If you’ve ever been in a long-term relationship, you’re familiar with the drill. Things start out hot and heavy, begin to wane after a couple of years and then, when you’ve finally been exposed to every messy crevice of your partner’s psyche and are on a hair-trigger about even the most innocuous of his/her behaviors, you begin to wonder whether you should just scrap the wholemarriage thing and start over with someone else. Many do just that, forgetting that they themselves are the common denominator in every one of their own failed relationships. Of course there are those who stick it out—for the kids, because of tradition or faith, or out of simple laziness. However, if you desire more than mediocre out of your marriage, you’re going to have to do better than either giving up or giving in. Or, as Kris Jenner, famous mother of an erstwhile litter of wealthy socialites named Kardashian (as well as the current wife of former Olympic gold medalist Bruce Jenner) puts it, “You have to find ways to spice it up to keep feeding the fire and keep monotony out of monogamy.”
You’ve probably already heard that scheduling “date nights” is one way to get your relationship back on track. While once-a-week dates are a great way for many couples to work time together into their schedules, they can lack the careless abandon that made the relationship exciting in the first place. In addition to a lack of spontaneity, date nights can become just another “task” if couples aren’t careful. The same case can be made against prescribed “couples events” such as Valentine’s Day or anniversaries. Forget everything you’ve heard—what makes relationships great isn’t routine; it’s the element of surprise. Take a “snow day” off work occasionally to reconnect or, better yet, rent a hotel room and disappear for an entire weekend together. Surprises can be simple gestures as well, says Dana Hilmer, founder of LifestyleMom.com and author of Blindsided by a Diaper. She recommends getting out of the sweats and wearing something sexy once in a while.
A diamond may be forever, but if you want to give your betrothed a truly priceless gift, you best make it personal. Putting a little effort into the presents you exchange shows you care in ways that all the lingerie, electronic gadgets and jewelry in the world can never convey. I once worked with a woman whose boyfriend slipped tiny, postage-sized paintings he’d done in with her lunch every morning. As you might imagine, there was nearly as much swooning as eating come noontime. Charles Orlando, author of The Problem with Women… is Men, bought an unusual jar, hand-painted it and spent the next two weeks filling it with “1,000 reasons why I love her” written on slips of paper. Then he surprised his wife with it as a gift. “That jar sits on our mantle,” he says. “She regards it as the best gift she’s ever received.”
Every couple has a story that makes their relationship special. Go over yours with your partner and surround yourself with visible reminders. “Review your meeting, courtship, wedding and early marriage often,” says Lois Tschetter Hjelmstad, author of This Path We Share: Reflecting on 60 Years of Marriage. She suggests intermingling photos of your early days along with all the kid’s photos as one way to remind yourselves that you were a couple before you were a family. Also, the more you tell your story of “us” to others, the more you’ll fall back on it during the tough times. Some people may roll their eyes or mock vomit, but it’s important to realize they’re only doing it because they’re jealous. Raise your voice, reinforce your story and stick to it. Reminding each other of your history together, sharing it with others and defending it until death do us part is one of the best ways to keep monotony at bay. Says Tschetter Hjelmstad, “Remembering what drew you together helps you stay crazy-in-love.” And, after all, isn’t crazy in love the best way to spend until death do us part?
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