Early in our marriage, keeping our love life alive was almost effortless. We’re in love! Oh how wonderful! But as the years went by and especially as children were added to our family, cultivating that romance didn’t come as easily. Joe and I call our kids our chaperones because they work really hard at making sure we’re never alone 🙂 Twenty-one years later (and almost 18 of them raising kids) Joe and I have kept the romance alive even with the four amazing chaperones that live with us! Here is what has helped us get there:
1. Be a couple in front of your kids (otherwise known as gross your kids out).
We are generous with our love and affection when the kids are around. Not just showing physical affection but to compliment each other in front of the kids as much as possible. Joe is also intentional in referring to me as “my wife” and not just “your mom” when talking to our kids. This reminds me and our kids that my role is a wife and not just mom!
We also want to communicate to our kids that being married means we need time alone and we are diligent about protecting that time. One way we protect that time is to not allow a steady stream of interruptions by our kids when we’re having a conversation. (All we want is one uninterrupted conversation!! ) About 99% of the time their needs and questions can wait ten minutes. This is a tough one for sure- but it shows respect and fosters intimacy to finish our conversation first before rushing off to meet one of our kids’ requests.
2. Invest in physical and emotional intimacy.
Both physical and emotional intimacy are important to keep the romance alive. Each feeds the other! Growing our emotional intimacy means investing in our friendship, listening well, and showing that we value our spouse as a person. It’s finding ways to say “I love to be with you!” The more we communicate that, the better our intimacy. Most importantly, our intimacy also cannot flourish without a foundation of daily forgiveness and respect!
3. Avoid “Not tonight, dear” as much as possible.
Joe and I realized a few years ago the damage that the word “No” was causing in our sexual relationship. There were times that either of us would make the ask and get a response that was less than favorable. For any multitude of reasons. So as we talked this through, we made the adjustment that if we have to turn each other down, to not respond with an outright “No!”, a negative facial expression, or anything that would communicate rejection. There may be something undesirable with the timing, but I don’t want to communicate that there is something undesirable about being close.
Sometimes an ask is also a way to realize that something is going on beneath the surface. When either of says no, it’s often an opportunity to say, hey I’m not there right now. Maybe we are struggling personally, or there is something we need to talk about as a couple. That means a “no” becomes an invitation to care more deeply about each other and choose to show love in the way we most need it.
Instead we are working on responding first with, “That is a great idea!” or “That sounds like a lot of fun!” or “I love knowing you’re thinking of me!” Then, we can go on to explain how we’re feeling or why another time wold be more ideal. Then the asker can respond with “Are you doing okay? Is there anything you need instead?”
So much of our sexual intimacy as a couple is based in desire and being desired! There’s no magic amount of sexual activity that can replace the simple joy of being desired. Communicating that desire to each other often- even on the days when we don’t have time for each other- is a big part keeping our love life alive!
I am my beloved’s and his desire is for me.
Song of Solomon 7:10