Regular sex is key to keeping a relationship running at its best but sex isn’t the only way to stoke the flames of marriage.
In addition to frequent sex and looking up from our iPhones when we call each other’s names, my husband and I have some “go to” activities that bring us back together when we feel we are drifting apart. Just like sex, there are some that meet one of our needs more than the other’s, but happily there are several that please us both.
1. I act as his sous chef.
Steve loves to cook, and lots of times I just arrive at the dinner table and am surprised by what he has created for us. On evenings we have more time, I roll up my sleeves and get chopping. I let him boss me around in deference to all of the solo cooking he does the other nights of the week. We experiment with new flavors, try to balance textures, and laugh a lot at our utter disasters. It is more about the process than the product when we work together.
2. We give each other tickley scratches.
I coined the phrase “tickley scratch” when I was a young girl. It was part of my bedtime routine, and I have passed this on to my boys. The kids and I gently trail our fingernails down each other’s backs half tickle/half scratch. Steve and I have found that this pampering isn’t just good for kids; occasionally, when we sack out at bed time we will turn on the TV and keep a connection through our fingers rather than our words. We take turns giving and receiving.
3. We taste and talk about beer.
I taste and he talks. Brewing beer, reading about beer, building relationships with brewers, aging beer, are all things that bring a smile to Steve’s face. I don’t really like beer. My lack of like pales in comparison to his passion for pale ale. So I listen, and the more I learn the more I care. Sort of. It’s important to participate in things that our partners love. At least a little.
4. “Playing Zillow.”
We launch the Zillow real estate search app and pick a point on the map. We add key search words like “midcentury modern” or “waterfront” and fantasize about a different life. It that might mirror our life now with work and kids, so we consider the walk to school and the size of the garage.
Alternatively, we look ahead to the many years we plan to share after the boys leave the house. We imagine a guest house for our boys who are grown, established perennial gardens, and easy walks to restaurants that may or may not exist. In the meantime, I get him to look at thousands of pictures of rooms and rooflines. Houses are my beer.
5. 69: Foot-rub style.
The ingredients are simple: two laps, one couch, one tub of coconut oil (great for inside and outside the body.) There is nothing more relaxing than a foot rub, and as a bonus it seems that keeping our hands and eyes on each other’s feet brings out free and meandering conversation. We’ve never found ourselves talking about the next days’ schedule as we sink into the couch and each other’s heels.
6. Organizing the Pantry.
Bear with me. It doesn’t sound particularly romantic, but every time Steve and I organize the pantry, we love it. We marry pastry flours into larger Ball jars and recite their vows. I line up products by size, he takes them out and replaces them by type. I line them up by size within the type. We discover 11 packs of half-used birthday candles and talk about the best and worst parties we have thrown. We decant things into glass containers to channel Martha Stewart. I spill things, he laughs at me, and cleans up.
In the end, we stand with the door open and gaze in awe. Our organized pantry makes us feel fully stocked and in control. In some small way it reminds us that together, we can tame the chaos—beautifully. Until that afternoon when someone wants a snack.
7. 36 Questions.
This summer a New York Times article listed 36 questions that might lead to love with a stranger. We might miss out on that crazy first time connection, but that doesn’t mean we can ask and answer them together. So when we want to talk, but don’t really have the energy to come up with our own deep thoughts, we pull out the list and pretend to have just met in a bar…a useful fantasy in many ways.
8. Planning our 25th anniversary trip to…
Tuscany, Cairo, Morocco, wherever the hell our boys live. Every spot on the globe is an imaginary venue for our trip of a lifetime. We don’t travel as we would like at this stage of life, but that doesn’t keep us from planning a trip (or trips). Steve maps the routes, I look at accommodations, we read reviews and imagine lofts in the cities, yurts in the dessert, and villas in the countryside. One glorious month alone together in some yet-to-be explored place.
9. DJing for each other.
Spotify, Rdo, Apple Music, the broad music libraries accessible at the tap of a finger offer us another way to look back at our lives. Music can bring forth memories that have been hidden in the haze, and we offer each other a glimpse of the kids we were. I sing along tunelessly to the Talking Heads song that was oddly featured in a camp play, Steve jumps around to a song from the SKA radio show that he had in college. We play for each other the sound tracks of our separate pasts bringing them into our common present.
10. Acting out the romantic comedy montage.
Throwing suds at each other while we wash the dishes, strolling thrift shops and trying on hats, comparing fruit at farm stands, chasing each other around the park, the romcom shows us that anything can be intimate if we pretend to frolic to pop music. Goofy can be good, but it requires a certain mood. Just like sex, there are times when faking is effective. Laughing while I try to toss popcorn kernels into Steve’s mouth can be a pick me up, even though I have to pick the popcorn up.
Our list is particular to us, and I’m sure you and your partner will replace some (or all) of these suggestions with your own. What about you?
This article was originally published with the Good Men Project; republished with the kindest permission.
[image: via shutterstock]
About the Author
Anna Rosenblum Palmer is a freelance writer based in Denver, CO. She writes about sex, parenting, cat pee, bi-polar disorder and the NFL; all things inextricably intertwined with her mental health. In her free time she teaches her boys creative swear words, seeks the last missing puzzle piece and thinks deeply about how she is not exercising. Her writing can be found on Babble, Parent.co, Great Moments in Parenting, Ravishly, Good Men Project, Sammiches and Psych Meds, Crazy Good Parent, and YourTango. She also does a fair amount of navel gazing on her own blog at annarosenblumpalmer.com. Find her on Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, and Instagram.