5 Effective Ways To Avoid Complacency in a Relationship

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Let’s cut straight to the point: complacency in a relationship is a death trap. And unfortunately for most couples, the warning signs are all too familiar:

  • Taking each other for granted.
  • Not bothering to say thank you.
  • Putting in effort for quality connection time with your friends, but not your partner.

Getting complacent in a relationship is easy to do, because essentially it’s about doing nothing. And we all find it super easy to do nothing.

Obviously, ‘doing nothing’ is damaging to a relationship. Not exactly rocket science, right?

But here’s the irony of complacency that no one talks about – it comes from a good place:

Complacency in a relationship reflects feeling so satisfied and secure that you think you don’t need to try any harder. That your relationship is healthy and functioning, so it’s OK to set it to Cruise Control.

Complacency can also be a good indication that you feel emotionally safe with one another.

Which is lovely and romantic… if it wasn’t also such a death sentence.

couple complacent in a relationship
The unfortunate reality is that complacency in a relationship is a long, slow, waltz into toxic resentment.

It’s where you start bickering about the stupid stuff. Like whose turn it is to empty the dishwasher. Or what to watch on Netflix. (Seriously, why is it so hard?)

It’s like the gears have run out of grease, so you’re grinding and grating on each other – but not in a sexy way.

We call it ‘not-fun friction’.

In case it’s not abundantly clear by now: don’t get complacent in your relationship!

Easier said than done?

If you wanna know how to avoid complacency in a relationship, we got you covered with five simple ways to kick it to the ‘curb.

woman in yellow top balancing on tightrope

how to avoid complacency in a relationship #1:

Kick Your Own Ass

There’s a time for kicking back and sipping cocktails, and there’s a time for kicking your own ass. If you suspect that complacency has crept into your relationship, guess what?

It’s time for butt-kicking.

This 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 both words and actions?

Of course, there’s always excuses available: “I’m stressed”, “I don’t have time”, “I’m a special snowflake”. But at the end of the day, you just gotta do the thing and make the effort.

If you’re not sure where to start, you could simply ask your partner:

“What can I do to help you feel more loved and appreciated?”

Yup, it might feel a little vulnerable. It might even take some extra effort. But the survival of your relationship depends on it.

➥ Discover the proven practices to reignite connection and create soul-deep intimacy with our online emotional intimacy course for couples.

how to avoid complacency in a relationship #2:

Update Your ‘Love Maps’

Relationship researchers Drs. John & Julie Gottman talk about Love Maps as the part of your brain that keeps track of your partner.

Not in a creepy stalker kind of way. Rather, their favourite foods, their dreams and aspirations, what they’re struggling with at work.

Basically everything that makes up their personal world.

couple driving yellow scooter down road

Thriving, happy couples are constantly updating these Love Maps – just like updating your GPS. Whereas complacent couples are walking around with an old-school paper map from the back of a phone book. (Yeah, 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.

Essentially, you want to make your Love Maps as detailed as possible. It shows your partner how deeply you know them, and how much they mean to you.

frog candy on yellow background

how to avoid complacency in a relationship #3:

Don’t Assume You Know Your Partner

Wait a minute. Didn’t we just say you should get to know your partner? That you want a detailed understanding of what really makes them tick?


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 insulting.

Think of it this way: You’re a deeply complex, rich and fascinating human. 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.

Fortunately, the antidote is simple:


Be genuinely curious about your partner. Recognise that just like you, they’re growing and changing all the time too. 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.

To avoid complacency in your relationship, open to the possibility that there’s still more to learn and deeper to go. That’s when your connection becomes truly boundless.

busy couple struggling with work life balance

how to avoid complacency in a relationship #4:

Negative Visualisation

Yeah, you read that right.

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 always 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.

To combat complacency in a 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 stay with us).

Think of all the beautiful things you’d miss about them. (Some of them may be 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 that would become without them by your side.

Not to mention the sheer grief their absence would bring.

Yeah. Right in the feels.

Now, when you realise they’re still here, what do you want to say to them?

  • What experiences do you want to share?
  • What are you suddenly inspired to prioritise?
  • What 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.

couple relaxing with books on hammock

how to avoid complacency in a relationship #5:


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 yep, you guessed it – complacency in a relationship.

It’s simple enough to do: focus your attention on what you appreciate about your partner and your relationship.

Do it enough and it becomes 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.

Because 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 in our couple’s coaching work, and in our own relationship.

The simple truth is: appreciation saves lives, and it 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 biggest difference. And that all starts with a choice. Complacency in a relationship is an attitude. You get to choose wonder, love and excitement instead.

(Originally published in  complacency in a relationship  magazine.)

If sex is a problem in your relationship, and you want to get the passion and intimacy back, check out our complete how-to guide to help you reignite your love life.

Ready to take your marriage to the next level? Check out these 11 conscious marriage goals for a stronger relationship.

Jodie Milton & Reece Stockhausen, Relationship & Intimacy Experts @ practicalintimacy.com

Jodie Milton & Reece Stockhausen have made improving people’s lives and relationships both their passion, and their career. With over 25 years experience in the Personal Development industry, and a decade coaching singles and couples, their no-BS advice has been featured in Today, The New York Times, Yahoo!, Insider, Cosmopolitan, and Men's Health.

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