A lot of the letters I receive focus on where and how to meet the right person, and as much as I appreciate how arduous the search for a partner can be, once you meet that person falling in love is actually pretty easy. It’s staying in love that’s the trickiest part of all. So, in honor of Valentine’s Day, I give you eight ways to keep the spark alive in your relationship, after the jump.
1. Go on regular dates. How can you expect to keep romance alive if you’re never seeing each other dressed up and outside the walls of your own home? If you can, shoot for getting out and doing something fun together — preferably one-on-one, but double dates can work too — at least once a week. Grocery shopping doesn’t count.
2. Take up a new hobby together. Researchers say that experiencing new activities together creates the same chemicals in the brain that are created during the early stages of romantic love. Take a cooking class, home brew some beer, learn to Tango. Watching “American Idol” together doesn’t count.
3. Do sweet and simple things for each other. Little unexpected surprises keep things spontaneous and show your partner you care. Homemade cookies, a bouquet of daffodils (some Proflowers coupons are always available!), or a great back rub do wonders for keeping the spark alive. Plus, you may get a little sumpin’ sumpin’ for your efforts.
4. Keep secrets from each other. Secrets that really don’t need to be shared with your partner: the consistency of your last bowel movement, how many hairs you tweezed from your chin this morning, and what came out of that zit you popped on your shoulder in the shower. A little mystery goes a long way in keeping things sexy. When in doubt, close your trout.
5. Reminisce together. If you feel like you’re in a bit of a romance rut, take a trip down memory lane to a time you weren’t in a rut. Re-trace your first date; go through old photos, love letters or other memorabilia from your early months together; if there’s a place that holds some special significance, go there if you can, remember what it is that made you fall in love and think about how much you’ve grown as a couple since then.
6. Spend some time apart. Distance makes the heart grow fonder, so spend some quality time away from your significant other — a weekend away with friends, for example — gives you a chance to maintain and foster your own identity, nurture other relationships, and miss each other a little … which makes your time together that much sweeter.
7. Flirt with other people. Playing eye tag with the cute stranger on the subway, or exchanging extra pleasant pleasantries with the hot barista at your local coffee shop — provided it doesn’t cross the bounds of appropriateness — is a great way to remind yourself that you’re sexy, desirable, and fun, all of which are probably the traits that made your significant other fall for you in the first place.
8. Fake it. The term “Fake it ’til you make it,” applies to your love life as much as to anything else. Even if you don’t feel particularly in love with your significant other today — relationships are cyclical, after all; you’re not going to feel “in love” every day — going through the motions mindfully and with loving intention helps you get there authentically a little faster (and it keeps your partner feeling loved in the mean time).