“When we first started dating, everything was exciting. You know-new. The emotional and physical sparks were undeniable. We could talk for hours, and the sex.wow. Now that we’ve been married for ten years, things just aren’t the same. We still love each other, of course. But the romance? I guess there’s just not much time for it anymore.”

I can almost see you nodding your head as you read this person’s story. Maybe you have been married for two, ten, or twenty years. If you feel the romantic spark dimming in your marriage, you are far from alone. In my practice, I meet couples every week who are looking to strengthen the intimacy in their relationship.

I want to share 3 ideas that you can use immediately. Imagine that-as early as TODAY, you can bring romance and true closeness back into your marriage.

Let’s get started.

Don’t Let the To-Do List Ruin Your Romance

“Sure, it would be great to have candlelit dinners and weekend getaways. But we both just have so much to do. There’s work, and then errands. There’s picking up the kids from school and cleaning the house. We’re too busy to be romantic.”

Does this sound familiar to you? This is where so many couples go off track. I understand how easy it is for you to get so caught up in the mundane – in the chores and the to-do lists – that you forget one of your most important tasks: growing your relationship. You forget to nurture each other.

When you married one another, you agreed to be partners, friends, and lovers for life. Too often, people expect that to happen or continue automatically like when you were dating. And, when it doesn’t, the disappointed person might start thinking that the marriage was a mistake. Being partners, best friends, and lovers for life takes continuing attention to your spouse and your relationship. Yet, somehow it can get overshadowed by attending PTA meetings or picking up the dry-cleaning.

I hear people say things like, “My husband never helps me make dinner, even though I work all day, too.” Or: “My wife is so focused on the kids that she rarely acts affectionate toward me.”

Here’s what each person is really saying: “I don’t feel special in this relationship.”

This is why I encourage you to think about how you can make your spouse feel special in your eyes. And guess what? It doesn’t take a candlelit dinner or a weekend getaway to make that person feel special. Here are 3 things you can do right away:

1. Help with a chore – You express love and a commitment to partnership when you help your spouse with a chore. This is particularly true when you help a spouse with a chore that is not usually “your domain.” For example, if your wife always cleans up the kitchen alone, offer to wash while she dries.

2. Share a quiet moment – Have 30 minutes? Sit on the porch with your spouse and share a glass of wine. This time belongs exclusively to the two of you. Talk, hold hands, and just enjoy each other’s company. If not 30 minutes, how about 15 or even 10 minutes? Frequency is also important-sometimes moreso than the duration of a single time.

3. Plan and carry out a one-on-one activity – Again, this doesn’t need to be anything elaborate. In fact, a great one-on-one activity could be as simple as going to the grocery store together. You’ll talk on the way there, and you’ll talk on the way back. Have the intention of making the activity special for each of you.

Bring Sensitivity to the Bedroom

“We’ve done this so many times. Sex used to be really exciting, but to be honest, now it feels like just part of the routine. Sometimes I just want to do it, get it over with, and move on to something else.”

Sex is one of the most extraordinary human experiences. Yet when you have been with your partner for many years, you might have let it become routine experience. Same day of the week, same time of day, same duration, same position. Somehow, intimacy becomes boring.

Don’t let this happen to you. When you and your spouse are intimate, your first priority should be to make him or her feel special. Sex is NOT about “we’ve done this so many times” or “I’ll just take care of my bodily needs.” It IS about making your spouse feel better, making her or him feel loved and desired.

Responding to your spouse’s needs also means understanding the changes his or her body undergoes. Here are three bodily (and life!) changes that require sensitivity and attention:

1. Growing older – As you age, your sexual interest and energy undergoes changes. For example, it is unfair and unrealistic to expect your 60-year-old husband to have the same sexual appetite he had when he was 25. As a loving spouse, you must be willing to adapt to these inevitable changes.

2. Being pregnant – In the past week alone, I’ve had two couples talk to me about issues of intimacy during pregnancy. In both cases, the husband did not approach the wife sexually while she was pregnant. Nine months is a long time to go without intimacy! And it’s a particularly stressful time for the woman, who is undergoing significant physical and hormonal changes.

Most women question their attractiveness during pregnancy. The woman sometimes becomes self-conscious about the shape of her body. For these reasons, pregnant women need particular attention and particular care. Pregnant wives need to know that their husbands are truly attracted to them. Continued intimacy is a way of expressing that attraction.

3.Becoming ill – Sometimes, a physical illness can prevent couples from having sex for weeks or even months. But even when physical intimacy is impossible, you should continue to be attentive to your spouse’s needs. Offer a back rub. Do everything you can to make him or her comfortable.

Remember: you are committed to being friends and family for life. Live this commitment by taking care of your spouse in a way that makes him or her feel special.

Keep Romance Alive Even After Children Arrive

Most males are good dads. But there is a small group of men who are stuck in the maturation process. A man in this group still needs the majority of his wife’s time and attention. When he doesn’t get that, he acts out, even reverting to childlike behaviors: acting sulky, jealous, and cranky.

To those men, I offer one simple instruction: Grow up.

Being a husband and a father means acting maturely and adapting to change. I recently worked with a couple experiencing strain over this very issue. The wife worked full-time, in addition to taking care of the children and the household chores. The husband had more free time yet contributed little in the way of help-yet he complained that his wife did not “take the time” to be with him.

If you are in a similar situation, consider this: Helping your spouse is an act of love. Romance comes in many forms. Sure, there are flowers and chocolates. But there are also acts of sensitivity and compassion: getting up with the baby so your wife can sleep, offering to cook dinner after she has had a long day at work, bathing the kids so she can just curl up and read a book.

When you help your spouse in this way, you’re rebuilding romance. Helping with one chore may not immediately get you the affection or attention you crave, but you are getting the process started. You are showing your love for your spouse. That is one of the most important and rewarding things anyone can do.

Have you tried putting romance back into your marriage? I would love to hear about methods that have worked for you. Join the conversation by clicking the “Comments” link below this post.

Wishing you hope and healing for your marriage,

Stephanie Anderson

Editor-in-Chief

Marriage Sherpa

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