they just look for all the bad things their partner does.
A core problem for any relationship stagnation is how partners communicate. Is it open and inclusive, or is it judgemental and self-serving? All relationships take effort, and if people aren’t willing to listen, this can quickly lead to a stagnant relationship.
Perhaps your emotions are no longer in tune, and you don’t feel aligned with your goals. Deep down, we all know when we have a special connection with someone.
Fundamentally, a romantic connection is a deep bond that goes far beyond physical attraction when you simply feel in sync. Without it, you could be in a stagnant relationship.
4. No growth
Great relationships are partnerships where each person supports the other so that you can grow together. Without this desire to learn and improve together, there’s a chance you could be aimless and without hope for the future.
Even worse, you could have lost appreciation for each other’s strengths and what you offer the partnership. That’s usually the start of a stagnating relationship.
Depending on how the relationship started, you may be bored. Finding a shared passion can be challenging if you have different interests, values, and hobbies.
Furthermore, your lifestyles could be at opposing ends of the scale, ranging from party-goer to stay-at-home. This can cause both conflict and disinterest, which naturally can lead to relationship stagnation. Although, the good news is that there are things you can do before giving up.
11 clues you’re in a stagnant relationship
What is a stagnant relationship, if not a feeling of listlessness and hopelessness? So, see for yourself if any of these clues make you go through the motions of living. Following are some possible signs of a stagnant relationship you should look out for:
1. You’re walking on eggshells
Maybe you’re afraid of making your partner angry? Alternatively, maybe you’ve already given up having those meaningful conversations because you get nothing in return. Either way, you’re feeling stagnant and hopeless that anything can change.
While it might sound weird, when you’re in a stagnant relationship, it’s common to miss your partner from the good old days. Relationships tend to start on a high, with birds constantly singing around you.
Then, something changes, and you’re no longer physically connected. Whatever the reasons, this could be the start of a stagnating relationship.
Being in a stagnant relationship means that things aren’t moving forward. It’s almost as if you’re stuck in a loop, and even your arguments seem to repeat themselves. Usually, this is because neither party really wants to resolve your differences.
4. You feel drained
Strong partnerships revolve around supporting and energizing each other.
On the other hand, if you feel that the effort far outweighs any rewards or results, you may be in a stagnant relationship. After all, we need to see progress to feel fulfilled in our interactions with our partners.
5. No more playful or fun times
Having fun is an essential part of a great relationship. Ultimately, we shouldn’t take ourselves too seriously and should be able to laugh together.
Some couples even manage to develop inside jokes and a secret language. Both of these bring us closer together, as Kira Newman, MD of Greater Good, explains so well in her article.
6. No more planning
What is a stagnant relationship but one with no future in sight? The lack of planning or desire to discuss the future can be a clear sign.
Of course, this can come from a deeper issue, such as misaligned values and a mismatched vision of that future. Sadly, this realization usually means it’s more than just a stagnant relationship but sometimes even one that might not be worth saving.
7. Doubt and lack of trust
It’s tough to move on from relationship stagnation when that niggling voice of doubt sets in.
So ask yourself, do you trust the partnership as a team? Do you feel that you can trust each other’s commitment to the relationship? Then again, can you both be yourself without putting your guard up?
If you feel unsure about any of these questions, you could be in a stagnating relationship.
We all know that feeling when everything feels one way. For example, are you always suggesting activities or ideas to do together? Perhaps you’re giving in and forgetting that you also have needs in the hope of saving your stagnating relationship.
It’s easily done, but if you get to this stagnating stage of a relationship, remember that a good life is one where we feel equal with our partners. The idea is that we grow together and work through challenges as a team.
That becomes virtually impossible to do well if you’re not true to yourself and what you want.
9. You’re bored
It almost goes without saying, but if you don’t feel alive and motivated by your partner, then the chances are that you’re facing relationship stagnation. Perhaps your partner doesn’t challenge you enough or isn’t curious to try new things.
Last but not least, we’re all human and make mistakes.
If, on the other hand, your partner constantly focuses on the negatives, it can be highly demoralizing. Part of this process means learning to appreciate each other’s strengths and weaknesses with empathy and respect. When this is gone, feeling stagnant becomes the norm.
