My husband and I met when we were eighteen and nineteen year-old college students. We married three years later. After twenty-one years of marriage I can safely say that how I defined romance in my early 20's is not how I define it in my early 40's. At twenty, romance was my husband (then fiance) tossing pebbles at my dorm room window so I would look out and see him holding the rose he bought me. At twenty-eight, romance was waking up late on a Saturday to find he'd taken our young children to the park for the morning so I could sleep. At forty-two, romance can be anything from him texting me saying he's picking me up in 15 minutes for a date, or him making dinner when he knows I'm exhausted from a long day. And there’s nothing more romantic than when he spoils me when I’m sick.
We talked about this the other night over dinner. I'm a romance novelist. I'm all about the happily ever after and the knight in shining armor. But I asked my husband what he thought helps keep the romance alive in our marriage. Here are five things we came up with.
1) It's the little things - My husband always gets up before me. He works in finance and needs to be up and running by the time the stock market is open. He gets up, makes his coffee, fires up his laptop, then makes my coffee the way I love it and brings it to me in bed. My alarm goes off and I open my eyes to a steaming cup of yummy goodness. It's a little thing but it's huge to me. His day is filled with lots of stress. It's not always easy to stay positive. Being the unicorns and rainbows kind of gal I am, I like to send him little happy texts or "I love you's" throughout the day. He says that when I punctuate his day with "happy stuff" it encourages him. It takes me mere seconds in my day to send him fun messages. It's little to me, but big to him.
2) Do the unexpected - It is super easy to get into a routine in marriage, especially when kids come along. But try to not do what you've always done. Branch out. Ask each other what sounds fun or adventurous and then do it. People change and grow over time. Grow together. Continue to learn each other's likes and dislikes. They don't always stay the same. Or even the flip side of that works too. When we were dating we loved to go to museums. With little kids that was tough to do so we sort of let that fall by the wayside. We have teens now. We have more time. We spent the other day at an art museum and loved it. Soaked in the time together and appreciated art - something we both enjoy.
3) Make each other laugh - People say to marry your best friend. I agree with this. Sometimes the friendship comes first then love. For me and my husband, we fell hard for each other and our friendship grew from there. Either way, spend time on your friendship. And I believe there's no better way to spend time with a friend than laughing together. Be goofy with one another. Let your hair down. Have fun.
4) Build an adventure list - My husband and I started an adventure list a few years ago when we got to thinking about the kids leaving home and what our empty nest years would look like. My husband played baseball so that's something we love. One of the things on our list is to travel the country and stop and see a major league baseball game in each state. We also want to travel to Scotland and visit famous museums. We are saving towards these things and have found that in dreaming about adventures we want to do together, we are excited for those years instead of worried about what in the world we'll do when the kids are grown and gone. It's more like what WON'T we do? And we aren’t waiting until we are empty nesters either. There are things on the list we are doing and checking off now.
5) Hold hands and make out - Yes, this one would totally gross out my kids if they read it but quite frankly, they're used to walking in on their parents kissing or snuggling. It's good for them. They know their parents love (and like) each other. They just say "ewww" because they're teens and they're supposed to. It is SUPER easy to lose each other, especially once you have kids. I firmly believe those are the years couples grow apart because there's just so much going on and these new little people need so much from us. But be intentional in putting each other first. And it's not just sex. Yes, that's important, and awesome. But unexpected touches and kisses go a long way. Little make out sessions because well, those are awesome too. My husband and I have learned we are calmer when we are touching. Near each other. In the evenings I will lay and read a book with my feet in his lap while watches a show on his iPad. We are both doing something we enjoy to unwind, but we are near each other and touching.
People say marriage takes work. But I hate that word. "Work" conjures up a negative image for me. I like the word “Intentional” much better. My husband and I try to be intentional in our marriage. Really think about what the other person might need or how we can encourage each other in a day. As the years go by you have to intentionally carve out time together. Jobs, kids, whatever, will start to creep in and require your time. Put fun dates on your calendar. Plan things together. Be intentional. I think romance is defined in different ways for different couples. Define it in your marriage, then do it. It’s worth it.