[Editor's Note: This is the second in a regular column from bestselling author Laurie Puhn, where you will discover revealing personal and client anecdotes and learn quick tips from her current book Fight Less, Love More: 5-Minute Conversations to Change Your Relationship without Blowing Up or Giving In. You’ll get the right words to say to your spouse, at the right time, to inspire a lasting and happy relationship—always, of course, keeping in mind that kids are in the mix.]
Where did the romance go? If you’re like most couples, including my clients and myself, you get home from a planned date night feeling wonderfully upbeat. The next night you can barely remember where you went to or what you ate.
Sporadic attempts at romance are just that – temporary and easily forgotten. From date night to a Valentine’s Day weekend getaway, each has tremendous value, while we’re doing it. But when we return home to our predictable routine of working and caring for our children, those special one-on-one moments with our honey quickly fade.
Does this mean that a marriage with children is in trouble if the couple doesn’t have those heart throbbing romantic highs once shared in the dating phase? Absolutely not. When kids are in the mix, married couples should expect a more tempered, but certainly visible, daily romantic connection.
There are two kinds of romance, the one that spontaneously happens to you because of a special setting, like watching a sunset over the beach, or gazing at each other through a candlelit dinner with soft music in the background, and the one you make happen anywhere, by consciously choosing to say the right words at the right time to your mate. The first type of romance readily happens during the dating period, the second type requires greater awareness and effort if you and your spouse want keep your romantic attraction alive for the long-run.
The things we say and do, and don’t say or do, can spark or block a loving connection. Our daily word choices become what I call a couple’s “daily communication routine,” as described in Fight Less, Love More. Hard-pressed for quality time with our partners and spouses, it's easy to fall victim to a poor communication routine. To stop this from happening, today I ask you to pay attention to your established communication routine. Then, if needed, include these loving comments in your conversations with your honey. Ask your spouse to do the same and the results will astound you.
- First, let’s put our mate first, every day. When one of you walks in the door, immediately greet each other (not the little kids or your computer first). Or, if you see your kids first, greet them, but don’t stop there. Find your spouse. A gentle touch on the shoulder with a simple “hello, how was your day?” warms up the night. If you’re on the phone when your mate gets home, end the conversation. Yes, your spouse’s arrival takes priority over others.
- Second, say “good morning,” and “good night” to each other every day. These statements bring to mind that it is a good day or night because you are together and with your special someone. Not surprisingly, in our online research we found that 25% of couples don’t consistently say goodnight to each other, and of those, 70% had thought about breaking up in the prior year.
- Finally, show love by highlighting your mate’s positive character traits. Pick one out every day, and if you think that’s hard, simply look for the little things. Make comments like, “I love you for (fill-in-the-blank)," As an example, one day I told my husband, “I love you for leaving a new tube of toothpaste on the bathroom sink for me to use. That was really kind.” And one of my favorite compliments (which my husband knows) is to hear him say some variety of, “You are such a good mother because you have so much patience with the kids.” Interestingly, in our research, when we asked people whether they’d prefer their mate compliment them for being good-looking (a visual compliment), or kind (a character compliment) 84 percent answered, “kind.”
A positive daily communication routine is the way to keep love alive, when you don’t have time for a vacation or a hand-in-hand sunset walk in the park. For romance to thrive during child-rearing years you have to choose it, or lose it.
Laurie Puhn is a Harvard-educated lawyer, couples mediator, relationship expert, and bestselling author of “Fight Less, Love More: 5-Minute Conversations to Change Your Relationship without Blowing Up or Giving In,” who appears on Good Morning America, 20/20, Fox News and CNN. Most importantly, she is a wife and mother to two young children. Visit her interactive site at www.fightlesslovemore.com.