1. Kiss passionately at least once a day. Not a peck on the cheek or a quick smooch – I mean kiss like you’re teenagers for a good 5-10 seconds every day. If you can’t find the time in your day to do this, your priorities are fucked up.
2. Have sex as often as humanly possible. For some people, that’s once a week, for others it’s five days a week. If it’s quick and nothing to brag about, who cares? It’s sex, it’s a great stress reliever, and it’s important to make time for it. What good is having a “date night” if the two of you aren’t fucking each other? Next time you get a sitter, skip spending money on dinner and a movie, get a hotel, and make dirty monkey love.
3. Play games. Cards, a board game, video games, Hangman, I don’t give a shit. Games are fun, and a perfect excuse for wagering favors (i.e. if I win you cook me dinner; if you win, I’ll go to that movie you want to see that I think looks stupid).
4. Stop thinking you have nothing to talk about. That shit confuses the hell out of me. Maybe you’ve told each other all of your stories and secrets, but you live in the age of information. Talk about current events, read the paper together, discuss advancements in technology. Each of you could pick a subject you’d like to learn more about, learn about it, and then share your knowledge with your partner. “We ran out of things to talk about” is just code for “We are both boring people and didn’t feel like putting in the effort.”
5. Eat together. There is no reason you can’t sit down and share a meal with each other other than when you’re at a restaurant. This is particularly important if you both work all day and are only able to have dinner with each other. Turn the fucking TV off, put down your goddamn iPhone, look each other in the eyes, and talk.
6. Pick your battles. Show me a couple that says they never argue and I’ll show you a couple that needs to work on their communication; show me a couple that says they argue all the time, and I’ll show you a couple that wastes too much time bickering about inconsequential things. There’s no need for the question, “What do you want to do for dinner?” to develop in to a three hour bitch fest that ends with the two of you bringing up shit that happened three years ago. Let’s say you want Chinese. Your partner wants Mexican. Do you hate Mexican food? Do they hate Chinese? No? Then flip a fucking coin and let fate make the decision for you. All that should matter is that you’re spending time with the person you love – and chances are, you’re going to remember the conversation you had and the laughs you shared, not the food you ate.
7. Mix it up. Kyle and I got stuck in a bit of a rut as far as our kid-free time was concerned, and it was much too early in our relationship to find ourselves going through the motions. Dinner at the same restaurant, followed by a movie, then home. Now, we still go to movies and out to dinner, but that’s become our fallback date. Try going to a museum, the theater, a comedy club. Pack a picnic lunch and take a scenic drive in the country or hold hands and enjoy a stroll through an older neighborhood with big, beautiful Victorian houses. Babysitter cancelled, or you can’t find one? So what? Put the kids to bed and play their board games – Candyland, Sorry, Battleship. Pop open a bottle of wine, put on a cheesy Chuck Norris movie, and have your own version of Mystery Science Theater. Ask him to show you how to play one of his favorite video games; offer to show him the best way to cook a steak. And if you do find yourselves doing the old standby of dinner and a movie, don’t sit where a TV is visible, put your phones in the middle of the table, and make out like horny teenagers during the movie’s boring parts or opening credits.
8. Coupon books – the cheapest way to say I love you. Remember making these things for your mom? Hell, maybe you even made or received one in the early days of your relationship. Well…BRING IT BACK! And when you make one, try to pinpoint the things that you know they’ll appreciate the most. Personally, I loathe touching dirty dishes; it doesn’t matter if they’ve been in the sink a minute or an hour, I am seriously repulsed by food that is wet and partially eaten. As a writer, I require silence and no interruptions to remain in my “zone”, and with 4-year-0ld twins, such things are rare in my life. I love when my car is spotless and tidy inside and out and getting to spend one-on-one quality time with my mom. Kyle knows all of these things about me, and thus would present me with a coupon book that would include vouchers for not having to do dishes, two hours at a coffee shop alone to write, a free car cleaning, and an afternoon with my mom. His would mostly include blow jobs and back massages. Boys are so easy.
9. Cuddle. I sleep on my stomach, facing to the right. Kyle sleeps in whatever position he happens to land in. Nonetheless, when we go to bed at the same time we spend a few minutes in each others’ arms before rolling in to our respective positions and going to sleep. Okay, well, actually, due to the fact that he works 8-12 hours a day moving furniture, he conks out pretty quickly. And since he wraps one arm and one leg around me, I typically must wriggle out from under him – no easy feat, given his abundance of height and muscle and my utter lack of both. Anyway, the point is – cuddle! Snuggle! Ladies, when you’re watching TV together, lay your head on his lap. Gentlemen, stroke her hair. Put your arm around her shoulders, hold his hand in public. You’re together. Be together.
10. Write each other notes. No one’s saying you need to write a sonnet or a five page love letter. A simple Post-It on the bathroom mirror with those three little words, a text that says you’ll miss them while they’re at work, or a folded up piece of paper tucked away in their work pants detailing the naughty things you want to do to them when they get home. Kyle is a fan of opening up Notepad, writing a paragraph full of sweetness, and leaving it up on the desktop for me to find when I hop on the laptop. It’s quick, it’s simple, and it’ll make them smile – what’s stopping you?
11. Keep the memories. Kyle and I met online almost six years ago. We exchanged several emails before meeting…and Kyle has saved every one of them. Until I lost the wallet it was kept in, I held on to the ticket stub from the first movie we saw together. He is reluctant to throw away anything I’ve ever given him, regardless of whether or not it’s broken. A few months ago, during a stressful time in our relationship, I went up to grab an order of Chinese food that we were going to split. Two people. One order. One fortune cookie. The fortune inside read, “Stop searching. Happiness is sitting right beside you.” That little slip of paper is still tucked away in my jewelry box. Save the little mementos, no matter how insignificant they may seem. Take tons of pictures and don’t just store them online or on your phone – keep hard copies too. Put all those things in a box, tuck it in the closet, and when times get tough, take it out and go through it together. Take it out and remember.
12. Be silly. If you can’t be yourself with someone, then you shouldn’t be with them at all. And sometimes, it’s hard to resist the urge to make fart noises or weird faces, to dance in the car to your favorite song, or to start a tickle fight. Kyle and I are constantly playing pranks on each other and have several ongoing wars: we’ll throw glasses of water on each other unexpectedly or shout, “NINJA KICK!” before kicking open the bathroom door while the other is in there. I’ll flush the toilet while he’s in the shower, he’ll hold my keys above his head and make me jump up to grab them. Have fun! Kid around! Act goofy! For Chrissakes…BE FRIENDS. It makes being lovers so much easier.
13. Remember that you’re in love. Kyle’s parents have been married for 36 years. The two of them are truly the strongest, happiest couple I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing, and after four kids, financial struggles, family issues, and all the other standard problems a married couple will face, they are still madly, deeply in love. It was Kyle’s father who gave me the best relationship advice I’ve ever received, and if you have kids with your significant other I suggest you pay close attention: while you’re busy being mommy and daddy, it’s important not to forget that you’re also husband and wife.