In the early days of our relationship, before we lived together and jointly managed 17 weekly loads of laundry, a rotten dog and a pantry that never has any good snacks, romance came easily.
My husband Gabe left slim volumes of Pablo Neruda's poetry on my bedside table and I wrote him long love letters. We met for lunch during the work day. We traveled to Paris and locked our love onto one of the bridges over the Seine. I wriggled into slinky dresses and stilettos and he made reservations.
And then we got married.
To say our six children keep us busy is a bit like saying Madonna had a hit or two in the eighties. We often can't catch our breath to sort the mail or empty the dishwasher around here, let alone keep the fires of our love burning like we did before we became joint ringmasters of this family circus.
The truth is, romance is more important to us now than it ever was before. With divorce rates for second marriages topping 70%, the odds are stacked against blended families. Gabe and I are the center of this family, and our foundation must be rock solid. Even knowing that, we sometimes get distracted by the noise and lose focus.
Here are five ways we keep our romantic flame alive.
- We connect throughout the day: Gabe just texted me as I typed the first paragraph of this post. We text or call throughout the work day, and for the most part, avoid doing so for logistics reasons. Gabe calls me at lunch and I send him emoji kisses before client meetings. We've even been known to text on the weekends when all the kids are home and we just can't seem to get a minute to ourselves.
- We closely guard our alone time: Because we share joint custody with our coparenting partners, we don't like to hire sitters for date nights while we have the children. Because we each actively coparent, weekends that look kid-free on the calendar often are not. Overall, that's good news; we love spending time with our children. It also means that we rarely have time alone together. When we do see a window of time that belongs to just the two of us, we are quick to block the calendar. Golf with the guys and dinners with my girlfriends usually happen when the other is busy with their children. If both of us are free, we are together. Alone time is a priority, no matter what we decide to do with it.
- We surprise each other: Gabe brings home flowers from the grocery store and I order Sherlock Holmes mysteries off Amazon. He unloads the dishwasher before going to work on mornings he knows I am slammed. I slip a love note into his journal. Big or small, each of us occasionally surprises the other by injecting a little bit of love into our day-to-day routine.
- We put the kids to bed: Everyone has a bedtime here, even our teens. Our consistent bedtime routine isn't only for the kids' well-being. Once everyone is in bed, we lock our door and begin our evening. We chat about our day, catch up on our shows, rant about politics and enjoy our nightly date. The important part here is we are actively engaged in the same activity; we're together and paying attention to each other.
- We make plans: Whether the plans are for this weekend, next year, or 10 years from now doesn't matter. Gabe and I plan actively together. We like to have something to look forward to, even if it matters only to us. The RV show we're going to this weekend has been on our calendar for six months. We've talked about it endlessly, and have our tickets printed and ready. We're laughing at ourselves about our goofiness. We've looked forward to that show, just as we look forward to our weekend getaways and our someday farm in the country. Dreaming together matters.
Our romance today is wildly different from what it was at our beginning. For us, love has moved from the streets of Paris to our breakfast table, but it is every bit as alive (thank you, Wy and Naomi).
What is romantic to us may not be for other couples with children. What is important is finding ways to stay connected with your partner as the happy noise of your daily life surrounds you. How do you stay connected? What is unique to your story? How can you celebrate and strengthen your bond?