“Love is like a campfire: It may be sparked quickly, and at first the kindling throws out a lot of heat, but it burns out quickly. For long lasting, steady warmth (with delightful bursts of intense heat from time to time), you must carefully tend the fire.” ~ Molleen Matsumura
No matter how perfectly matched you are with your partner, there will be a time when the romance wanes. I recall always hearing stories about the “5 year itch” – a term used to describe when married couples reach an inflection point. Each time I heard about this “itch” I completely dismissed it as a real possibility for my wife and me. After all, we were the “perfect couple” (aligned values, rarely fought, passionate). Then, in what felt like an outer body experience, there my wife and I were in years 5 and 7 of our marriage going through what felt like hurricane Katrina.
I’m happy to tell you we survived (we recently celebrated 12 years of marriage) and in many ways are stronger and better connected than ever. The lessons I learned can be applied to any couple (married or not) seeking to regain that spark. The following 8 methods will help you to regain the romance in your relationship.
1) Evaluate Values
I often talk about the importance of aligned values when searching for the “perfect partner” – the same concept applies to maintaining interest in a lover, long-term. When two people grow apart, typically what’s happening is the values they originally shared, are no longer aligned. Now I’m not saying that when the romance in the relationship fades, it’s due to growing apart, but this topic of ‘misaligned values’ must be visited. It’s unhealthy to pursue “romantic enhancement tactics” if your values are out of sync – that’s like handing someone a Band-Aid for a broken arm.
2) Identify Love Language and Deliver It
This is an important step but rarely executed. Dr. Gary Chapman’s “Five Love Languages” book really should be required reading for everyone interested in having a romantic relationship. The book describes the various love languages we all ‘speak.’ Knowing your partner’s love language is fundamental in a relationship because while you can love someone with every fiber in your body, unless you are conveying that love in a way they can understand it, they’ll never truly feel loved (and desired).
3) Be Adventurous
This is one area that the biological research is clear. Doing novel things together, as a couple, will increase dopamine levels in the brain. Romantic connection is largely connected with dopamine, a chemical known to affect emotions. Unique activities include everything from trying new restaurants, taking up a new hobby or traveling to a destination you have never been together. For a major dose of dopamine, add a new position or location to your sex life.
“Don’t start nothin’ you ain’t willin to maintain” is another bit of brilliant pre-marital advice I often heard. Committed relationships require “sticktoitiveness.” When you think back to the beginning of the relationship, there were dates, flowers, appreciation, compliments, sweet gestures and messages. You also most likely touched a lot more. I’m talking about all types of touching – hand holding, hugging, caressing and cuddling, as well as more intimate touch and sex. Bring back those early relationship days by making time for romantic gestures, DAILY. And if you find that you don’t know what to do, don’t be afraid to ask your partner what they need and want.
5) The Element of Surprise
An unexpected gesture or gift is always welcome as long as it is something you know your partner will be interested in (which underscores the importance of listening to them to determine their desires). Don’t you love the look on a loved one’s face when you’ve presented them with something unexpected and kind? There’s almost more enjoyment for you than for the person on the receiving end.
6) “Me” Time
Spending lots of time together is key to maintaining a relationship, but there is such thing as too much of a good thing. Allow yourself and your partner time away to rejuvenate for the sake of the individual and the relationship. This could be a girls night out, regularly scheduled gym activity, or simply curling up in a room with just you and your favorite book. Using this time properly will build up your foundation of appreciation and trust, thus strengthening your bond.
7) Date Night
Maybe you’ve noticed that your schedules are so hectic these days that there’s hardly time to sit at the table together and have breakfast. Just as you make time for important meetings at work, do it at home. Now that my wife and I have a young son, a night out on the town is hard to come by, but we haven’t let that ruin our date night. Instead, our typical date night consists of Red Stripe and a mean game of Boggle – our favorite game!
8) Include a Professional
Therapy is a word that is scary to many couples. However, be aware that counseling does not break couples up or even hold them together. Couples counseling is about helping the couple communicate better and understand what is going on. When it’s just too frightening to even bring issues up — from sex to money, or even annoying little habits that are being blown out of proportion, a therapist’s job is to help the couple become clear about their issues and to help them understand what they are truly talking about.
For discussion: What other ideas do you have on keeping the romance alive?