You may have heard that marriages eventually — and inevitably — become flat and boring. That, with time, it’s normal for the passion and intimacy in a marriage to fade and for husbands and wives to stop doing romantic things together as a couple.
Unfortunately, far too many married couples believe this myth and act accordingly. That is, they expect it to happen.
So, when they experience moments in which feelings of attraction, desire, or sexual excitement are not powerfully stimulating, they assume that the flame has gone out between them and their spouse and that the future of their relationship is bleak and uninspiring.
Possessed by this expectation, it’s not surprising that many marriages can begin an inexorable downward trajectory that all too often ends in separation or divorce.
While it is not possible to prevent those moments from ever occurring in your marriage, it is possible to strengthen the substance of your relationship in a way that minimizes their impact and diminishes the frequency of those occurrences. Not just a little bit, but to a very significant degree.
The secret is infusing your life with more fun and pleasure by planning romantic things to do as a couple regularly.
That’s really all it takes to deepen the intimacy in your marriage and keep your relationship fresh, passionate, and exciting, whether you’re twenty or ninety.
Lest you get into an “I’d love to, but there’s not enough time” syndrome, let me remind you that it’s never a matter of having enough time; It’s always a matter of how you choose to prioritize your time.
You may assign a higher priority to activities and commitments other than your relationships, not necessarily because you don’t value your relationships, but often because you take them for granted. You falsely believe that you can afford to neglect your connection or put it on cruise control.
After all, you think, since you’re committed, you’re solid, and you don’t need to continue to put the time, attention, and energy into things that you did in the early days when your relationship wasn’t so secure.
It’s a big mistake to take your partnership for granted and assume it doesn’t require the same kind of care and attention that it did way back when. Worse, it can be a setup for disaster if this neglect continues for too long.
After a few years of married life, the inclination to take for granted the things you used to appreciate can become strong, making it easy for a married couple to slip into being roommates, business partners, and if they are raising children, co-parents.
These are all important roles you find yourselves in each day, but if your marriage becomes defined by these roles, the important component of being lovers can be squeezed out.
In most relationships, there is one partner who places a higher value on romance than the other — and contrary to popular opinion, it’s not always the woman. This partner will be more likely to notice when it is fading.
Consequently, this person has more power to introduce corrections to bring more closeness and playfulness into the relationship, and come up with new ways to do things as a couple.
This is not to imply that he or she has the sole responsibility for keeping an eye on things, but rather because of this awareness, they are more capable of influencing the depth of emotional connection in the relationship.
If you notice that intimacy is lacking in your marriage — or you simply want to give it a boost — there are myriad ways to bring a more romantic spirit into your relationship.
Taking time to honor the intimacy component of your partnership can become habit-forming, which is why regularly planning romantic things to do as a couple can help you keep the romance alive, no matter how long you’ve been together.
Here are 14 ways to deepen the emotional intimacy with your partner:
1. Go out on a date
Dates aren’t just for young lovers; they work magic for those of you who have been together for a while because going away from home provides a change of scenery and enlivens things for both partners.
2. Stay inside together
Planning a date night at home can be fun, too. You can have a romantic dinner by candlelight. Consider making date night a regular feature of your relationship.
3. Spend a weekend together
Dates don’t have to be limited to a few hours together on an occasional evening. They can be an entire day, a weekend, or even longer, depending on the agreement you and your partner make with each other.
4. Take a honeymoon
Honeymoons (without the kids, of course) aren’t just for the newly married. Taking one every year is not too much. There are lots of people (including us) who have made a tradition of this practice.
5. Designate a “sacred time”
Create a tech-free zone that will assure you that there will be no interruptions. Then, enjoy.
6. Do “money-free” dates
Some delightful ways of spending an evening together don’t cost anything. Going into the tub with each other, with candlelight, of course, followed by more candlelight in the bedroom, is always a sure way to enhance the spirit of romance.
7. Take turns being in service to each other
You can bathe each other and wash each other’s hair. You could shave his face and he could shave your legs (or vice versa — just kidding!)
8. Give them massages
Massages are another great way to keep romance alive. You don’t need a massage table or fancy scented massage oils — just take the cooking oil down from the kitchen shelf and lay down a towel on the bed or floor.
And you don’t have to be a professionally-trained masseuse or masseur to bring a loving touch.
9. Agree beforehand to feed each other every forkful of an entire meal
A number of couples have done this in restaurants, often to the surprise of other diners. Sit across the corner of the table so you can be close to each other.
Feeding each other slows down the rate at which you eat. This is also a good way to lose weight, since generally, the slower you eat, the less you eat.
10. Spend time being connected through your eyes only
This means without the need to exchange words.
While this may seem a bit awkward at first, after a few minutes you’ll begin to settle into the experience and you may begin to experience some surprisingly delightful feelings.
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11. Listen to music together
You might even want to dance. If you’d prefer privacy, try dancing with your partner in your own living room or bedroom.
Another big advantage of dancing in your own home is that you can take your clothes off. You’ll know for sure that you’re not roommates or business partners when you’re dancing nude!
12. Recite poetry
Reading love poems to each other brings sweetness. If you enjoy the exotic, consider poetry from Rumi, Hafiz, or Kabir.
13. Leave tokens of affection
Leave love notes stuck in books, under plates, pillows, and in the underwear drawer. They’re sure to draw smiles of appreciation.
14. Speak from the heart
Last, but not least, is the way lovers talk the romantic talk. It needs to be sincere, intimate, and full of feeling from the heart.
These emotional interchanges are the main meal. Sex is the dessert … and it’s non-fattening.
Taking time out of your busy life to make sure the intimate aspects of your relationship are thriving is important for both the partnership and your life as a whole. Trying something new together can promote thrills and excitement if you’re mindful of the ways in which you approach change.
You can rest assured that the lovers’ aspect of your relationship is thriving when you’re enjoying the art of bringing pleasure to each other. And you receive the added benefit of all those health-enhancing hormones running through your body that promote happiness and well-being.
Linda Bloom, LCSW, and Charlie Bloom, MSW have been trained as psychotherapists and relationship counselors and have worked with individuals, couples, groups, and organizations since 1975.