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If you have put your relationship on hold, or are neglecting it entirely, it’s time to change – for your health’s sake.

I have heard many people retort that once careers or child rearing is out of the way, their relationship will be given time and priority. However, research suggests that delaying a relationship rescue, or accepting that it is in a rut, may reduce the likelihood it will be rekindled. I recently worked with a man planning his late retirement when his wife said, “It’s too late” and left after 40 years of marriage. If the spark has gone, you have grown apart, or the relationship has become more transactional rather than relational, it might be time for a reboot.

Relationships change over time and it is necessary to put its age and stage into perspective. Interestingly, as relationships mature, different parts of the brain are involved.

Although different researchers report variability in the number of stages, broadly speaking there is the initial intense spark of desire that is unsustainable and becomes replaced by emotional intimacy as we grow to “know” our partners deeply. This internalisation of the other (a psychological term) describes how we incorporate our partner into our own identity, understanding how they may think, feel, behave, and so on.

Between the initial frisson and the later rich intimate relationship are other stages and, importantly, as people change, so do their relationships and what they need from them.

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