There was a time when my wife thought that getting me a card on Valentine’s Day was optional. She quickly discovered that it was not optional, and corrected her amateur mistake. In her defense, we’d just started dating. Since then, she’s not missed giving me a card. I’ve had my fair share of relationship fumbles too, like not wanting to leave our young son with a babysitter so we could go out on a date — and then again, a few years later when our twins arrived, I didn’t want to leave them either, even if it was to nurture my relationship. A date could wait, right? I mean, we’d only spend the entirety of our time out discussing our children, which is quite the romance killer anyway.
We knew we had to set some ground rules to ensure that our romantic life didn’t fall by the wayside. Now, we always prioritize our relationship in every single way, especially in the romance department.
Let’s be honest: It’s hard to put other people who aren’t your kids first. But your partner needs it, especially given the chaos that is family life. Being romantic, at least for my wife and I, means putting in a little effort but with great reward. It doesn’t need to be a grand gesture, though those are also appreciated; you can simply turn out all of the noise, turn off the television, sit side by side, touching leg to leg, arm to arm, and talk. When is the last time you’ve done that?
My wife and I have a shared calendar on our iPhones. She rarely looks at it, but when I send her reminders of “don’t forget, we have a date this weekend,” she replies with, “we do?” and from there it’s a great surprise that we have time away from our kids. Again, the goal is to make time to sit and talk without distraction. We are lucky enough to live close to the ocean, so after our date, if we’ve not found a restaurant right on the beach, we go and take a walk in the sand.
Linda Carroll, a sex educator and relationship coach, writes on mindbodygreen, “Meaningful gifts and memorable trips are touching, standout moments in a relationship; however, it’s the steady sprinkle of smaller moments of kindness and care that create a trusting and healthy relationship.” So, make that gesture — and then take a walk on the beach with a full belly to boot.
Sundays are pretty special in our house because it’s the day that we all (mostly) turn off and do nothing work or school related. From time to time, I will order my wife’s favorite curry meal from her favorite Indian takeout restaurant. Indian take-out is not my favorite food, but it’s hers. The gesture of putting in the order, getting the food she likes, is an act of appreciation, a reminder that she is special to me, and that is romantic as hell. Yes, there is a theme here: food, right? But at the heart of every action is putting my wife first, and thinking of her needs before my own. When we are deep in day-to-day life, we can sometimes lose sight of how far a gesture of appreciation can take us.
When my wife and I began dating, we got to know each other online, back when that was the popular way to meet someone. We talked for a month online, exchanging emails, before we actually met in person. Leave a note in your significant other’s car saying something simple like “Have a great day,” or “I love you,” or “I’ll be thinking of you today, have a good one.” Whatever it is, make it simple, make it caring, and remind your partner that you still think about them the way you did in the beginning. Let go of the impersonal text message and get back to basics. Your words matter, and how and when you say them also matters.
You know what else also works? Flowers. A few times a year I’ll think about ordering my wife flowers and sending them to her office. Every time I do, she loves it. Who doesn’t like to feel special around their colleagues? It doesn’t have to be flowers you send. It can be anything that can be delivered, a small gift, wrapped up, even from Amazon if you have to.
When all else fails — you couldn’t purchase anything online to have delivered, or your partner has everything, or you have conflicting work schedules, whatever the reason is that you feel you cannot be romantic — have no fear, yes you can. This last piece of advice anyone can do, literally: Go to sleep naked. Let me tell you, it’s a pleasant surprise when you push back the covers, slide into bed, and the person who gave you butterflies all those years ago is there in their birthday suit, waiting for you. You can, but you don’t need to, have sex; just hold one another, connect, and have some pillow talk in the dark.
Being romantic means carving out space and time and thoughtfulness for the one you love; romance does not need to be this incredibly elaborate thing. Sometimes, just the simplest gesture — letting your partner know you see them and care about their needs — makes the biggest impact on the heart.
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