In a perfect world, the honeymoon stage with your significant other would last forever…but we all know that those initial feelings of butterflies don’t last. We eventually go back to letting work, family, finances, and the everyday grind overshadow the lovey-dovey perks of being in a loving relationship. So how can couples keep the romance alive?
Here are ten ways to maintain a dreamy relationship even after those preliminary months:
1. You’re not alone.
When the honeymoon stage is over—and it will eventually end—don’t freak out. In order to keep the spark alive, you and your significant other must recognize that it’s not realistic for you to expect that your relationship will be always be as exciting as those first twenty or so dates. As soon as you realize this, you’ll be able to appreciate the moments that matter most. If you’re spending your time reminiscing about the times he brought you flowers before every date or wishing for when she used to make reservations at only the finest eateries, you’re taking for granted the less subtle ways that your sweetheart is showing you that they care.
2. Stop comparing.
Relationships are difficult enough. Stop comparing yours to others.
A few weeks ago, a friend told me that her boyfriend is taking her on a lavish trip to St. Barth’s for Valentine’s Day. Another friend says she expects that her man will propose on February 14th. My boyfriend? Well he’ll most likely get me a fair trade bouquet from Whole Foods and we’ll order in sushi. And I’m okay with it.
All couples are different. And all relationships are different. Despite what Disney and romcoms lead you to believe, romance can’t be easily defined. People show their love in different ways. I used to mistakenly judge the health of my relationships based upon preconceived notions of what society has suggested to be “romantic,” while ignoring the meaningful moments and things that made me happy.
3. Make time for each other. Literally.
I used to think that scheduling time for my partner (actually writing it down in my planner and creating a Google calendar invite) was unromantic and meant my relationship was doomed. Wrong. I schedule everything else that’s important to me, so why not my boyfriend?
Now we share a Google calendar and have permission to add appointments to each other’s schedules. While it’s not as spontaneous, it’s still exciting to see a new date night pop up on my calendar if I’m swamped at work. This also solidifies the significance of the time you both are spending together.
4. Find a tradition.
Sharing a tradition with your significant other can keep the romance alive for not just months, but years. A couple I know that have been together for five years celebrate every Valentine’s Day by going to a new diner and ordering grilled cheese and fries. An adorable couple I once met in Philadelphia told me that since they’ve met in the 60s, they’ve spent every Sunday at a local pizza spot and order two plain slices and split a Coke. Whatever the tradition (it doesn’t have to involve food), sharing it with your partner makes for a special activity you can bond over.
5. Show your appreciation.
This one’s hard for me. I work…a lot. I also over-commit. A lot. Which means I’m often overwhelmed and get sucked into a million things I need to get done in not a lot of time. But romance becomes nonexistent as soon as one of the people in a relationship feels like they’re being ignored or under appreciated. The solution is easy. Don’t forget to say, “I appreciate you,” “thank you,” and “I care for you.” You probably say “thank you” to strangers every day (when they hold the door for you; pour you a coffee; email you that report), so why not your significant other?
We all work a lot, and it’s easy to want to come home and crash or just watch television in silence. But talking and listening to your partner establishes a deeper connection. No further explanation necessary.
7. Support each other’s hobbies.
A sum is only as strong as its parts. Let your partner do his own thing, and develop your own hobbies. Having separate interests doesn’t mean that your relationship is failing. Actually, each of you separately being involved in things that you’re passionate about make for better conversation and a longing to share more with your partner.
8. Say no to technology. Power down.
Sit down with your significant other to come up with “x” amount of time per day to spend without technology. It depends on your relationship whether that means spending dinner without your smart phone or fifteen minutes talking without the television on or laptop open. Find out what works best for you and your partner and stick to it.
9. Be intimate.
This one is obvious, but we so often forget it. I’m sure you’ve heard it a million times, but human beings crave intimacy. Hold hands, hug, kiss—everyday. It all matters.
10. Go to bed angry.
This is one I just learned. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard, “never go to bed angry.” But actually, going to bed angry can be pretty awesome. I always wake up less angry and usually find that whatever I was angry about the night before isn’t even worth rehashing the morning after. And if it is worth talking about, the conversation is calmer and less emotionally-charged because we’ve both had time to sleep it off.
Photo Credit: Jeremy Boden
How do you keep the spark in your relationship?