Romance is an interesting word. It conjures up all kinds of thoughts for both men and women: candlelight, soft music, longing looks. Some might even think of a walk in the park or a bike ride together. But no matter how you see it, romance is really the act of wooing one another; it’s a longing to be with someone and acting in such a way that makes that person desire to be with you.
For many couples, romance is easy before marriage—there were no kids to distract them, no pressures of finances to fight over, no annoying habits to live with. After marriage, these things start to eat away at your longing to be with your spouse. Desire is a key part of romance, so the act of wooing doesn’t work very well if there is none. Perhaps you’ve grown distant in your relationship and you spend more time with friends and the children than you do with each other.
These 10 ideas will help bring back the desire you enjoyed as a couple early on in your relationship. But they have nothing to do with mood lighting or lingerie. These suggestions will give you back the romance you’ve lost by making your character more attracted (and attractive) to your spouse.
1. Communicate. As simple as it seems, you need to talk to each other. You may be thinking, But I talk to my spouse all the time. I’m not talking about discussing family business. When I say “talk” I mean dream together, share your thoughts, expose your feelings instead of keeping them to yourself. It’s important to turn off the television or put down that magazine and look into each other’s eyes while you converse. Really listen and understand. If your spouse is distracted, then ask him or her to carve out 10-15 minutes just to catch up.
If you do this regularly, you will start to see your spouse with depth and color. You’ll begin to appreciate his or her ambitions and desires. You may think you couldn’t possibly learn anything new about your spouse, but husbands and wives are humans who change and grow. What are the ways your spouse has grown lately? What new things has he or she learned? Why not find out? It will be the best 10-15 minutes of your day.
2. Keep short accounts and extend forgiveness regularly. Nothing will ruin a desire to be with your spouse faster than resentment and bitterness. In return, it also ruins your spouse’s desire to be with you. Fights are going to happen in marriage; there’s no way around it. But you can choose to handle these conflicts in the right way and build up your marriage instead of tearing it down.
In Ephesians 4:31-32, the apostle Paul exhorts, “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.”
We have the power to forgive because Christ forgave us, and He gives us strength through the Holy Spirit. As you let go of harbored hurts, you will be free to love your spouse, no matter how many mistakes he or she has made. And as a result your mate will love you even more.
3. Live selflessly. As followers of Christ, we are called to be servants (Galatians 5:13). This not only applies to the church body and our neighbors, but it also applies in marriage. Since we live so closely to our husbands and wives, it’s easy to forget that we are called to serve them as much as anyone else. As a matter of fact, your spouse may be the most important person in your life (other than Christ) to serve.
As you put your husband’s or wife’s needs above your own, you will find that you argue less, feel sorry for yourself less; your children will be more secure and happy; and you will find greater fulfillment as you watch your spouse enjoy the fruits of your kindness. Jesus said if you want to be great, you must be the servant of all (Mark 10:43).
4. Use words of affirmation regularly. The tongue is a powerful tool. James 3:6 tells us that the tongue has the ability to defile the whole body and set on fire the course of a man’s life. In the same way, a critical attitude can make or break a marriage.
Instead of pointing out all of the ways your spouse regularly disappoints you, start to look for the positive attributes. Take the opportunity to express your heartfelt appreciation. By giving a little praise, more of your mate’s good qualities will stand out, and in addition, you will find your spouse’s heart growing larger toward you as he or she feels more appreciated and adored.
5. Never stop saying, “I love you.” A woman at one of FamilyLife’s Weekend to Remember® marriage getaways was ecstatic because her husband told her, “I love you.” This couple had been married more than 25 years, and the last time that phrase left his lips was on their wedding day. “I told her once,” her husband said. “I figured that was enough.”
The words “I love you” never grow old—your wife or husband needs to hear them regularly, especially when you’ve had a fight or he or she has disappointed you in some way.
