I know. The idea of keeping romance alive in marriage seems like a lot of hard work to many of us. We are trying to make it through the day – and trying to be romantic seems like one job too many. We are just plain tired! Romance is not about the big things. It’s about the small things we do to express our love for each other. Dan and I have been married for almost 46 years. It is tempting to think Dan knows how I feel about him after all these years. But God has convicted me that keeping romance alive in a marriage is a huge investment in my husband and our relationship. And that investment honors God.

Let me share how I am learning to keep the romance alive in our marriage. I have to confess that I don’t always succeed in doing all of these things well. But I am more romantic now than I was when we got married. And that is a big statement! So you can make that same investment and reap the same rewards of a happy and healthy marriage.

1. Make Christ your highest priority.

Every relationship in our lives mirrors our relationship with Christ. If we want our relationships to be healthy, we must have a healthy relationship with God. The earth is not the friend of marriage – but God is. God wants to use marriage, family, and home to display His very nature. If we want a healthy marriage, we must put Christ first in our lives.

2. After Christ, give each other top priority.

After Christ comes our marriage. When I have neglected my relationship with Dan, I have not only hurt my relationship with Dan, but I have also sinned against God.

I thought Dan would understand that I had a busy speaking schedule and an exciting ministry to women. Oh, he understood. He understood that his wife made time for total strangers, but she did not have time to talk with him. There is nothing less romantic than being made to feel you are unimportant. Talk about a romance killer! Marriage takes hard work. So does romance. Marriage must be constantly and consistently nurtured to keep the romance alive.

3. Go back to the beginning.

Do you remember the qualities you so admired in your mate when you first met? The things that made them so attractive. Sift through the memories you and your mate have made together. Those attributes that first made you notice and admire your mate will rise to the surface. Make a list of those qualities and begin to voice them aloud to your spouse, children, and friends. Doing so will rekindle the romance you once experienced in your marriage.

4. Discover your mate’s love language and learn to speak it well.

Learning your mate’s love language and how to speak it will fan the flame of romance in your marriage. Gary Chapman’s book, Five Love Languages, has had a significant impact on every relationship in my life, but especially in my marriage. We tend to think that everyone has the same love language. Not true. I have two love languages – time and gifts. My husband’s love language is touch. It can be something as simple as holding hands or scratching his back, but Dan feels loved as long as I touch him.

I recently had Covid and was pretty sick. So Dan shifted into high gear. He knows how much I love soup, so he made three different kinds. He made sure I always had something to drink. The words “Do you need anything, honey?” became his mantra. Dan willingly became my servant.

Sidebar: My whole family knows how much I love chocolate-covered cherries. A box of those scrumptious treats is always in my Christmas stocking. One afternoon during my battle with Covid, I was struggling with depression. Dan said he had to run a couple of errands. I heard the rustle of shopping bags when he returned home. My sweet husband walked into the bedroom with the biggest smile on his face and a box of chocolate-covered cherries in his hands. My husband didn’t have to say a word, but he was speaking my love language through time and gifts.

5. Set aside an hour each day to talk.

Photo credit: ©Unsplash/David Nunez

I remember the day I realized that our family schedule was completely out of control. I was racing through each day like a madwoman between school, church, football, soccer, cheerleading, and birthday parties. Dan was the lead teaching pastor of a large church exploding in growth. The phone was constantly ringing. An important meeting, hospital visit, or counseling session of some kind seemed to claim every night of the week.

Something had to give! Our marriage was on the back burner, and I could feel our relationship beginning to splinter. A trip to the furniture store became a turning point in our marriage.

I bought a love seat for our bedroom. We didn’t have room for that little sofa, but I made room for it. And every night, Dan and I would sit on that love seat for at least an hour and talk through our days. Problems, fears, hopes, and dreams all came to light as we sat and talked. It was amazing! Laughter replaced tears. Problems were solved. Fear gave way to peace. When one dream died, we dreamed another one as we sat face to face.

Time together each day did not come easily. So many voices clamored for our attention, but as we talked and shared our hearts, we learned to hear God’s voice above all the rest. To keep the romance in your marriage, commit to spending time with each other every day.

6. Have fun together. Don’t forget how to laugh.

I don’t know about you, but it seems like a helicopter is always landing in our lives. It is easy to get so serious and overwhelmed by daily battles that we forget to have fun together. Remember fun? Laughter?

Date nights have seemingly become a requirement for having fun with your mate. Of course, it is nice to have a night away from home, but it is also fun to curl up together with popcorn and ice cream, watching a movie in your living room.

