It is not news to many parents that keeping romance alive can seem daunting, if not impossible. Scarcity of time, increased stress, decrease in physical and emotional connection all seem to conspire against finding your partner where you seemed to have left off when the relationship was still electric. The truth is that the challenge to capture romance in the time of parenting is complex, multi-determined, and there are few one-size-fits-all quick fixes. But don’t despair, here is some expert advice that will increase the odds of romance.
You are never too old or too married for flirting and seduction. Many couples wrongly assume that once they are married, this kind of behavior is inappropriate or unnecessary. In reality, it's more important than ever, both for yourself and your partner. It can open a whole new world when you give yourself permission to indulge a bit. A text here, a whisper there, pulling aside your partner in the middle of it all for a certain kiss - these small, subtle things not only keep romance fresh in your partner’s mind, but they also remind you that it’s still part of who you are!
Romance needs space to grow. If the last time you had a night alone together was before your kids were born, or your idea of date night is parent night at school, it should come as no surprise that the romance has gone out of your marriage. Couples need to safeguard time and opportunity to connect in a romantic way, which means regular dates, and even trips alone. Likewise, you need to protect time for physical intimacy, and ideally a window when you are both in the right frame of mind.
When you used to be able to enjoy all of this spontaneously, you might balk at the idea of schedules and timetables. Rather than an item on the to-do list, try to think of it as planning ahead for something you really enjoy. It's not so different from the way you plan for a spinning class or a golf game, only hopefully with a greater enthusiasm. So many people report that after a nice evening out, or a long overdue romp in bed, they ask themselves why they don't do it more often. So make sure it happens with a little advance planning.
Romance can’t grow in an atmosphere of constant conflict. If you find that you and your partner are stuck in the same arguments, it may be time to seek help from a professional couples counselor. Often the perspective of an objective, experienced outsider can lead to “ah-hah” moments where you get a clearer picture of why things haven’t been working and how you might go about changing for the better.
Romance is not just the thing of cinematic moments. It can be a lingering hug, a text in the middle of the day just to say, "I am thinking of you", noticing how someone looks or smells. In fact, these smaller moments of romantic love build a solid foundation of this kind of connection, keeping it going at a constant hum. And none of it takes a huge investment of time or money. Likewise, many people, especially men, tend to assume (or fear) that romance will require lengthy conversations about feelings, which might feel off-putting. Romance can live quite well in the world of non-verbal communication. In fact, it may thrive there.
If romance stays at the bottom of your to-do list, something you’ll get to when life calms down, it may be too late when that perfect moment finally comes. In my experience, the longer a couple goes without intimate connection, the harder it is to make your way back.
Some couples give up trying to improve their romantic life because they believe that it should look and feel like it was before they had kids. Invariably, they feel hopeless and defeated when no matter what they do, it never feels exactly the same. The truth is that it won’t ever be the same. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be rich and satisfying. Try to be guided by what inspires you in who your partner has grown to be, and through the eyes of the person you have evolved into.
Romance and work might seem like strange bedfellows. Many people believe that romantic or sexual excitement should be spontaneous and unforced in order to be authentic. But the reality of adult life is that we have to create space and opportunity for the things we value, whether its' family life, physical activity, creativity or friends. None of it happens without intentional effort. The same is certainly true for romantic and physical connection with our partners. So don’t be afraid to put some work into it.
Couples often regard romance as a nice luxury, but not a necessity, for happy family life. They see it as a relic of something they could afford before they had kids, but it seems frivolous compared to the demands of parenting. Some are lucky enough to work well as friends, partners, or roommates, and tell themselves that this should be enough, even if they are no longer romantic mates. Prioritize your time and make romance a necessity.
Most long-term couples - especially parents - go through periods when their romantic life loses its vitality. While it can be pretty distressing, try to regard it as a normal stage in the life span of your relationship, which like most life forms, has periods of growth and hibernation. Instead of getting lost in hopelessness, try to refocus efforts on setting the stage for the reappearance of romance and intimacy. Set aside time and energy. Look for small signs of life and try to build on them. Get curious about what direction your intimate connection can grow in now, which may be different from what is looked like in the past, but can be equally if not more exciting.
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