A funny thing happened when Kimberly and Gary Jordan made a conscious effort to put their marriage first. They felt happier. And their sons, Isaiah and Zachary, loved it. “I really had to get my bearings with this,” says Kimberly. “I wasn’t quite sure we’d gotten the balance of romance and family right until I saw our boys respond so well. It brings a sense of stability and joy. They’re very interested in where we go for our dates and what we do together. When we haven’t gone out for a while, they tell us it’s time for a date! They love it when we kiss and hug too. And my youngest son says he cannot wait to get married! I think we’ve shown them a very positive view of marriage!”
The Jordans have regular dates several times each month. They take turns setting up their outings, often surprising each other with trips to unexpected restaurants. “We don’t want to grow apart and then have to rediscover each other during the empty-nest years,” notes Gary. “If we continue to nurture our marriage along the way, we’ll be stronger for it and so will our children. They’ll grow up seeing what a loving, committed, secure marriage looks like.”
Keeping romance alive in the Cooperation stage takes a little planning and a lot of ingenuity. Kids, work, community activities, and the temptation to take your spouse for granted after all these years together work against the sense of the sparkly, I-only-have-eyes-for-you excitement you both need.
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[step-item number=”1.” image_url=”” title=”Schedule regular date nights.” ] In the first year after their son Zachary was born, the Jordans went out just twice. “I was more vocal about wanting us to spend time alone together, but Kimberly couldn’t seem to leave her little bitty baby,” says Gary. Agrees Kimberly: “I was very focused on Zach the first year. He went everywhere with us. But by the time our second son, Isaiah, came along 20 months later, I was more relaxed. And I realized my husband was still there — and he needed my attention. I needed his too.” Now the Jordans date several times a month, even if it’s just a trip to a local bookstore for a cup of coffee, a chat, and time to browse the shelves. “We need our time alone,” Kimberly says. “It’s a gift to be able to let my husband know he’s still so special to me, that he’s number one!”[/step-item]
[step-item number=”2.” image_url=”” title=”Ask early and often: Do you feel loved?” ] Don Howard and his wife, Teresa Titus-Howard, of Blue Springs, Missouri, randomly ask each other, “How’s your love tank?” throughout the week. “We want to know if each other’s love tank — how loved we feel — is full, half-full, or getting near empty,” says Teresa. “And we do things for each other to keep our tanks filled up. It could be a card or an e-mail, a hug or a kiss. It’s a quick, simple way to feel close and very, very happy with each other.” The Howards aren’t shy about sharing when their tanks are dangerously low, either. “One day Teresa left me a voice mail at work, saying her love tank was pretty low. I got her a dozen roses and a card,” Don says. “It’s good that we do this — I could go on thinking things are just fine when my partner needs something. And I don’t take it personally. Other things in her life could be draining her sense of being loved, such as the stresses of work or graduate school.”[/step-item][/step-list-wrapper]