In a stagnant relationship, you may notice that you and your partner are growing emotionally distant from each other. You might have once shared your thoughts, dreams, and deepest feelings, but now you find it hard to connect on an emotional level.
Conversations become surface-level or non-existent, and you seem more focused on your individual lives than nurturing your connection. This emotional disconnect may lead to a sense of loneliness and isolation within the relationship, indicating that it may be stuck in a state of stagnation.
7 reasons why a relationship becomes stagnant
Relationships can become stagnant for a variety of reasons, and it’s essential to address these issues to keep a relationship healthy and thriving. Here are seven potential reasons why a relationship may become stagnant:
1. Lack of communication
Effective communication is generally the foundation of any successful relationship. When couples stop communicating openly and honestly, misunderstandings and emotional intimacy can diminish. Over time, this can lead to a sense of stagnation.
2. Routine and predictability
While routines can provide stability, too much predictability can lead to boredom. When a relationship falls into a monotonous routine, it may lose its spark and excitement, causing it to feel stagnant.
Engaging in the same activities, visiting the same places, and having the same conversations can create a sense of déjà vu, leaving both partners yearning for novelty and adventure. This longing for spontaneity and fresh experiences can significantly drive relationship stagnation.
3. Neglecting quality time
As time passes in a relationship, some couples may take each other for granted, assuming that their partner will always be there. They may neglect to spend quality time together, which can cause feelings of neglect and stagnation.
4. Unrealized expectations
Unmet expectations can lead to disappointment and frustration. When individuals in a relationship have differing or unspoken expectations about their partner’s behavior, future plans, or roles, it can create tension and hinder growth.
5. Resentment and unresolved issues
Conflicts and grievances can fester if they are not addressed and resolved. Resentment and pent-up emotions can make a relationship feel stagnant and toxic, as both partners may harbor negative feelings.
6. Loss of intimacy
Physical and emotional intimacy are crucial for maintaining a healthy connection. A relationship can stagnate when physical intimacy diminishes or emotional closeness erodes. This might be due to stress, changes in physical attraction, or emotional disconnection.
7. External stressors
Life often presents various stressors, such as financial difficulties, work-related problems, or health issues. These external pressures can take a toll on a relationship, leading to decreased emotional energy and a sense of stagnation.
To prevent a relationship from becoming stagnant, it’s essential to recognize these issues early on and take proactive steps to address them. This may involve open and honest communication, spending quality time together, seeking professional help if needed, and working together to adapt to life’s changes and challenges.
13 ways to re-energize your stagnant relationship
Over time, even the strongest relationships can hit a plateau, leaving partners feeling disconnected and unfulfilled. However, with effort, communication, and a willingness to make positive changes, it’s possible to breathe new life into your relationship.
Here are some effective ways to re-energize your stagnant relationship and learn how to fix a stale relationship:
1. Know your needs
It might sound obvious, but knowing what you want and need before you do anything is essential. Once you know that, talking to your partner and listening for any potential common ground becomes much easier.
2. Understand your communication style
Re-energizing any stagnant relationship starts with communication to at least establish that there’s an issue. For instance, could there be a chance that your partner hasn’t noticed anything yet?
Then, it’s also important to remember that the only person we have any control over is ourselves. Therefore, is there anything you can do differently with your communication style?
A great technique to use is the I-statement to avoid sounding like you’re blaming your partner. The idea is to focus on your feelings and what you need without being aggressive.
3. Do something radically different for the day
Sometimes, a stagnant relationship happens because we simply get caught up in priorities and to-do lists. Most people are desperately juggling several things and have no energy for their relationship by the time they get home.
That’s why finding something novel and creative to do together can be a huge energy booster. Why not even do something playful, such as going to a fair or even to karaoke?
4. Set realistic expectations
If you’re in a stagnating relationship where both of you are willing to work on it, try not to be too hard on yourself. Moreover, baby steps are motivating because you’re more likely to achieve them.
It’s important to remember that relationship revitalization is a journey, and setting realistic expectations can make it feel less daunting.
5. Clarify boundaries
Could you feel stagnant because your partner doesn’t understand how to respect your space? Remember to allow them to change and explain why you need certain boundaries around your time or physical space.
6. Go on a date
It’s easy to get lost in our busy lives. That’s why many couples plan a specific night to go out on a date and spend quality time together. This can be a great solution for relationship stagnation if you just need to reprioritize your partnership.