We often have the wrong idea when it comes to romance. Romance does not have to be complicated. The conversation does not have to be scripted. Just share whatever pops into your mind and heart. I love the truth that if you laugh more days, you will have more days to laugh with your mate.

7. Keep a long-term perspective.

The tyranny of little things can be toxic in a marriage. Extra charges on a credit card, a cluttered house, sharp and angry words – will any of those things matter when your mate is gone? Think about the day you will stand beside your mate as they die. Will the things that irritate you today be important in the grand scheme of things? If we let them, the minor irritations can snowball into significant roadblocks.

Learning to discern what is important in a marriage is crucial to the success of that marriage. Romance has died on the altar of what seems to be significant and urgent in many marriages. Don’t get so caught up in the here and now that you lose sight of the big picture – a lifetime of commitment and love.

We can cultivate the habit of dismissing the small things and concentrating on the big things like love, patience, kindness, goodness, and self-control. Romance will thrive when we choose to look beyond the faults of our mates and see their needs.

couple gardening together

Photo credit: ©GettyImages/XiXinXing

8. Maintain your appearance.

Oh boy! I know I hit a nerve on this one. But I also know that I am guilty of just letting my appearance go because, after all, Dan is the only one who will see me. Right? Since Covid first began, I have battled a lazy attitude regarding my appearance. Baggy pants, a t-shirt, and a sweatshirt are sometimes my wardrobe for the day. I may or may not brush my teeth and fix my hair. Makeup? That is only for days when I go out. I’m just keeping it real.

I remember when Dan and I were dating. I had very little money, but I could always find a way to dress in a way that he found attractive. Dan was important to me. He didn’t love me because of how I dressed, but I loved him and wanted him to be proud of how I looked.

Women often hide behind 1 Peter 3:3-4 when it comes to their outer appearance. But read these verses carefully. Peter is cautioning us not to allow our outward appearance to be our only source of beauty.

1 Peter 3:3-4 “Do not let your adornment be merely outward—arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel— rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God.”

Yes, God is much more interested in who we are inside than he is with our outward appearance. A gentle, quiet spirit is so much more important than our clothes, how we style our hair, the makeup we wear – our outward adornment. I know that. But having an inner source of beauty does not mean we have to neglect our outward appearance to be godly. After all, I am a child of the King. I want to dress like a child of the King. Does that mean I have to wear designer clothes? No! I have a shopping rule – never buy anything at full price. I have learned that when I shower, do my hair, put on a little makeup, wear a nice outfit, and tell Dan I did all of that just for him, I can see the spark of romance in his eyes.

9. Keep your love life interesting.

It is easy for your love life to become, well, a little boring and routine. I know this is a complex subject for many married couples. But a thriving love life refers to a healthy sex life and a life of intimacy. Intimacy is a crucial part of marriage and may very well be the most vital part of your love life. Sex and intimacy are not the same things.

We have a friend who has diabetes. He is on several powerful medications that make having sex an impossibility. However, he would tell you that he has an amazingly intimate love life with his wife. He can share absolutely anything with her. They talk about everything in their lives – their problems, dreams, hopes, desires, and concerns.

When it comes to the sexual part of marriage, let me say that it is never too late to mix things up. Be creative! Have fun! Dan had a meeting running late one night, so I put the kids to bed and shifted into high gear. I had a plan that began with rose petals strung from the front door that led to our bedroom, where Dan found several burning candles, chocolate-covered strawberries, and me.

On Valentine’s Day, I covered our bathroom and bedroom with red and pink hearts strategically placed. For example, on the sink drain, the heart said, “I’d go down the drain without you.” On the light switch, the heart read, “You turn me on.” Dan would not let me take them down. Those hearts stayed put for a couple of weeks.

You really can rekindle the romance in your marriage. God is for you and the success of your marriage. So, take a deep breath, and go for it!

Photo credit: ©GettyImages/jacoblund

Mary Southerland is also the Co-founder of Girlfriends in God, a conference and devotion ministry for women. Mary’s books include, Hope in the Midst of Depression, Sandpaper People, Escaping the Stress Trap, Experiencing God’s Power in Your Ministry, 10-Day Trust Adventure, You Make Me So Angry, How to Study the Bible, Fit for Life, Joy for the Journey, and Life Is So Daily. Mary relishes her ministry as a wife, a mother to their two children, Jered and Danna, and Mimi to her six grandchildren – Jaydan, Lelia, Justus, Hudson, Mo, and Nori.