I don’t know if the 14-year-old me would be so surprised that I’m still holding the hand of the boy I fell in love with 22 years later.
I don’t know if I’d be that surprised we’re married with two kids.
I knew even back then that something about him, and about us, was special. But our relationship has taken hard work and not only commitment, but constant re-commitment—no relationship is always easy, or perfect, or so “meant to be” that it doesn’t take effort, too.
Here are 11 ways we’ve kept our own love story alive after 22 years and two kids:
1. Never go to the bathroom with the door open.
2. Don’t use being tired as a repeat excuse to not connect.
Nothing is more rejuvenating, after all, than making love.
3. Take care of ourselves.
A healthy partnership is made of two healthy people. Always remember the importance of self-care.
4. Don’t rehash the past.
By all means, work through issues that need to be worked through, but bringing up past arguments during current ones should be a definite no.
5. Talk about our goals.
It’s important to talk about what we want out of life and where we want to go. This has really helped us evolve together and as individuals, too.
In general, being able to talk to our partner is so important.
7. Go to bed mad.
Okay, I’m not necessarily advocating going to bed angry. No one likes that. What I am advocating, however, is not sticking to cutesy rules someone else made up—my list included—as the cornerstone of our personal partnership. (And sometimes going to bed mad means sleeping on words that could have been said that really didn’t need to be, and waking up realizing an argument that seemed huge yesterday wasn’t that big of a deal.)
I think kissing is more important than sex. I’m not saying sex is unimportant, but there’s something special, intimate and powerful about a really good kiss. We try to always kiss when we part or greet each other and to have at least one great kiss a day.
9. Don’t talk about our partner behind his or her back.
I’m not suggesting we can’t talk with friends or vent about something to other people at all, but I am offering it should be a stable expectation to talk to our partner about something that’s bothering us rather than talking to others.
Over and over again the one thing that connects us is laughter.
When life is so hard we could scream or cry we do, yes, do these things sometimes, but mostly we try to laugh—we try to make each other laugh when we need it. We try to find the 14 and 15 year olds in us who met all those years ago, inside of our grown-up lives as thirtysomethings—and that’s real romance.
Because life can be difficult, but it can still be fun.
11. Don’t give up.
Romance won’t always look the same. But it doesn’t have to be grand, expensive gestures.
It can be getting a favorite food at the grocery store, or getting out cash for our daughter’s gymnastics lesson because I have an illogical aversion to banks (random, made-up example).
Romance can be going out for an appetizer and a drink when we don’t have time to go out to dinner. It can be sitting on the front porch together watching the rain fall and holding hands.
Above all else, just don’t give up on romance. Instead, reinvent the definition.