Never Stop Dating Your Partner – Orlando Sentinel

“Ask Anna” is a chronicle about sex. Due to the nature of the subject, some columns contain language that some readers may find graphic.

Dear Anna,

My wife and I have been together for nine years. She has started a new job that is much more demanding of her time, and we have two children to keep us busy as well. It seems like we don’t see each other very often anymore, and when we do, we get tired, grumpy, or deal with house maintenance bullshit.

We love each other so much but I can see the fire going out of our relationship. How to recover this fire? I’m not just talking about sex, although that’s part of it. We haven’t had a date in months either. Any advice is appreciated. Thanks. — For intimacy, rethink everything

Dear FIRE,

We sometimes think of relationships, especially marriage, as the end of courtship. Great, I got the girl, now I can rest on my laurels. But this is not the case. You should never stop dating your partner.

Everything in life requires maintenance, from the mundane (changing the water filter) to the deep (maintaining the spark of a lifelong partnership). If you stop devoting time and energy to eating well or exercising, your health suffers. If you don’t stay in touch with your friends, those friendships dwindle.

Like the fire metaphor you used, relationships need nurturing or they burn out. So how do you prioritize your relationship once again? You do it with intentionality, a little planning and action.

Intentionality involves a change of mentality. It’s not about discovery time to fuel your relationship ignites; it is manufacturing time. Life is hectic. Plans are derailed. Children derail them even more. But if you make a mental promise to yourself that your relationship is important and worth keeping, you’ll be more likely to succeed.

Planning involves setting aside real time to understand How? ‘Or’ What you’re going to nurture your marriage, whether it’s initiating a regular date, finding a getaway, or even taking five minutes to connect when you get home from work each day. (I recommend all three!) Bonus: do this planning with your spouse has added responsibility and social ties.

As you dream and plot, take some time to also think about any obstacles that may arise, then figure out how you will overcome them. Then, put time on your calendar. Set reminders on your phone. Get babysitters or swap kids with other parents if money is tight. Planning is about preparing for success. To use an exercise metaphor, you’re much more likely to train if you take out your running clothes the night before.

Shares are the fun part, what you will actually do together. A popular option to consider is the 2-2-2 rule, which comes from Reddit user kernan2and goes like this:

  • Every two weeks, go out at night
  • Every two months, go out on weekends
  • Every two years, leave for a week

This is a simple topic that can easily be adapted to your lifestyle or budget. Prefer a 1-2-1? Do that! Can’t go away for a whole weekend? Make a stay! A friend of mine has converted his guest bedroom into an “Airbnb” for his partner, with fresh sheets and mints on the pillow. It was cute and cost next to nothing (minus the mints).

Dates don’t need to be elaborate or expensive. They might involve cooking a meal together at home, going for an evening walk around your neighborhood, talking about your hopes and dreams, or learning something new together.

The latter is particularly useful because variety and novelty are extremely important to our happiness and to keep that spark alive. Our brain has a pesky (and necessary) function called hedonic adaptation, which basically means we get used to things pretty quickly. It’s great when we overcome difficulties, but less when we are bored in our relationships because the things that made us vibrate no longer do. Thus, living new experiences with one’s spouse amounts to counteracting hedonic adaptation.

TL; DR: Vary your routines. Try new restaurants or activities. Learn to tango or draw cartoon characters or build a bookshelf. Change gender. Get out of your comfort zone. (For more ideas, see this article on dates and activities that appeal to the five senses.)

Good luck, FIRE.

Anna Pulley is a syndicated columnist for Tribune Content Agency who answers readers’ questions about love, sex and dating. Send your questions by e-mail (anonymity guaranteed) to [email protected]sign up for his infrequent (but amazing) newsletter or check it out books!

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