6. Laugh together. Marriage isn’t just a business deal. You have the opportunity to be best friends if you’re willing to invest in the relationship. Do you remember all the fun things you did together when you were dating? Stop reminiscing about those memories from the past and create some new ones.
Proverbs 17:22 says, “A joyful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit dries up the bones.” Play games with other couples and be on the same team. Watch a comedy together, and then go have ice cream after the show. Turn off the TV and tell your favorite jokes. If you’re ready for a change in your marriage, make room for a little laughter in your schedule.
7. Tame your thoughts. I’ve heard it said that the most sexual organ in the body is the mind. If your mind isn’t in the mood for love, then nothing will be. Women especially have a difficult time enjoying sexual intercourse if they are emotionally unprepared. Even men will find it hard to enjoy if they feel emotionally detached from their spouses.
The cure is to control your thought processes. Women, while you are intimate with your husband, think of him, not your laundry or the things you have to do the next day. Men, don’t think of sex as a purely physical event. Talk to your wife; think of her and not the models you saw in television commercials earlier. As a Christian, the Holy Spirit gives you the ability to control your thoughts, so choose to have thoughts that uplift and focus on your spouse.
8. Pray together. Spiritual intimacy is more important than physical intimacy. Many couples have regular sexual activity, but are not intimate—they miss out on the soul, the person your spouse is underneath the flesh. Christ is the bond that makes marriages strong and sturdy.
By praying together, you begin to have a deeper respect and admiration for each other spiritually. When the spiritual part of a relationship is sturdy and strong, that lays the foundation for a healthy physical intimacy. For more information on this topic, order Two Hearts Praying as One by Dennis and Barbara Rainey.
9. Check your expectations. If you find that your spouse is continually disappointing you, it may not be his or her actions; it may be your expectations. Everyone comes into marriage with a set of unspoken rules about life. “Husbands should always …” and “Wives should always … .” These rules are based on conclusions we’ve made watching our own parents and other couples that we admire.
There is nothing wrong with goals and objectives, but it isn’t fair to create unspoken expectations for your spouse and then get annoyed when they aren’t followed. If you will stop assuming and start communicating, you’ll become less irritated and a lot more in love with your mate.
10. Never say the word “divorce.” Marriage is a covenant that is made to last until death. That may be hard to believe in a culture where divorce is commonplace, but the Word of God is very serious about the promise of vows between man and wife (Matthew 19:3-9).
I’ve heard many couples use the word divorce as a way to threaten and control his or her spouse, such as, “If you don’t stop … I’ll divorce you.” But what this person may not understand is that a threat only plants seeds of fear and mistrust in your marriage. If you choose to handle conflict in this way, your spouse can become afraid that you’re going to leave and find it difficult to trust you. These feelings then lead to bitterness and isolation.
Instead, tell your spouse that you will never leave. Assure him or her that you meant the vows that you took on your wedding day. Although there may need to be changes in your marriage and even marriage counseling, let your husband or wife know that you are willing to work things out because you made a promise to your spouse and to God to stay in the marriage as long as you both shall live.
If you will practice these 10 ideas regularly, I guarantee a more romantic marriage. Romance is more about wooing than getting what you want, and a loved spouse will love you back. Don’t wait until it’s too late to begin practicing these principles. Start today.
Copyright © 2008 by FamilyLife. All rights reserved.
This article originally appeared on FamilyLife.com
Sabrina Beasley McDonald is a former senior writer and web editor for FamilyLife, working mainly with FamilyLife’s online magazine The Family Room. Over the years she has written of her engagement, wedding, and marriage to David Beasley, her experiences as a mother, her adjustment to widowhood in 2010 when David was tragically killed in a car accident, and her marriage in 2013 to Robbie McDonald.
Sabrina has written dozens of articles for FamilyLife. Her articles have also appeared in numerous publications, including Worldwide Challenge magazine; Christian Women Today online magazine; and Australian Christian Woman.