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Keep Those Romantic Feelings Coming
Has your love lost its spark? Discover seven ways to inject excitement and romance back into your marriage.

Are the grouches in your life getting to you? You know the kind—they quote that old saying: "Love is blind but marriage restores its sight." You ignore these people, but quietly wonder if they're right. After being married for so long, has the romance started to fizzle? How will you keep the momentum going in your relationship? Is the excitement over?

Staying in love is a commitment to action.

It takes skill to settle in, without settling out. Couples who keep warm, romantic feelings aflame understand that being in love is a state of mind—it's yours if you want it. Staying in love isn't artificial emotional hype, but a commitment to action.

Here are a few strategies to help you maintain that "forever in love" mentality.

1) Remember when … "Never forget why you fell in love," suggests New York psychologist Arlene Kagle. Was it her witty comebacks, good manners or insightful comments? Did he show kindness or offer to help you with something? Why did your partner stand out from the rest?

Sharon and Keith like to leaf through pictures of their dating days. They remind Sharon of how impressed she was with Keith's broad football shoulders. She laughs when she remembers how Keith pretended to be so relaxed when he first met her father.

Meg, a marketing director, approaches her husband, Jon, using her career skills. "At work I examine everything for its selling points—so I even made a list of Jon's good qualities. For example, he's always willing to listen to me when I have a problem. Throughout our dating and married life, he's been my best friend. He even listens and then gives advice about how to handle him! Who could beat that?"

Both of these couples focus on the positive, which Kagle says is important. They don't ask: "Is that all there is?" They ask: "Isn't it wonderful that I come home to someone who cares about me?"

2) Assume a playful attitude. Sharon watches for the mischievous glint in Keith's eye that warns her he's about to flick her with a wet towel. They both relish the back and forth banter that gets them through the morning bathroom rush.

But is humour only an empty ploy? "Sitting around and laughing is an important part of marriage," says psychologist Eleanor Paradise. "It bonds people together because we like to be with people we have fun with. Joking is a subtle way to tell people we like them."

Instead of complaining about work throughout dinner, Sharon and Keith poke fun at their work day routines. "All day we make mental notes of odd things to share such as The Far Side cartoons, unusual telephone calls and embarrassing moments. This has built up a reservoir of inside jokes to fall back on when life gets dull."

Tender feelings simmer between Jon and Meg as they exchange greeting cards. "We have fun hunting for just the right ones," says Meg. "In our case, the wrong card is even better," Jon remarks. "I send Meg birthday and anniversary cards throughout the year. It's so absurd that it distracts us from our task-oriented lives."

3) Let the dates continue. Couples should date at least once a month, according to Palma Garbo, a marriage therapist in Los Angeles. "Set aside time to be together without friends around. Do whatever you did when you were first dating. It can be as simple as riding bikes or walking hand-in-hand.

Tricia and Gordon set aside a few hours every weekend and take turns planning it. They don't tell each other what's up until the appointed hour. One time Gordon surprised Tricia by re-enacting their ultimate cheap date in college: they bought hamburgers and parked near the airport to watch jets take off into the twilight.

Leisure time together promotes honest communication, says marriage therapist Madelon Dribble. "This is the best source of good feelings. Allow yourselves to unleash who you are as persons. Talk to your mate about your feelings, dreams and desires."

4) Give lovemaking the place it deserves. It's easy to let the routine of jobs, housekeeping and meetings de-prioritize sex. "If you only make love late at night, it's hard to put energy into it," says Paradise. "Try to set aside some time when you feel energetic. I also advise couples to take turns initiating both lovemaking itself and specific practices that they like. People lose their sense of their own desire when one does all the initiating. You don't want partners to settle into active and passive roles."

Are prearranged schedules a good idea for busy couples? "It depends," says Paradise. "It seems like a contradiction because you're ordering yourself to be spontaneous, but if you can't find the time, try it."

Tricia and Gordon, who both work full-time and attend school at night, set aside Thursday evening as a sure thing every week. "It sounds crazy, but schedules work for us," confesses Tricia. "We look forward to Thursdays and tease each other about it."

Leisure time together promotes honest communication.

5) Talk out your hurts. Maintaining emotional realness keeps intimacy alive. "As the relationship continues," says therapist Dribble, "couples sometimes hide their hurts and criticisms. They don't want to rock the boat. But when they hold back parts of themselves, life becomes routine. As couples talk about their hurts and resolve them, the realness returns."

When sharing negative feelings, it's wise to search for solutions instead of blaming a spouse. Sharon admits that she used to say things such as: "You're ignoring me the way my dad used to ignore my mom." Now she says: "I'm feeling dry. What can we do to make our relationship more exciting?"

6) Fake it till you make it. When there's no major problem but you feel a little stale, try doing the opposite of what you feel. Give of yourself. "I like the term 'give to get,'" says Kagle. "We act from the better parts of ourselves and reach out to the other person. This isn't insincere. We're simply attempting to love our spouses consistently. We may not love them every moment and we may not love everything they do, but we still love them. We help our feelings match that consistency."

That's the paradox of it all. When you think of the other person first and attempt to create warm feelings within him or her, you create them within yourself.

7) Keep Christ at the centre of your relationship. Marriage is a spiritual bond. Take time to pray and read the Bible together in whatever way works best for you as a couple. It has often been said: "The couple that prays together stays together." Seek God's blessing and guidance in your marriage. Stay connected to a church where you can receive support from other Christians. Enrolling in a Christian marriage retreat or seminar can also help you reconnect with God and each other. Look to God as the true source of love in your relationship.

Jan Johnson … Her website is

Originally published in Faith & Friends, February 2004.




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