(Below is an edited version of my column from today's Miami Herald)
With more dual earning couples and today intense work demands, sustaining romantic relationships takes awareness and intention. Most couples remember to express their love on Valentine’s Day, but experts say there are plenty of ways to keep the passion alive all year.
• Ditch the excuses: To rekindle romantic love in a relationship, start by taking responsibility. “Working hard, being tired, that’s not an excuse,” says Maya Ezratti, a Miami relationship expert (pictured above) and founder of Rewarding Relationships, a dating and relationship counseling firm. “If you don’t’ have five minutes for your partner, your husband or wife, then who are you giving all your love in life to?” Ezratti finds an increasing number of people are complaining about a love partner, male or female, present at home but still connected to work. Some will argue that it’s the new norm. That, too, is not an excuse.
• Show more affection: Work demands make it easy to overlook being affectionate at home. But maintaining passion can be as easy as holding your partner’s hand. “A touch goes a long way,” Ezratti says. She suggests making an effort to kiss your spouse when you walk in the door after work. Or, if you’re the one home first, acknowledge the other person’s entrance in a loving way. “You both should look forward to coming home after work.” Making an effort to show emotional affection helps, too. Ezratti says your partner should feel you have his or her back at home and work: “The reality is one person’s career is not more important. I don’t care if he is the CEO and she’s a nurse or the other way around. Part of being romantic is to help facilitate each other in being successful.”
• Communicate differently: When infatuation wears off, avoiding couple burnout requires letting your life partner know when you need more attention or excitement. “Sometimes, when one person is working too much, it doesn’t occur to them that it’s impacting the relationship. You have to sit and have a chat, and tell them what you feel can be done to fix the relationship,” says Ernest Quansah, president of Relationship Advice for Success, a relationship counseling firm in British Columbia. “But that doesn’t make it OK to neglect a relationship.”
• Mix it up: Bringing back freshness in a relationship takes creativity. Even date night can get old if you’re always renting a movie or going to the same restaurant. Jennifer Sneeden, founder of Boca Marriage Counseling, recommends breaking out of the routine and trying new ways to spend time together — going dancing, taking an exercise class or eating pizza in the back yard. Watching romantic movies might be another option. A study by researchers at University of Rochester found that viewing five films a month, with relationships as their main focus, and discussing them afterward, can get couples through rocky patches and could even cut the divorce rate in half. They concluded many couples have relationship skills, but they needed reminders like those in romantic films like Love Story or The Way We Were, to put skills into practice. Quansah says men need to realize that women want their husbands to be their best friends. “When she goes out with you, she wants to laugh and have fun. If that happens, she’s yours forever.”
• Increase Intimacy. Given most people’s hectic schedules, the intimacy once enjoyed may now be just tired sex, if it’s happening at all. One in every four married or cohabitating Americans claim they're so sleep-deprived that they're often too tired to have sex, according to a study by the National Sleep Foundation. Larisa Wainer, relationship specialist with the Morris Psychological Group in New Jersey, says it may sound boring but she recommends couples schedule sex on the calendar. “The fact that sex is spontaneous is a myth,” Wainer says. She urges couple to agree on how many times a week they will have sex and try to stick to the plan. “If it hasn’t happened yet, let the other person know you’re looking forward to it happening.” To build desire, dole out more compliments. “Aim for five compliments each day,” Sneeden says. “The first few times it may feel phony or forced but it will turn the tide of the relationship.”
• Find new ways to flirt. If the sparks are fading, heat them up by making your partner feel desirable. Try flirty text messages to build excitement for a later sexual encounter or romantic evening together. Emails work, too. Miami atttorney Patricia Redmond says she and her husband swap about 25 emails a day to stay connected. The content may be about new case law or upcoming adventure travel, “but they always include XOXO,” she says. Redmond and her husband, attorney Jerry Markowitz, are married 28 years and both practice corporate bankruptcy law at different firms. They are planning an upcoming trip to Hawaii in May for a legal conference and fun. Their recent emails start with “aloha.” “It’s easy to get into a routine so we build excitement for our time away together,” Redmond says.
• Use apps. Of course, in today’s high tech world, there are Apps to help. The Tell My Wife I Love Her habit has become one of the most popular on Lift.do, an app that helps people track personal goals. Quanash says old fashioned romancing works too. He charms his woman by cooking a signature dish and naming it for her.
The bottom line is to keep romance alive, “Your partner must know that he or she is a priority in your life, not just an item on a to-do list,” says Wainer.
So, do you find it a challenge to keep romance alive? Do you find yourself making your career a priority at times?