Keeping the Flames Burning in Your Marriage

You finish each other’s sentences, feel connected and comfortable. But lately you and your partner’s routine seems ho-hum. How can you get the passion back? From taking a tango lesson to redefining date night, here are 9 of my best tips…


When we first fall for a guy our brains are flooded with arousal hormones, namely dopamine and norepinephrine.

Then you get into the couple comfort zone – that sweet spot where your lives are in sync. It glues people together for a lifetime, but there’s a catch.

As couples settle down, those feel-good chemicals dissipate like bubbles in a bath.

“If you stayed in that state of infatuation, [the feelings would] lead to distractibility, sleep deprivation and lack of drive in other important areas of your life,” says Brown University psychiatrist Scott Haltzman, M.D., author of  THE SECRETS OF HAPPILY MARRIED WOMEN and THE SECRETS OF HAPPILY MARRIED MEN (Jossey-Bass).

“So the body corrects itself and focuses on things like survival.”

Cooling passion is nature’s way of making sure we go to work, pay our bills and eat. Still, as nice as having a roof over our heads is, who wouldn’t want to get back some of that new-relationship heat?


1. Take a tango lesson.
Passions run high at a relationship’s start because everything about your romance is new.

“You’re constantly learning about your partner and doing new things together,” explains Terri Orbuch, Ph.D. (aka The Love Doctor), author of 5 SIMPLE STEPS TO TAKE YOUR MARRIAGE FROM GOOD TO GREAT (Delacorte Press). “Novelty fuels passion.”

Even if you’ve been a couple for decades, just doing something different together can reignite those early-relationship flutters again.

That’s been proven in a small study at Stanford University and UC Santa Cruz. Researchers split 53 middle-aged, long-married couples into three groups. For 10 weeks, a control group conducted a normal life. The second group went on typical dates each week, such as going out to dinner or a movie. The third group did new things together that both partners considered exciting – skiing, dancing, hiking or going to a concert.

Which couples reported feeling happier together? The ones doing exciting new stuff. So take that tango class, sign up for tennis lessons, go scuba- or skydiving.

“A lot of couples have their most extraordinary moments together when they’re hiking or riding bikes or seeing a local band,” says Denver psychotherapist Angela Sasseville.


Got kids? Swap childcare duties with a mom friend. Or arrange for a mid-morning play date.

“One couple I know sent their kids to a friend’s house on a Sunday morning,” Sasseville says. “They had brunch and then went home to make love in the middle of the day.”

2. Make a “marriage ritual.”
If finding a babysitter is next to impossible, create couple time closer to home, says Sharon Gilchrest O’Neill, author of A SHORT GUIDE TO A HAPPY MARRIAGE (Cider Mill Press) and a Mt. Kisco, N.Y., therapist.

Make “a marriage ritual,” a non-negotiable commitment to get together each week “no matter what,” she says.

This is sacred couple time that shouldn’t get preempted by working late, TV, or an unresolved spat.

“This is something that keeps people connected,” she says.


3. Talk is sexy.
Once you’re coupled up, conversation usually revolves around oil changes, dental appointments and your pets.

That’s hardly stimulating chitchat.

Reignite passion by talking about goals, dreams and desires, the way you did in the beginning.

“Talking is one of the all time great stimulants of desire,” O’Neill says. “It really is an aphrodisiac.”

Feeling tongue-tied? Here’s O’Neill’s favorite way to start the conversation:

Place a notebook in a location that you both pass every day.

“When you think, ‘Oh, I want to talk about that,’ jot it down so you’ll remember,” she says.

You can also fall back on some of Orbuch’s favorite opening lines. Ask questions like: If you could travel anywhere, where would you go? What are you most proud of? What’s the one thing you’d like to be remembered for?

“These questions all relate to what makes your partner really tick,” she explains.


4. Send flirty texts.
Surprise one another every day.

It could be as simple as slipping an “I love you!” note into your man’s briefcase or exchanging flirty texts throughout the day.

Or pretend: You’re strangers at a singles bar and seducing your guy for a hot hookup.

“Anything that shakes up your routine” adds excitement, says Orbuch.

5. Redefine “date night.”
Every relationship expert tells couples to make time for just the two of you, like when you were dating.

That doesn’t mean date night has to be dinner and a movie. It doesn’t even have to be at night.

“Couples often get stuck in narrow thinking,” Sasseville says. “But [nighttime] may not be when they feel most strongly connected to one another.”

Think about when and how you two bond. Maybe it’s over cocktails in a swanky club or at a ballgame.


6. Ride a scary rollercoaster.
Sex is a no-brainer when coming up with arousing activities. But even G-rated activities – exercising or spending a day on thrill rides at a theme park – can fan the flames, if you do them together.

Doing exciting, physically challenging things together turns on dopamine and norepinephrine.

And the adrenaline that’s triggered by exertion and fear also makes your relationship snap, crackle and pop. Why?

Because you associate that rush with your guy, according to researchers at the State University of New York at Stony Brook.

In the study, one group of couples tried to crawl over an obstacle course in less than a minute while tied together at the wrist and ankle.

Another group slowly rolled a ball back and forth across the floor.

Silly as it sounds, the couples who scrambled over the obstacle course scored much higher on love and satisfaction scales.

Therapists call this “transfer of arousal,” explains Orbuch. When you do daring things with your partner, you’ll think he’s responsible for the thrills.

7. Play Twister together.
“Games increase your sense of competition and excitement,” Dr. Haltzman explains. “The best thing is that even when your partner wins, you win.”

Any game is good, as long as it’s exciting for you.

So haul out the checkers, Scrabble, Risk or Boggle.

Or play a really arousing game, like strip poker or Twister. (Or strip poker, then Twister.)

“Twister’s fun, involves physical contact and physical challenge,” Dr. Haltzman says. “It meets all the criteria for generating strong attraction to each other.”


8. Have a quickie.
When work and other family obligations take over your life, there’s not much time for lovemaking. Spontaneous sex reminds couples that they’re more than roommates or parents, O’Neill says.

It’s not as good as the full treatment, but it’ll hold you over.

“Quickies are a gift,” O’Neill explains. “It’s being able to connect quickly but meaningfully, and understanding each other so well that it feels good for both of you.”

9. Toss those PJs.
Sleep naked, even if all you do is cuddle each other. It makes “you feel closer and more connected,” says O’Neill. Plus, it allows for spontaneous sex.

And nothing’s more passionate than that.

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1 Response to Keeping the Flames Burning in Your Marriage

  1. Sharon O'Day says:

    Love the out-of-the-box (but perfectly affordable) ideas to fan the fires!

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