Complacency has the power to derail even the best of relationships – but it doesn’t have to. Here are 5 simple ways to complacency-proof your relationship.
If there’s one death trap for relationships, it’s complacency. You know what it looks like: taking each other for granted, not bothering to say thank you, getting all dressed up to see your bestie, but not for each other.
It’s easy to do, because essentially, complacency is about doing nothing. And we all find it super easy to do nothing.
But doing nothing wreaks havoc on a relationship. The same as it does in any area of your life. If you stop putting effort into your career, it’ll flatline. Give up on your business, and you’re going real broke, real quick. Get lazy by eating whatever is easy, and you’ll end up in a world of pain. Not exactly rocket science, right?
Here’s the irony of complacency though; it comes from a good place
It reflects feeling so self-assured and satisfied that you think you don’t need to try any harder. You feel your relationship is fine, so it’s OK to let it cruise.It would be kind of romantic, if it wasn’t such a death sentence.
Complacency is a long, slow, waltz into resentment, and that’s when you start bickering about the stupid stuff. Like whose turn it is to empty the dishwasher. Or what to watch on Netflix. (Seriously, why does it have to be so hard? Let’s just pick something already!)
It’s like the gears have run out of grease, so you’re grinding and grating on each other – and not in a sexy way. Everything your partner does drives you crazy. All those cute little things you loved when you first got together are now driving you up the wall. We call it ‘not fun friction’. So let’s spell it out for you: don’t get complacent!
Easier said than done? Well, we got you covered with five simple ways to kick complacency to the curb.
#1. Kick your own ass (AKA get real)
There’s a time for kicking back and sipping Mojitos, and there’s a time for kicking your own butt. If you have a sneaking suspicion that complacency has crept into your relationship, guess what? It’s time for butt-kicking.
That means asking some tough questions and getting real with yourself: Are you being lazy? How would you feel about dating you? Are you showing your partner how much they mean to you with actions and words?
We can all make excuses; “I’m stressed.” “I don’t have time.” “I’m a special unicorn.” But at the end of the day, you just gotta do the thing and make an effort. If you’re not sure where to start, simply ask your partner, “What can I do to make you feel more loved and appreciated?”
Yup, it might feel a little vulnerable. It might even take some extra effort. But your relationship is oh-so worth it.
#2. Update Your ‘Love Maps’
Relationship researchers Drs. John and Julie Gottman talk about Love Maps – the part of your brain that keeps track of your partner. Not in a creepy stalker kind of way – rather, it monitors things like your partner’s favourite foods, their dreams and aspirations, what they’re struggling with at work. Basically all the things that make up their personal world.
Thriving, happy couples are constantly updating these Love Maps – like updating your GPS. Whereas complacent couples are walking about with an old-school paper map from the back of a phone book –remember those?
Updating your maps is as simple as asking questions: Check in with your partner about their personal goals. Ask them what they’re struggling with right now. Find out if chocolate is still their favourite flavour of ice cream.
Make your Love Maps as detailed as possible. It shows your partner how deeply you know them, and how much they mean to you.
#3. Don’t assume you know your partner
Hang on a sec. Didn’t we just say you should get to know your partner’s Love Maps? That we should know what makes them tick?
Yes. And… leave room for mystery. For interest, for awe, and wonder.
Assuming you know everything about your partner can make them seem… boring. It’s also kind of an insult. Think of it this way: You’re a deeply complex, rich, and fascinating human. And how awful does it feel when someone behaves as if they’ve got you all figured out? It’s patronising at best, and dehumanising at worst.
Luckily, the antidote is simple: curiosity.
Be curious about your partner. Recognise that they too are growing and changing all the time. That their answer to a question today may not be the same tomorrow.
Approach them with fresh eyes and a sense of newness and discovery. Let yourself be surprised by them. Open to the possibility that there’s still more to learn and deeper to go. That’s when your connection becomes boundless.
#4. Negative visualisation
This ancient Stoic technique is used to cultivate deep fulfilment and joy, no matter the external circumstances. Instead of keeping you stuck on the never-ending treadmill of wanting more, negative visualisation helps you to want what you already have.
You can use it to make yourself more appreciative of just about anything: your body, your job, and yep, your relationship. Here’s how it works:
Spend time each day reflecting on what your life would be like without your partner in it. Imagine they were in a tragic accident and you never saw them again. (Yeah it gets a little dark here, but bear with us).
Think of all the beautiful little things you’d miss about them. Some of them are probably the very things that drive you kinda crazy right now.
Are your lives in any way entwined, whether through kids or business or money or running the household? Contemplate how much more challenging all that would become without them by your side. Not to mention the sheer grief their absence would bring.
Yeah. Right in the feels.
And now when you realise they’re still alive, what do you want to say to them? What experiences do you want to share? What are you suddenly inspired to prioritise? Do you notice arguments, or seemingly insurmountable differences, suddenly fall away? What no longer seems so important?
This exercise is the opposite of complacency. It helps you put things into perspective, see each other clearly, and focus on what really matters. Life is short. Don’t waste a moment of it taking each other for granted.
You don’t have to spend long in the personal development world to know that gratitude is soooo hot right now. And for good reason. Gratitude is like a magical cure-all for all the low vibe feels. From jealousy and pettiness, to entitlement and Complainy-Pants Syndrome.
And yep, you guessed it. It works magic for your relationship too.
It’s simple enough to do; just focus on what you appreciate about your partner and your relationship. Do it enough and it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. The more you focus on what you appreciate, the more love and gratitude you cultivate.
You can speak it, write it, think it, sing it, sign it – it doesn’t matter. But to double down on the effects, try sharing your appreciation with your partner, out loud. That way they know how much they mean to you, and that they’re not being taken for granted.
And really – who ever tires of hearing how awesome they are?
Don’t let the simplicity of this one fool you. It’s one of the practices that we come back to over and over again. Because appreciation saves lives and saves relationships.
Your relationship has the potential to be one of the most fulfilling things you ever create in your life – but not it you’re complacent. Thriving, deeply connected relationships take conscious care and effort. But that doesn’t have to be hard work.
It’s the simple, everyday things that make the difference. And that all starts with a choice. Complacency is an attitude. Choose wonder, love, excitement, and appreciation instead.
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