You can still remember that first encounter. Maybe you met at the library, workplace or at a friend's house. You stayed up talking late into the night, and then for weeks afterward, anxiously awaited the next phone call, text or e-mail. Then as your relationship bloomed into marriage, it seemed that your wedding day happiness would be eternal. For some of us it is, but preserving that bliss doesn't come naturally. Passionate relationships take work -- and the energy that you put in is often what you get in return.
According to Sam Yagan, who runs an online dating Web site, "romantic relationships, have three stages: the initial attraction (lust), the romance (falling in love), and the attachment (where both partners become comfortable with each other). The comfort is a good thing, but problems arise when couples reach this phase and forget about the first two" [source: Kormly].
Even when life's distractions, like work and kids, wrestle for center stage, your love must always be the first priority. Making time for each other, even when it seems inconvenient, is crucial to dating your spouse.
Read on to learn how putting the kids to bed makes for a healthier relationship.
Create Alone Time Every Day
Even when life's distractions take over much of your time, penciling in an hour or so every day keeps a relationship fresh and vibrant -- and it's easier than you think. Workout with your spouse each morning. If you both like running, plan your jog at the same time. Hit the gym together or take a yoga class. Bonding over a good sweat does wonders for your love.
If you're a parent, put the kids to bed at a reasonable hour. Kids need sleep and, in most cases, young children should be in bed between 7 p.m. and 8 p.m. Very young children need 14 hours of sleep per night [source: Kids Health]. If your kids are staying up until 10 p.m. each night, time alone quickly dissipates and, on top of that, cranky kids create strain on a marriage. Block out a few hours between 8 p.m. and your bedtime to hang out with your spouse.
Additionally, parents shouldn't feel guilty about calling the babysitter. Babysitters provide that much needed escape from parenthood, even if only for a few hours.
Find out about making your next getaway distraction-free on the next page.
Plan a Distraction-free Getaway
Sometimes getting away is all your relationship really needs. When conversations about work, bills and the kids take over your alone time, consider a getaway. Escaping all the hustle and bustle of everyday life rekindles the flame.
Plan a weekend trip with your spouse in mind. If your partner likes hiking, plan a long weekend hike into the mountains and culminate your journey at a secluded cabin. Choose a quaint town that neither of you has ever visited before and rent a room at a local inn for the night. Find a bed and breakfast by the ocean and spend the day relaxing on the beach. Make certain the getaway takes your spouse's interests into account.
No matter where you're headed on your excursion, make sure that your partner is your only diversion. A distraction-free retreat is a must; that means no laptop and no Blackberry.
Learn to write a love letter on the next page.
Keep the Surprises Coming
Think back to the days when you first met. You weren't sure when he or she would call so you anxiously awaited the next conversation. It's this unpredictability that keeps us wanting more.
While we can't turn back time to the days when we weren't so well acquainted, we can create surprises in our everyday interactions. Start by communicating with your spouse even when no communication is necessary. Send a text just to tell him you love him and miss him. Better yet, write a letter. Letters show that you're putting in extra effort. Your love letter doesn't have to be reminiscent of Romeo and Juliet, just a simple note that shows you care.
Send flowers on a random Tuesday. Make your mate's favorite meal on a weeknight. Pick up a nice bottle of wine and cheers for no reason at all. Go out to lunch during a busy work week. Surprises like these keep your partner feeling as desired as he did when you were first dating.
Read on to find out how to court your spouse as if you'd just met.
Make Your Spouse Your First Priority
With time, even the strongest couples can begin taking each other for granted. After all, your spouse is the person you trust the most. But venturing down this road can lead to a lot of heartbreak. Your partner needs assurance that she is always your most important priority. Relationships firmly rooted in this principle remain exciting well into old age.
Always be aware of what's going on in your partner's world. Avoid getting so caught up in your own responsibilities that you forget about the other person you're sharing a bed with each night.
Go the extra mile as if you're in the courting days, opening doors and pulling out chairs for your loved one. When you're making decisions, ask yourself if your decision benefits your partner as well. Think back to when you first knew you were in love and how you would do anything for each other.
Should you change for your spouse? Find out on the next page.
Adapt to Each Other
Couples that adapt to each other stay together. You can't be the same person you were when you first met, but as long as you grow together and not apart, it doesn't matter.
As we age, we establish new friends, interests, habits and ideas, and as long as at least some of those changes are aligned with your spouse, that's a good thing. Ensure that you're both headed down the same road. If your partner wants to change careers, support him. If she goes through hard times, be her shoulder to cry on.
Growing together is much easier when you're around each other enough to notice changes. When couple time diminishes that's when relationships fork and you both head in different directions.
Learn how to deal with annoying habits on the next page.
Let Irritating Habits Go
With time, some of your spouse's less appealing habits become irritating. But nobody likes to be criticized constantly and it's best to save criticism for points that have an impact on your relationship in a real way. Leaving dirty socks out and chewing with your mouth open aren't cause for a fight.
Pick and choose your battles. Just as you wouldn't have told your love that you hated the way she laughed when you first met, don't condemn her cackle today. It sets a negative climate and puts her on the defensive for no reason.
It's not about being fake or lying to your spouse, it's about choosing which habits need changing and then finding the best way to broach the subject. Find a kinder way of conveying that his ripped jeans aren't appropriate for an upcoming dinner party.
