3 things you can start doing today to keep your relationship fresh

October 8 | Guest post by Jamie A.
Photo Credit: Brittany Thomas Photography
Photo Credit: Brittany Thomas Photography

I've been with my hunk of a husband for 8½ years. I'm often asked how we keep it fun and lively. How do we always seem to be happier than a turtle on a skateboard? I could respond with the bland, basic answer of being a good listener, going on dates, and sharing life goals. And if you look up "How to keep a marriage fresh," those are usually the kinds of answers you'll find. That stuff works, but I like a more creative approach.

My husband and I share the ideal to never be in a rut. That doesn't mean the monotony of daily routine doesn't sometimes creep in and put a damper on romance and whimsy. It happens. But there's a few things we've discovered that work for us. They're a bit different, and I thought I'd share them for any other couples who need new insight.

Here are the three unconventional ways I keep my relationship fresh and fun…

1. Daily goof-off time

I'm lucky enough to work the same schedule as my spouse. We both arrive home around 5pm. Whether our work days have been busy, slow, or stressful we don't let it affect our evening with one another. A couple of years ago we came up with what we call "daily goof-off time." Daily goof-off time is the period right after we get home where we act like silly juveniles. We chase each other around the house, play tag, dance, fake-karate fight, or play hide-and-seek. It's a time where we put our workplace baggage on the shelf for the evening and lighten the mood.

I'm a firm believer that laughter and playing is a vital part of any relationship. Too many people assume that once they're an adult the fun is over and that it's only acceptable in society to be serious. False. You can be responsible without having to grow up completely — make a little time for it each day.

2. After-work sex

(If you're my brother or one of my grandparents reading this, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, SKIP TO #3 NOW!)

When relationships begin sex happens ALL THE TIME. I know, I remember all too well that steamy night 8½ years ago when the mister and I had sloppy, tequila-fueled, college sex for the first time. Several months after that the infatuation was still hot but dimmed month by month, year by year. After moving in together we assumed the frequency would increase but with both of us working, training for half-marathons, cleaning the house, etc. we'd be too tired and fall asleep. Days without sex turned into weeks without sex and we decided we needed a change. Now we are still just as busy as before but do the deed before anything else. We make time for it when we still have the ummm, energy. Our relationship was strengthened by doing so and our bond even more.

3. Unplugging from technology

I'll be the first to admit that I am addicted to my phone. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter… like herpes, they're the gift that keeps on giving. I'll find myself with my nose buried in my Facebook newsfeed while my husband is talking. "Are you listening to me?" he'll ask. Those are the moments I'm ashamed. Life is happening NOW. Our phones will be there later during downtime.

I've made it a point to either shut down my phone or leave it at the home when we go out on dates. I don't do it every time but those times I do is a game changer. It's absolutely amazing how much of a difference it makes when you're not being distracted by technology. Each moment is truly lived, observed, and experienced to the fullest when you're not taking a photo of every second of it or answering emails while the sunset passes you by.

Pick-up games of basketball? Naked dinner dates? Bubble bath time? What are the unconventional ways you guys keep your relationships fresh?

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  1. I don't have any cool ideas to add, but I wanted to say thank you! This post and its ideas – even if just as a conversation starter between my partner and I- come at a very needed time for us. Thank you. 🙂 I look forward to seeing all of the comments from Homies!

    17 agree
    • Thanks, glad you liked it. Good luck with trying a few of these things out! I find that if you keep your relationship fresh and fun the happiness comes naturally. Don't sweat the small stuff.

  2. My husband and I just did a mudrun with another couple. To train, I would join him at the gym a couple times a week, which gave us some time together in our busy schedules. Then, the teamwork it took to complete the obstacle course was a big bonding time for us. I've never been athletic so I didn't completely enjoy the work it took leading up to it, but now that we've accomplished it together I'm really proud of us and looking forward to the next one.

    4 agree
  3. My suggestions:
    1. See the Love in the small things
    Hubby is not super vocal about his feelings, so I learned a long time ago to find the "I Love You" in his gestures. A random slow dance in the kitchen while we prep dinner. Or coffee waiting when I wake up. He gets up about 2 hours earlier than I do, so everyday after he has his coffee, he sets up mine. Keuring ready, my fave mug out, sugar packet and spoon waiting for me. (I mainly think this is a survival tactic of his, I can be a Beast when I need my morning coffee) In the 5+ years we have lived together, I have never gotten into our car and found the gas tank near E. The biggest I Love You is how he always makes sure to clean out the shower drain because he knows it makes me dry heave, even though it is my hair clogging up the drain.

    2. Say Thank you more often
    It sounds like such a simple thing, but it is the first thing we stop doing in a relationship. Everyone likes being appreciated, and a simple thank you can go a long way.. Even though it is Hubby's job to produce edible food for our family, I thank him for the delicious meal every time. When he goes out of his way to help one of a single family member with something, I make sure to tell how much it means to me. His favorite thank you is when I get back from a long weekend of vising family and arrive to a nice clean house. 😉

    43 agree
  4. The phone struggle is real. I accidentally left mine at home a few months ago, and we talked in the car instead of me Facebooking and scrolling Pinterest. Now I try to leave it at home on purpose as much as possible.

