The minister who performed the ceremony for our wedding six years ago required all couples to take counseling sessions with her before their big day. So my guy and I did – we took personality tests, talked about our approaches to solving conflict and our plans for the future, and we got a lecture on the importance of “feeding the tree.” At the time, we giggled, thinking we were getting sex advice from a seemingly asexual woman of the cloth. But “feeding the tree,” she explained, was about treating our relationship with care, nourishing it, so that it could grow sturdy roots, limbs, and leaves. Kind of a hokey metaphor, I know, but, it turns out, that minister gave us the secret to keeping our romance alive …Whenever I realize I’ve been preoccupied with my daily grind, that life is starting to feel routine, that I’m taking our relationship for granted, I think about that “feeding the tree” idea. And I’ve discovered there are a handful of ways– well, besides the obvious (sex) — to re-ignite our fire.
- Write a love letter. Call me a cheeseball, but every now and then I write my husband a letter to tell him what I love about our relationship and to recall some of our favorite memories together. Sure, I could say these things to him, but taking the time to articulate exactly how I feel in a letter feels more accurate and thoughtful — not to mention the note will be there for posterity, to reference on bad days. True story: we found a stack of all the birthday cards my Grandpa B. had ever given my Grandma B. — over 50 cards, from the ’40s through the ’90s — in her bureau after she died. So sweet. Sniff.
- Escape to nature without distractions. Get away from the apartment, your town, anything that reminds you of your never-ending to-do list, as well as all technology while you’re at it (cell phones, Blackberries, etc.), and go for a walk in the park, on a hike, to the beach, or drive through the boonies. Don’t you always feel alive again when you submerge yourself in nature? Well, same goes for your relationship. You both can feel brand-new again, especially when you set out to accomplish something together in the wild — like getting to the top of a hill, rafting down a river, or skiing down a mountain.
- Introduce him to something new that’s cool. In the beginning of our relationship we exposed each other to so many new things — musicians, books, art, clothes, and places. He got me into punk rock, and I got him to like Bob Dylan. It never stops being sexy introducing each other to cool things. Recently, I Netflixed “Harold and Maude,” an old favorite movie of mine, because my husband had never seen it before — I know! Of course, he was enchanted with the movie. And he recently brought home the Sleigh Bells album, which I now dig in a big way.
- Talk about your dreams. A couple’s daily conversations can often get caught up in trivial or boring things – from housekeeping to gossip to the bills to making plans. Asking each other about your dreams, fantasies, and hopes really opens up the door for an inspiring conversation. Some questions to try: What would you do if you won the lottery? Where would you go on that dream vacation? What kind of job do you wish you had?
- Try out each other’s hobbies. If you usually roll your eyes when he turns on Monday Night Football, try watching it with him for once. If he hasn’t ever gone to yoga with you, it’s time he try it, just to know what the hell a “downward dog” is. I’m not advocating that you adopt each other’s hobbies — independence from each other is essential in any relationship, of course — but that you make an effort to learn about each other’s passions.
- Schedule not just a date night, but a date night somewhere new or doing something new. Date night is a no-brainer — every relationship needs one a week if you ask me. But forget your usual Italian joint and try a new ethnic place across town for dinner. Go sing karaoke together, go swing dancing, take a sushi-making class, go to an art museum. Getting out of your comfort zone together and exploring new things is big-time romantic.
- Cook for each other — something special. Even if you already cook a lot, you usually whip up the same-old dishes, right? I know we can’t all be the Barefoot Contessa — how psyched is her husband? — but try making new recipes that speak to who you are as people or as a couple. Perhaps re-create, or at least try, that carne asada you had while on vacation in Mexico. Or, if you know he loves mussels marinara and you’ve never tried to make them before, don’t be intimidated — go for it. When my guy cooks something special for me, I know my heart, not just my belly, feels full afterward.
- Turn off the TV and just listen to music together and do nothing else. Most of us are nuts for music, right? And doesn’t every great romantic movie have a killer soundtrack? So, whether it’s your song, a new band you’ve discovered (see #4 ) or your favorite playlist, taking the time to do nothing (no multitasking — no doing the dishes!) but listen to music together can only lead to good things — conversation, dancing around the room, or … yes, sex.
What about you? How do you revive that romantic feeling in your relationship?