How to Keep the Passion in Your Marriage

Experts say the first two years of marriage are crucial for building skills to carry you past the inevitable disappointments

Experts say the first two years of marriage are crucial for building skills to carry you past the inevitable disappointments ahead when the sizzle of passion cools. We’re happy to report that this work is fun, loving, romantic, and sexy.

Anthropologists say the short-lived infatuation of passion is merely Mother Nature’s way of ensuring the survival of the species. Luckily, it also provides a template for lifelong marriage. “Find a way to put all that passion in a bottle,” suggests marriage and sex therapist Pat Love, Ed.D., author of Hot Monogamy and the Truth About Love. “Keep a journal and write it all down. Take pictures. Save receipts and silly trinkets. Really record it so that you can remember it and bring it back later on.”

Too many couples switch into old-married-couple roles once they’ve unpacked their honeymoon luggage. They want to get down to tasks like getting the bathroom painted and choosing a color scheme for the kitchen. “They’ve got checklists and lots of unromantic plans, but I think a lot of that can wait,” Dr. Love notes. “This is a stage where you should really enjoy romance. It’s free right now. Later on, you’ll have to really work at it.”

So buy or decorate a pretty box and keep mementos — in later years, they’ll have the power to drop you back through time to the feelings that ran high on the day you ate that custard at the lake, had dinner at the little Italian place on a side street, or walked through the park during a
twilight snowstorm. One woman interviewed for this book experienced this delicious time warp while cleaning out the basement with her husband. “We were moving boxes, throwing old trash away, when suddenly, my husband opened a file folder and pulled out the receipt from the first time we’d rented a cottage together by the Chesapeake Bay in Chincoteague, Virginia. It was the trip where we told each other we loved each other for the first time. I stood in my dirty old basement and cried in his arms — happy to remember it and happy he’d quietly saved the memory!”

Romantic remembrances aren’t just a girl thing. Guys can — and should — be collectors too. “When I interviewed couples for one of my books, there wasn’t one man who said he didn’t love romance,” Dr. Love says. “All the women liked it, but the men said they didn’t get very much of it. They wanted more!”

Why it’s worth bottling up as many memories as possible: This time is packed with relationship-enhancing behaviors that happen naturally right now. Later, you may have to remember to treat your partner this well. Reminders from this period of your love can reignite romance, passion, and closeness. They can also inspire you to perform more of these relationship-building acts, Dr. Love says, such as affectionate touching, flirting, laughing, playing, supporting and appreciating each other, feeling positive about your future together, and giving each other the benefit of the doubt.

1. Frame your wedding vows. Whether you wrote your own; agreed to love, honor, and respect using the traditional vows of your faith; or were married by a justice of the peace, your wedding vows are your promise to each other — they recall the moment you made your “forever and ever” pledge. Hire a calligrapher or use one of the fancy typefaces on your computer to create a beautiful, frame-worthy version of your vows. Hang it proudly in your bedroom, the foyer of your home, or another place of honor.

2. Show off your bouquet. Hang your flowers upside down in a dry, dark place for two weeks after the wedding. Display in a china closet or under a glass dome: Dried flowers are lovely but fragile. Or ask your florist in advance to freeze-dry your bouquet so that it looks nearly as colorful as it did on your wedding day.

3. Finish your wedding album! If you haven’t finalized your album yet, or didn’t use a photographer who assembles an album for you, now’s the time to get organized. Dedicate a weekend — or the evenings of a week — to sorting and choosing wedding photos for a simple album. Pick your favorite shot of the two of you and order a large copy (we like 8 x 10s). Hang it in your living room or bedroom.

4. Create a honeymoon shadow box. Assemble all the odds and ends you probably collected on your honeymoon — the napkin from that romantic spot where you had a glass of wine together, the ticket stubs from the boat ride, postcards, maps, brochures, stones, the flower you plucked on a walk at the botanical garden, the prized recipe a chef never gives away (except to a new bride like you!). Purchase a shadow box and double-sided tape at a craft store. Create a pretty collage you’ll always love.

5. Turn minutiae into a montage. You’ve got your embossed wedding napkin, your invitation, the receipt for the cake, the wedding program, the cake-topper, the groom’s bow tie (which he’ll never wear again), the pearl-and-crystal clip you wore in your hair, and a copy of the sheet music for the song the harpist played as you marched down the aisle. Arrange these memories inside a large shadow box for a pretty way to relive your wedding day whenever you like.

6. Go candid. Find the most beautiful, artistic, spontaneous snapshot from your honeymoon. Have it enlarged (8 x 10 is perfect) and framed.

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Originally Published in Reader's Digest