7. Hang out with happy couples
There’s something inspiring about happy couples who can also act as great role models to inspire you to re-energize a stagnant relationship. Of course, you must first ensure you’re ready as a couple for this experience. That’s because otherwise, you could just end up feeling demoralized.
Again, we’re only human, and accepting your flaws and your partner’s is critical. Naturally, it may take time and practice, but try to be patient. Remembering your strong points can be an excellent way to do this.
9. Do you love yourself?
At the end of the day, a stagnating relationship can only truly recover if you actually love yourself. Without this, it isn’t easy to expect someone else to love us and make an effort we can’t even make for ourselves. So, working on your self-esteem can also be invaluable.
10. Patience and gratitude
Everyone needs to be reminded of why we love someone at some point or another. Patience is one thing, but a bit of gratitude can help. That’s why listing the things you love about your partner can be a good place to start working on a stagnant relationship.
11. Explore new hobbies together
Introducing new activities and hobbies into your relationship can breathe fresh life into it. Consider trying something you have never done, whether painting, dancing, hiking, or cooking. Exploring these new experiences together can create memorable moments and deepen your connection.
Watch Lisa and Tom Bilyeu explaining what happens when you don’t have much in common with your partner and why having shared interests is essential in this video:
12. Seek professional help
Sometimes, relationships can become so stagnant and challenging that addressing the issues on your own is difficult. Consider seeking the advice of a couples’ therapist or counselor who can offer expert advice and mediation.
Professional help can offer new perspectives, strategies, and tools to revitalize your relationship and help you communicate and reconnect more effectively.
13. Plan a surprise getaway
Surprises can inject excitement and spontaneity into your relationship. Plan a surprise weekend getaway or a short vacation to a destination you both love or have always wanted to visit.
It doesn’t have to be extravagant; even a simple road trip to a nearby town can rekindle the spark in your relationship and provide quality time away from daily routines.
Commonly asked questions
Stagnant relationships can be a challenging aspect of life, and many people find themselves in such situations at some point.
Whether you’re looking to rekindle the spark, recognize the signs of stagnation, or decide when it’s time to move on, these common questions about stagnant relationships can provide insights and guidance to help you navigate this complex terrain.
How do you spice up a stagnant relationship?
To reignite a stagnant relationship, try new activities, communicate openly, and show appreciation. Surprise each other, revisit shared goals, and seek couples therapy if needed. Remember, change and effort from both partners can bring excitement back into the relationship.
What does a stagnant relationship feel like?
A stagnant relationship often feels dull, routine-driven, and lacks emotional or physical connection. You may sense boredom, frustration, or a feeling of being stuck. Addressing these feelings and working together to breathe life back into the relationship is crucial.
What does a stagnant relationship feel like?
A stagnant relationship feels like you’re trapped in a never-ending loop. You might experience emotional distance, routine conversations, and a lack of passion. It can lead to frustration, loneliness, and a sense that the relationship isn’t growing or evolving.
When to walk away from a stagnant relationship?
Consider leaving a stagnant relationship if efforts to revive it have failed, if there’s emotional or physical abuse, or if your values and goals no longer align. Assess your happiness and well-being; sometimes, leaving is the best choice for personal growth.
What is emotionally stagnant?
Emotional stagnation is when one’s emotions remain constant or fail to develop. In a relationship context, it can indicate a lack of emotional growth, communication, or connection, leading to dissatisfaction and unhappiness. Addressing emotional stagnation is crucial for relationship health.
All relationships take effort, and everyone has stories of their ups and downs. The ones who make it are the ones who believe in the relationship and commit to communicating openly and respectfully.
Remember that the first thing you need to focus on is yourself. This concerns what you need from a relationship and what you can change in your approach.
Assuming you get a positive response, everything will start flowing again. If not, sometimes it’s worth walking onto another pool of water and finding the open river again.
Sylvia Smith loves to share insights on how couples can revitalize their love lives in and out of the bedroom. As a writer at Marriage.com, she is a big believer in living consciously and encourages couples to adopt this principle Read more in their lives too. Sylvia believes that every couple can transform their relationship into a happier, healthier one by taking purposeful and wholehearted action.
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