Now, what? The cards have been opened, the candy eaten, and dinner was a huge success. How do you keep romance alive after the big day? Below are five tips gleaned from marriage counselors, Greek philosophers, communication experts, and years of personal trial and error.
Keep a Secret. Over time couples become creatures of habit and develop favorite coffee shops, restaurants, and routines. Perhaps, it's time to break free of the same old, same old. Ask her to set aside Friday night for a date, but keep all details a secret! Check online for reviews of local eateries and try someplace different. When the day comes only tell her the time of the date and keep all other information a secret. Marriage counselors report that while a marriage thrives on stability, romance flourishes with surprise and mystery.
Practice Mindfulness. Experts describe our crazy American lifestyle as a form of hurry sickness. Hurry sickness results from living in a constant state of overdrive cramming each moment so full of events that we have no time to experience these events in any meaningful way. This chronic sense of hurry is characterized by the need to continually accomplish multiple tasks at once. The opposite of hurry sickness is mindfulness-being fully present in the moment. In today's techno-driven, fast-paced, "That's so forty seconds ago" culture simply sitting with your significant other and leisurely talking-unplugged from technology and pressing demands-becomes a romantic time of focusing on each other.
Focus on Friendship, not Romance. When the ancient Greeks wanted to describe the many forms of love, they used a wide array of terms such as ludus (playful love), pragma (pragmatic love), and agape (divine love). Their two favorite terms were eros and philos. Eros is powerful romantic love that flares up quickly and expresses itself in dramatic ways. Philos, or the love between friends, is slow to develop but durable. Valentine's Day is all about dramatic expressions of romance (eros), while continuing romance is the result of cultivating friendship (philos). "People seem to have two sets of rules for relationships: one for friendship, the other for romance," writes author Tim Downs. "We long for romance, so we try to rush past friendship and hurl ourselves into romance. Then we wonder why the romance doesn't last." The key to a healthy dating relationship, or marriage, is a friendship rooted in common values and interests which in turn fuels romance. For your next date, simply do something he or she likes and you may be surprised by the romantic results.
Avoid a Point Mentality to Romance. The problem with Valentine's Day is we often use it as an excuse to be lazy after the big day. One Valentine's Day I made a list of key ways to romance my wife based on a survey I had read. The day included giving her flowers, candy, taking a long walk, romantic dinner, and so on. The day was a big hit! To me, that day consisted of thousands of romantic points that would surely last for months! With this mentality, I put romance on the back burner and threw myself into work. Soon, my wife felt neglected while I thought I was still operating on residual points from that day. The key to keeping romance going is consistency. Research shows that what we desire most concerning romance is consistency-small, consistent overtures of love (cards, tweets, compliments) rather than dramatic ones (a cruise, or Lexus with a bow on top).
Remove the Mystery. One leading communication expert argues that all words are riddles that have to be unpacked. If you are in a dating relationship then you know that men and women often have significantly different definitions of romance. So, take the mystery out of the word. Instead of reading articles on romance simply ask how he or she would define romance or intimacy. Take careful mental notes and create a plan.
What makes Valentine's Day so fun and meaningful is the forethought and attention that goes into it. What will make romance continue is the same forethought and attention spread out over the days, weeks, and months that follow.
Muehlhoff and wife Noreen are frequent speakers at marriage conferences and