The night before a friend's wedding once, when we were all meeting up at the hotel bar, an adorable older couple, who'd been dancing affectionately to the bar's cover band all evening, struck up conversation with us. Upon hearing we were there for a wedding, they got all giddy and congratulatory, the way older adorable couples do, and explained they'd been "blissfully" married for over 30 years. My husband threw his arm over his friend's shoulder and said, "well do you have any words of wisdom for the groom here, on how to keep things blissful so long?" Their answer, delivered without a pause, cracked me up. "Shower together every morning," she said. He added "that way your kids always think it's normal, and you get to see each other naked at least one a day."
Just using the term "marriage tips" makes me feel a tiny bit like a washed up old broad. I don't need marriage tips, I'm young! And cool! And fun! But...the truth is, even at the youthful age of late-30's-something-or-other, life already sometimes feels like I imagined "grown up" life feeling, back in my 20's. There are lots of amazing things about motherhood, and romantic things about being a family with the man you love, and watching him become a father. But we are so tired!! Like, all the time. Part of the adjustment of motherhood for me had to do with this identity crisis that developed from the fact that I used to define myself as someone who was peppy, fun, and up for anything. Suddenly my whole demeanor felt different, simply because I just didn't have the energy to act the way I think of "myself" being. Mother or not, it's natural to evolve with age, and of course your relationship evolves along with you. There are fewer (ok maybe hardly any) spontaneous, tipsy nights that end up randomly in karaoke bars, just as one example. And that's ok! Cozy, sweatpants-on-the-couch evenings, watching The Voice after putting your toddler to bed, are romantic, too. But as things evolve towards a mellower, sleepier, lifestyle, I think it's important to take little steps to keep the magic, spark, intrigue, mystery...whatever you want to call it...alive in your relationship as well.
A few years ago I read this post on Cup Of Jo about keeping the sparks flying. Joanna Goddard shared a date night tip she and her husband had been trying out: instead of getting ready for date night together at home, sharing the hectic pre-date scramble of getting ready - flossing, peeing, greeting the sitter - they meet at the restaurant instead. It sets the scene for a more date-y date experience, looking excitedly around the restaurant bar for each other, bringing back some of that spark of their early dating days. I was reminded of Goddard's tip about a month ago, when I was incredibly pregnant and Reuben and I were celebrating our five year wedding anniversary. After dropping our two-year-old at my mom's and doing some casual things around the city, not only did we get ready for dinner together...we did so while driving to the restaurant in the car, my husband pantsless at a red light, me using the rearview mirror to try to put on mascara. I don't know if you've ever seen a nine-months pregnant woman try to slink into a little black dress, but it ain't graceful, let me tell you. And it's certainly less graceful in the passenger seat of a moving vehicle. Because I couldn't reach over my belly, I had to hoist my leg up on the dashboard for Reuben to buckle my shoe. Not my sexiest moment.
But then we got to the restaurant and couldn't find parking, so I ran in to save our reservation while he drove around for a spot. As soon as I was ushered to my seat, my mood changed completely, from a hurried frazzle to eager anticipation amidst the clinks and dings of the dining room. I was forced to just quietly sit and glance around the room, peruse the menu, awkwardly fiddle with my silverware (as luck would have it, I'd left my cell phone in the car, which is a date night tip all of its very own), and listen to the awesome soul music that was playing, which I might not have noticed had I not been forced to sit in silence for a bit. Every time the door swung open, I glanced excitedly to see if my date was here. I swear I'm not making this up, our wedding song even started playing while I waited- and in walked Reuben, looking super cute in his date attire, which I couldn't even see in the dark car earlier. There's something totally different about seeing a loved one across a busy room. You get to perceive him for a minute the way a stranger sees him, the way you used to see him when the relationship was newer. It was the best beginning to a date night I couldn't asked for...and I couldn't even drink lots of wine!
Do you have any little tips or rituals you use to keep the spark aflame in your relationship? I have a funny little thing I'm stubborn about - even after 11 years of dating and two babies in, I refuse to let my husband see me pee or cut my toenails!
(all photos, jamie grill photography)