Tips for Keeping Romance Alive in Your Marriage All Year Round

By Terry Gaspard, MSW, LICSW

A good romantic and sexual relationship is built on a foundation of emotional intimacy and closeness. Many couples struggle to maintain sexual intimacy because they don’t believe they have time for date nights and they have difficulty making their marriage a priority when they work long hours and/or have children.

Alyssa put it like this, “I love Patrick but it feels like we’re roommates. By the time we collapse in bed, I’m just to tired to talk, let alone have sex or an intimate conversation.”

Patrick responds, “I don’t know how to connect with Allysa. We used to get frisky and sexual a couple of nights a week. But since we had our second child and she started back to work, our sex life has dwindled and we usually just talk about bills or our kids, if at all.”

In a recent article for the UK’s Daily Mail, couples’ therapist Andrew G. Marshall, deconstructs the common issue of keeping the flames of romance burning all year long. Indeed, many of us are keenly aware of and invested in the dates that hold special significance for couples — from Valentine’s Day to wedding anniversaries to a spouse’s birthday. But more and more, these blips on our busy calendars seem few and far between.

In the typically long stretches between meaningful days, it’s common for partners to lose sight of the everyday activities, shows of affection, and communication tools that keep us tethered to our significant other and convey love, trust and companionship.

Frantic with the frenzied pace of life, work and family responsibility, you might forget or can’t find the time to tell your partner just how much they mean to you. And this all-too-relatable pattern of overlooking the little opportunities to show your love can be the start of a vicious cycle. You can feel overwhelmed, guilty, angry and even inadequate when you’re unable to carve out time to nurture and foster the bonds between you and your spouse.

Increasingly, you might get caught up in our routines, screen time and phones, and the familiar anxiety that accompanies the demands of modern life. Simply, expressing your love can feel like another item on your ever-growing to-do list. This lack of intimacy can spill over to our sexual intimacy as well and you might find you don’t know how to rekindle the romance and passion in your marriage.

In response to these challenges, many couples try to create the space to celebrate each other with “date nights.” But Andrew G. Marshall’s article points out the problematic nature of date nights, which can be “expensive, time-consuming, stressful.” On top of that, one partner typically “ends up doing all the work, which can breed resentment.” However, a practical solution is at hand, and Marshall offers the concept of “micro-dating” to address the many issues inherent in the stereotypical date night.

Marshall defines a “micro-date” as a deliberate but sometimes spontaneous plan that couples can hatch together. Whether on the fly, or a few days or hours in advance, micro-dates accommodate the dizzying pace of life. They can be last-minute and even short-lived. Spending dedicated time together can last ten minutes or take place over the course of a weekend.

Marshall advises that “setting the time in advance will make your partner feel valued and give them something to look forward to.” And couples should “make sure there are no interruptions and there is no multi-tasking: give each other your undivided attention. There should be no problem-solving. The focus must be on fun.”

The success of micro-dates relies on both partners pushing aside the particulars of their day, and truly being present and tuned into their significant other. These micro-dates can be most effective if they occur at different times of day and during different parts of the week. For example, if your last micro-date took place in bed over an early morning cup of coffee, strive to set up your next date on a weekend evening when the ordinary pressures are most remote.

As Marshall writes, “it’s all about becoming conscious of your time. Instead of checking your emails first thing, use those ten minutes to stay in bed and cuddle.” Ultimately, micro-dates are designed to increase intimacy and integrate the expression of gratitude into life more regularly.

And if you’re constantly coping with the work and worries of packed schedules and everyday angst, these micro-dates can unlock a safe place and set in motion a renewed sense of love, appreciation and possibility. In addition, sexual intimacy can happen more spontaneously if you place each other ahead of the madness and hectic nature of our frenetic lifestyle. Over time, you and your partner will find that being emotionally in tune helps you to rekindle the sexual and romantic spark you once enjoyed.

Try the 5 tips below and you should see improvement in your physical and emotional connection with your spouse within about a month.

5 ways to reconnect with your partner emotionally and sexually:

  1. Hug more often. Try hugging for up to 20 minutes a day (on the couch, in bed, etc.). Research shows that hugging will boost your happiness, reduce stress, improve your health, and give you a stronger sense of belonging. Hugging is a good way to get Oxytocin flowing in your body. Oxytocin is known as the “Love Drug.” Cortisol is the stress hormone that reduces when you hug, and reducing it will allow you to feel calmer and more connected to your partner.
  2. Adopt micro-dates as part of your weekly routine. Even a 20–30-minute time of sharing a fun activity, such a walk, playing a game, or watching a comedy show together can help you feel connected with your spouse.
  3. Express small gestures of love and appreciation often to your partner. This includes things like making him or her a cup of coffee, writing them an endearing sticky note, and cooking them a special meal. Be sure to say “I love you” and I appreciate you because ….” often.
  4. Get in touch with any negative patterns of relating such as criticism or showing contempt for your partner. John Gottman says that these are the two leading causes of divorce and they can breed anger and resentment. Instead, focus on your spouse’s positive qualities and work on making yourself happier by pursuing some of your interests and self-care.
  5. Set the stage for romance and sexual intimacy by going to bed at the same time and by adding playfulness and mystery to your evening at least once a week. Variety is the spice of life so express your sexual preferences to your partner and get in the mood for sex by taking a shower or bath together – or any activity that sparks romance.

If you feel that the romance and passion in your marriage has dulled and you’re more like roommates, you hold the keys to changing this pattern. You owe it to yourself and your partner to try micro-dates, more hugs, and other actions that will help rekindle the spark you once enjoyed.

Find Terry on Twitter, Facebook, and, Terry’s award-winning book Daughters of Divorce: Overcome the Legacy of Your Parents’ Breakup and Enjoy a Happy, Long-Lasting Relationship is available on her website. Her new book The Remarriage Manual: How to Make Everything Work Better the Second Time Around was published by Sounds True on February 18, 2020.

**Terry offers coaching to individuals and couples about divorce, marriage, remarriage, or relationship issues. She is also an expert on matters related to children of divorce and the challenges facing adult children of divorce. You can sign up for low-cost coaching here. In most cases you will be able to meet with her within a week.