With vaccinations on the rise, outside is finally beginning to open back up. So, naturally, we’re taking stock of everything in our lives, from our work to our living conditions. And yes — even to our relationships.

These re-evaluations of our romantic relationships are happening worldwide, but the end result isn’t a pretty one. According to the BBC, divorces in the UK spiked by 122 percent from the start of the pandemic. Unfortunately, the US is faring no better: searches for divorce contracts have spiked by 34 percent since the beginning of the pandemic, and similar trends are found in places like China and Sweden.

For Los Angeles-based relationship expert Spicy Mari, the owner, and CEO of The Spicy Life relationship consulting firm who has been featured on shows like Basketball Wives and Don’t Tell The Bride on OWN, this trend is a sad one to see.

“When couples split, it’s not because they don’t love one another anymore,” she said to 21Ninety. “And I’m sure the same can be said in the case of these ‘pandemic-battered’ couples. Instead, couples split for reasons having nothing to do with love and everything to do with things like lack of communication, not arguing constructively, and just lack of ‘spice’ in their love life.”

So, how can “pandemic-battered” couples bring the fun back into their relationship? Spicy Mari shares some of her favorite tips.

TIP NO. 1: INTIMACY ISN’T JUST PHYSICAL

One of the biggest mistakes that couples make, especially the “newer” couples, is that they think sex is the be-all and end-all of a relationship. While regularly having sex is an important aspect of a healthy relationship, it’s not the only way to be intimate with your partner.

“Emotional intimacy is as important, if not more important than physical intimacy,” she said. “Taking the time to really know the ins and outs of your partner, on a deep and real level, is important to keeping your relationship alive.”

And if you’ve been together for a long time, don’t think you automatically know everything there is to know about your better half. “People grow and change over time,” she said. “And it’s important to really understand your partner as you grow together. Having those “check-up” chats, where you really go deep with one another, is essential to getting on the same page.”

TIP NO. 2: DON’T FIGHT DIRTY

Fighting dirty is good in the boardroom and the MMA ring, but fighting dirty in a relationship can be its death knell. “Don’t fight to ‘trigger’ your partner,” she said. “And definitely do not fight with the intention of harming your partner. Taking things too far, especially when you betray your partner’s trust or deliberately say things to hurt them, can cause your relationship to implode. Instead, take 10 minutes, 20 minutes, even an hour away from each other, gather your thoughts — write them down if you have to, and then come back to each other with the intent to solve things. Remember: it’s you and your partner against the problem, not you against your partner.”

TIP NO. 3: PLAY A GAME

Date nights and weekend trips are always good to bring variety back into the relationship, but Spicy Mari says that there’s a game you can play that’s free to play and can go very far with building emotional intimacy.

“Take an empty jar and scraps of paper. And each day, you and your partner write down things like ‘suggestions’ and ‘compliments’ or even a funny inside joke or two,” she said. “And then, once a week, you go through them one by one and talk about them. You’d be amazed how much that builds trust and intimacy — and your relationship.”

TIP NO. 4: IF ALL ELSE FAILS, BRING IN THE TOYS AND THE KINK

“It’s important that you only do what you feel most comfortable with doing, of course,” she said. “But if you and your partner are comfortable, don’t be afraid to explore your kinks and fetishes. Watch some adult movies together and try re-enacting some of the scenes. Introduce a few adult pleasure toys. Indulge in a few fantasies. And if you feel comfortable, start introducing some light BDSM into your sexual routine — a little tickle and spank never hurt anybody!”

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