One of the challenges of even the strongest long-term relationship is the difficulty in keeping things fresh and new. We are creatures of habit, developing routines that work for us without our having to think about it. It allows us to move through fast-paced lives without having to make every little decision on a daily basis. We don’t want to stop and think about which sock to put on first, which way to drive to work, what kind of gas to put in our car, how to stack the dishwasher or fold our clothes.
Habits make life so much more simple that it frees up our energies to confront the big decisions and problems we have to face. However, habits also distance us from what we do because our mind is not engaged, When someone else points out that we “always” do something a certain way, we are amazed because we are unaware. Once we’ve moved beyond the adolescent and young adult experimentation phase, we tend to fall into the rut of wearing our hair a certain way, how we put on our makeup, the kind of television shows we watch, the choice of foods we eat, and the lifestyle we pursue.
That is why the sneaky marketing men aim their message at young age groups who are the ones most likely to try something different. The size and the purchasing power of the baby boomers may be extraordinarily large but they are seldom targeted by major advertising campaigns because they are comfortable with the choices they have made and are unlikely to really hear messages about alternatives in which they have little interest.
Within our lasting relationships, we also fall into habits. They range from unwavering go-to-bed-at-night and get-up-in-the-morning routines to the day of the week we go out, the restaurants we frequent, and the way we communicate (or fail to communicate) with each other. We are so used to being around our partner that, despite the affection we may feel, we stop seeing each other with the wonder and appreciation we felt in those first heady months.
Shaking up our lives by dumping old habits can make us feel younger and alive. Changing our appearance, even a few times a month, makes us look at each other through new eyes and makes us focus on each other in a different way.
Women can more easily and radically change their looks because female hairstyles are so much more varied than those of men. A wig (or several), in a totally different color, with appropriate makeup adjustments, can affect your response to each other. A man can temporarily grow a moustache, a beard, or sideburns, and elicit new attention from his surprised wife. An outrageous new piece of clothing for a special date can transform your interaction with each other.
Many of us love costume parties whether something dramatic at Halloween or an only-black-and-white graphics event or a get together with friends wearing the clothes we loved in high school.
Be creative! If you usually dine out in business attire, get some cowboy gear and go to a western saloon for some line dancing. If your usual night out is at a bowling alley, dress to the nines and have a drink at the most expensive hotel in your area, rubbing shoulders with the movers and shakers. Try a latino nightclub, hot dogs on the pier, or drinks with fruit and little umbrellas at a sushi bar. Dress in your skuzziest clothes and visit a luxury car showroom to laugh at the consternation you cause. Use that tux you rented for your niece’s wedding when you visit the local pizza parlor and see the buzz you create.
The city of Las Vegas has a wonderful ad campaign about “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.” It speaks to our desire to do something totally different and outrageous to escape the paralyzing pastry of our normalcy – but with the assurance that we can return without ill effects, no burned bridges forcing permanent change.
Shaking up our appearance can shake up our partner and our mutual interactions. Do it for the excitement and do it for the fun. As another ad campaign suggests, “Just do it.”