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Just because you’ve been married or living together for years doesn’t mean that the courtship is over. If your relationship needs a good jump-start, you should (both) read the following:

SPECIAL DATE NIGHTS

Remember what your early days of dating were like?—the planning, the surprises, the dressing up? At least once a month, set aside an evening or weekend that belongs to the two of you alone. No kids, no relatives, no co-workers or friends. Such mini-renewals keep your passion on the front burner, affirming on a continued basis that your soul has indeed found its twin. Curiously, these ongoing “dates” serve a second important purpose: to take the “pressure of perfection” off the really big occasions in couple’s lives. For instance, how many partners have by and large ignored each other for 51 weeks, then taken off for an anniversary in the Hawaiian Islands…only to grouse at each other for seven days because of rainy weather, slow waiters, traffic, indigestion, or incompatible expectations?

DAILY RITUALS

Whether your relationship is still new or you’ve been together a long time, it’s never too late to start incorporating romantic “traditions” in your daily routine. Something as simple as bringing your partner his/her first cup of coffee in the morning or allocating time at the start of each evening to share the events of your respective days can be the emotional “glue” that keeps couples close.

DIVISION OF LABOR

While some couples are comfortable with the notion of gender-specific housework, it should never be assumed that he or she WANTS to do it all the time. You’re sharing a life and a roof together so it only makes sense to share the responsibilities of keeping it all running smoothly. Surprise your husband now and then by taking out the garbage so he can catch the pre-game. Dazzle your wife by loading the dishwasher so she has that much extra time to study for an exam or to pamper herself. The underlying message comes straight from the heart—“I love you and think that your contributions are important. This is my way of letting you know that I’ve noticed.”

FOOTBALL OR OPERA?

Fifty years ago, it was popular advice in women’s magazines that spouses (especially wives) should learn to tolerate their mates’ hobbies or favorite recreational activities. Accordingly, legions of women subjected themselves to the dust and noise of monster car rallies and just as many men suffered through starched shirts and the strains of “La Boheme.” The fact they were spending time together was canceled out by the dismal reality that they weren’t (mutually) enjoying a single second. Instead of “tolerate,” the operative word should have been “respect.” You can certainly express an interest or appreciation of your beloved’s pastime without having to participate. Further, studies have shown that even the most devoted couples need as much quality time apart or with like-minded friends as they do together. This opens the door to even more communication as they talk about—and listen to—each other’s experiences.

WHAT PEOPLE FIGHT ABOUT ISN’T ALWAYS WHAT THEY’RE MAD ABOUT

Four hundred years from now, a lot of things will cease to be important. Truth be told, most of them will lose their significance as little as 40 minutes after they happen. It’s the ones which are kept alive through constant bickering, however, that can lead to the downfall of our closest relationships. Before launching a judgment or criticism, you need to ask yourself just how monumental it is in the big scheme of things. We all have our quirks and idiosyncrasies that drive others crazy—whether or not they continue is predicated on how the subject is broached and whether the partner’s views are respected. How many times, for instance has “You left the toilet seat up” escalated into “You’re a lazy ignoramus who never does anything right.” The crux of such observations is that (1) my mate never listens to me or (2) he or she isn’t doing things my (the correct) way. If it’s a change of behavior you’re seeking or a rekindling of the attentiveness that was once a trademark of your affection, the formula is simple: make sure the number of compliments and praise you give your partner during a day always outnumber the criticisms and fault-finding.

LEARN TO LISTEN AGAIN

It is also essential to resharpen those listening skills that may have fallen by the wayside with the passage of time. Favorite colors, favorite foods, favorite books—we all asked those questions during the initial excitement of new romance, yet how many people forget the answers as soon as they lock down an “I do”? Because of this selective memory loss, they often find themselves clueless when it comes to birthday/anniversary shopping or planning for special occasions. The remedy? Start asking questions again and pay attention to the replies, including those unspoken.

NEVER BUY FLOWERS OR PRESENTS TO APOLOGIZE

No amount of roses can make up for shoddy behavior or cruel words. If you want to make things right again, you need to talk and to commit to addressing the problems which initiated the fight. Nor should lavish purchases ever be viewed as obligations on the part of the giver or expectations on the part of the receiver. To regard roses or gifts in the context of a “debt owed” diminishes not only the individuals but the value of the relationship itself.

AND SPEAKING OF ROSES & CARDS…

Hallmark may have neatly delineated all the occasions that rate a romantic remembrance, but you still have over 300 days to label on your own, dates which are significant only to you and the person you love. Can’t think of one? How about “Just Because”?