Learn how aphrodisiacs can make date night a little spicier on the next page.
Keep the Passion Alive
Passion marks the first stage of a relationship. It's that first attraction, the first kiss and the first time you made love. But strong relationships preserve the passion even when hairs gray and skin wrinkles. Just as you make your partner a priority, make passion a priority.
Plan a spicy date night by making a meal filled with natural aphrodisiacs. Include oysters as an appetizer followed by barbecued salmon, honey and chocolate truffles for dessert. Oysters, honey and chocolate are all aphrodisiacs connected with sensuality. Hippocrates prescribed honey for sexual vigor. Casanova understood the sexual influence of chocolate. And oysters are the most celebrated aphrodisiac of them all.
Couple and marriage retreats can also reignite the fire. These retreats can include intimacy coaching, relationship counseling and massage therapy. Such retreats can remind you why you fell in love with one another in the first place.
Find out why sweatpants and a ponytail may be a turn off on the next page.
Look Your Best
Aging is a part of life, but at the same time, taking care of yourself makes you more appealing to your significant other. While you may not look like you did when you first met, that doesn't mean you should let yourself go.
A healthy sense of self makes for a healthy relationship. Wake up at the same time each morning, eat a balanced diet, exercise each day and stay as active as you can. The healthier lifestyle that you both have, the better you'll feel and the better you'll feel about each other.
Don't let huge sweatpants, sneakers and a ponytail be your attire at home. Wear decent clothing, brush your hair, shave and add a spritz of perfume or cologne even when it's just the two of you. Dress up for date night even if you're just cooking dinner at the house.
Learn how to dig a little deeper into the conversation on the next page.
Spur Stimulating Conversation
Even after years with your spouse, you can still maintain novelty with good conversation. Most importantly, don't let life's responsibilities constantly be the subject of your discussions. Unless your spouse's job fascinates you to no end, skip the work talk. Even though you dearly love your kids, don't make them the center of conversation all the time.
Find a subject that you're both interested in and gab on. If you both love traveling, plan your next adventure. If you love politics, your partner may provide a fascinating opinion. Become well-versed on your mate's hobbies and interests.
Ask questions and listen wholeheartedly to the answers. Listening is an important aspect of conversation because conversations should always involve both parties. Just by pretending that you don't know everything about your spouse, you can often learn more than you ever expected. Inquire about high school, parents, siblings or life goals. You never know what you'll learn.
Read on to learn how to avoid just going through the motions in your marriage.
Find a New Mutual Hobby Together
New experiences keep marriages dynamic. Cultivate new conversations, passions and mutual interests by choosing a new hobby together. If you're both into sports, consider golf, tennis, squash, running or walking. Consider surf lessons, tai chi or cooking classes. Just choose an activity that you both enjoy and will have fun learning about together.
If you love eating out, explore new restaurants once a week without the kids. Make it extra special by dressing up, getting your spouse flowers or choosing a special bottle of champagne.
While choosing a movie that you'll both enjoy once in a while is a good option, television isn't a worthwhile hobby. When we're watching mindless television we're often zoned out rather than engaged in meaningful time together.
By continually putting energy into your relationship, you'll see the benefits on down the line in the form of a deeper, kinder love.
Why do a lot of people look like their spouses? HowStuffWorks look at how the Framingham Heart Study helped to solve this puzzle.
- Henshaw M.A., Jon. "6 Tips For Keeping the Spark Alive in Your Marriage." Family Resource. Oct. 10, 2010.http://www.familyresource.com/relationships/marriage/6-tips-for-keeping-the-spark-alive-in-your-marriage-after-children
- Kids Health. "All About Sleep" Oct.13, 2010.http://kidshealth.org/parent/general/sleep/sleep.html#
- Simpkins, Brian. "How To Keep The Spark In Your Marriage." Life Script. Oct. 10, 2010http://www.lifescript.com/Life/Relationships/Marriage/How_To_Keep_The_Spark_In_Your_Marriage.aspx
- Dime Wars. "Jada Pinkett Smith Revealed How She Keeps The Spark In Her Marriage To Will Smith - "Keep It Spontaneous. I Always Surprise Him." Oct. 11, 2010.http://dimewars.com/HipHopNews/Jada-Pinkett-Smith-Revealed-How-She-Keeps-The-Spark-In-Her-Marriage-To-Will-Smith----Keep-It-Spontaneous--I-Iust--I-Always-Surprise-Him---.aspx?PressReleaseID=b2fb337b-f4fa-4ed1-b7ef-846253c6042c.
- Kormly, Kellie B. "Couples can keep the spark in marriage." Pittsburgh Tribune. Oct. 12, 2010.http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsburghtrib/lifestyles/family/s_575302.html
- Camen, Michelyn. "Sweat Hearts: Couples that Train Together Stay Together." Beauty News NYC. Oct. 13, 2010http://www.beautynewsnyc.com/health-fitness/sweat-hearts-couples-who-train-together-stay-together/
- Hopkins, Martha. Lockridge. "Intercourses, An Aphrodisiac Cookbook." Terrace Publishing. 1997.
- Sedona Temple. "Lovers' Retreat." Oct. 14, 2010.http://www.sedonatemple.com/retreat-packages.php