Invite Romance Back Into Your Relationship

A funny thing happened when Kimberly and Gary Jordan made a conscious effort to put their marriage first. They felt

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]

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[step-item number=”3.” image_url=”” title=”Do that thing you used to do.” ]
Revive the pastimes the two of you loved best during your courtship days or early marriage. Pull out the music you enjoyed together and dance in the dining room. Go canoeing. Play Scrabble. Wear your sexiest lingerie under a dress when you go out to dinner — and let him know. Eat Chinese food in bed. Have bread, cheese, wine, and kisses by the fire.[/step-item]

[step-item number=”4.” image_url=”” title=”Got kids? Get a babysitter.” ] A calm, mature, trustworthy babysitter is worth her — or his — weight in gold. And finding one can be as challenging as prospecting for that precious metal. Ask neighbors, friends, and relatives for leads or contact the local chapter of the American Red Cross for ways to find graduates of the organization’s babysitting classes. Nervous? Test-drive a new sitter by letting her or him care for your child for an hour or two while you’re nearby in the house or the yard. Branch out the next time to a short foray away from home. Find out what the local pay rate is; once you’ve got a solid relationship with a great sitter, reward them and cement your relationship by paying a bit more than the going rate. Even better than one babysitter: Develop a stable of two or three to boost your odds that one will be available when you need a date night.[/step-item]

[step-item number=”5.” image_url=”” title=”Get away for the night … or the weekend … or the whole week.” ] Quiet sex is okay. So is afternoon sex or sex when the kids are out for the evening. But nothing beats unhurried, loud, whenever-you-want-it sex, followed by a cuddle, a nap, a shower, more lovemaking, a wonderful walk. For this luxury of uninterrupted time, you need to get away — or find a trusted friend, relative, or overnight camp so that the kids can get away. “We went to Florida last December for a running and walking marathon event,” Don Howard says. “It was exciting and really helped our marriage. I was amazed by how that weekend, just two nights alone together, really recharged us.”[/step-item]

[step-item number=”6.” image_url=”” title=”Date at home.” ] Don’t overlook pockets of child-free time at home. Instead of watching TV, doing the dishes, or catching up on e-mail, use the hour or two while your baby naps or your older child is at school or an after-school event to get together with your spouse. Or take advantage of the natural shift in your teenager’s sleep pattern (they go to bed later and wake up later). Enjoy a Saturday morning date while your teen snoozes.   What to do on your time together? Make love. Have lunch together and ban talk about the kids, the house, and the finances. After your kids go to sleep, slip out to the deck or patio for a glass of wine and a little stargazing. “One of the best things we devised when our children were at home was the home date,” says Susan Vogt. “We’d strategize ways to be really awake after they all went to bed. Sometimes we’d take turns taking naps during the day so we wouldn’t be too exhausted to make love. As our children grew older, the trick was figuring out how to have the whole date before they got home from their activities in the evening!”[/step-item][/step-list-wrapper]

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[step-item number=”7.” image_url=”” title=”Date on the cheap.” ]
Paying a babysitter $4 to $10 an hour can turn any date into a major financial outlay. Consider it a fixed expense and cut costs elsewhere by making the date inexpensive or even free. The Vogts took picnics to a local park and enjoyed the view of the lights coming on at dusk in Cincinnati, just across the Ohio River. They’d also surprise each other with romantic, offbeat dates; one of their most memorable involved driving to the local airport for an hour of people-watching. You could hike; bike; window-shop; swim at the local pool, lake, or beach; or even go sledding or skating in winter.[/step-item]

[step-item number=”8.” image_url=”” title=”Expand your definition of a date.” ] Dressing up for a candlelit dinner is just one option. The true criterion for a date? Anything that lets you focus on each other. That could be weeding the garden while you chat amiably, a weeklong trip to Bermuda, or 10 minutes over morning coffee. Research shows that while women tend to want more conversation with their mates, men would like to do something together. Find the happy medium: Combine the two in a fun activity that allows you the freedom to talk at the same time.[/step-item]

[step-item number=”9.” image_url=”” title=”Keep it romantic and fun.” ] Resist the urge to settle relationship issues or hash out problems with finances, kids, the house, or the cars. For busy Cooperation stage couples, it’s tempting to use any scrap of free time together to tick something else off your endless to-do list. Don’t do it! Remind yourself that this is sacred couple time. Laugh. Play. Find out how each of you is really doing emotionally. Connect. The to-do list can wait.[/step-item][/step-list-wrapper]

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Originally Published in Reader's Digest