    7 agree
    • My boyfriend and I have" random movie night" a couple days a week where we go to the nearest movie selection store, we have one at ingles, and spin one of us around 5 Times with your eyes closed and then you have to pick out a movie (no peeking!). Its a lot of fun. We ended up watching Godzilla one night and the Lego movie another night. Sometimes the movies are terrible, but it's so funny making fun of the bad movies anyway.

      8 agree
  5. I think these are really great suggestions! I'd be really interesting in hearing suggestions on "keeping a relationship fresh" from those who have children… as this is a daily struggle within my relationship 🙂

    22 agree
  6. We have three small children (one of whom is in the throes of crappy toddlerhood), demanding jobs, demanding families, financial woes, friends who are just as busy as we are and also a few states away, and consequently short fuses and zero energy. We realized a few months ago that our relationship had taken a backseat to simply surviving, so we've tried to find intimacy in all the tasks connected to keeping ourselves and our kids alive and functioning. This sometimes means leisurely family trips to the grocery store where we play "Iron Chef" with weird ingredients, but also quietly chatting about our days while we do the dishes together. Cold pasta on the couch at 9:00PM while covered in spit-up is not quite as romantic as a fancy dinner at a nice restaurant, but when we can both laugh about the absurdity of life now, and look forward to easier times in the future, I know we'll be okay.

    15 agree
  7. My Husband is the type that needs zero effort what so ever. If I am high maintenance than he is NO maintenance. When we first moved in together it was a few days between hugs/kisses/cuddles and I began to starve. SO we talked about it and one day I came home from work and the whole living room was rearranged. He told me that this way we can sit on the same piece of furniture and I can put my feet/head/ hand in his lap and get the attention I crave while he can still work on his projects and or hobbies. This seems silly to my friends who tell me "Why can't he just give you a hug or kiss daily?" Well this, for my man, is like asking someone who is depressed to just be happier. He doesn't do those things the way that other people do them and forcing him to do it will make it even more difficult.

    We also try and spend as much time in the evenings together as possible. We've started working out recently, but instead of making this more time we spend apart we stagger it. He leaves with me in the morning to work out before work and when I get home before him I work out before I start our meal. This way we eat together in the morning and have some time to be together and at night when he gets home, food is ready and we can again eat together.

    We aren't like most couples, we haven't spent more than a few days apart since we first began dating almost 5 years ago. But we sometimes forget the needs of the other and find creative new ways to put those needs first as much as possible.

    13 agree
    • I love your living room story! I don't think it's silly. It's absolutely sweet of him to have been creative enough to figure out a solution. So cute.

      20 agree
    • I'm with you on the living room arrangement. Before we moved, my husband and I would sit together on the love seat to watch TV. Then he left for Alaska, and by the time I joined him 2+ months later, he was sitting in his big man-chair, and I was alone on the love seat. We were in the same room, but I missed him.
      So we rearranged the living room, and now even though we're just touching shoulders or I'm putting my feet on his legs, I feel so much more connected to him.

      9 agree
  8. I second after-work sex. We both get home, shower, and head to bed! Puts us in a much better mood for the rest of the night, and then if someone falls asleep in front of the TV at 9pm, it's something to laugh about, and no one is disappointed.

    We will also do game nights or book nights. No internet (except for a Spotify playlist in the background), no TV, no phones, no gaming. We either play board games, or we read books together. I'll even read aloud sometimes, as I read faster than my husband and if we're both into the same book, it's easier that way. I've also purposefully left my phone at home for dinner dates, because I'm TERRIBLE at checking my phone all the time.

    Keeping up the spark is hard as shit. The nice thing about an established, long-term relationship is the ability to relax and be yourself. Myself is someone who could spend hours on Facebook or planted on the couch tearing though half a novel in a night; himself is a guy who could literally spend an entire day shooting things on his Xbox. A good relationship has plenty of both down-time and the realization that maybe we've spent the better part of the weekend not talking, maybe we should go for a walk?

    21 agree
    • Are you me in that last paragraph? I think you might actually be me. Just replace "could literally spend an entire day shooting things on his Xbox" with "could literally spend an entire day playing Civilization on the computer."

      8 agree
  9. I love game nights. Feels so retro these days to play board games. More people need to partake.

    And YES, it's all about balance.

    6 agree
  10. We're both giant nerds, so learning something new together keeps it fresh. I am better at the artsy side of photography, and he is better at the technical side, so we are learning from both each other and outside sources every time we play with the camera.
    I also really like day trips. We don't often get time for a full vacation or weekends away, but there are multiple places 30 minutes to an hour away where we can walk with the dog, picnic, and hang out for the day. The immersion of being somewhere different with your person mixes things up and is a mini-adventure without the stress of actual travel or finding someone to pet-sit our dog.

    5 agree
  11. I've recently started online school, and my husband works from home, so we both spend a lot of time in each other's company not really addressing one another. Something I've started doing is taking a 5 minute snorgle break. I approach him and ask for five minutes of his undivided attention, where we can talk or kiss or cuddle. It's a reminder that even though we are both busy, there is no need to spend the entire time ignoring each other. Plus, it's an instant stress relief. We both find we are more productive after just five minutes of affection.

    12 agree
  12. My numbah one tip to keep it fresh: ask more questions.
    I'm not a natural chit-chatter and I tend to zone out a lot. Asking questions helps me stay engaged and I'm always learning new stuff. Stuff that he's really passionate about that I have zero interest in–it's SUPER important for me to ask questions so I don't totally glaze over and tune out. I always learn something new and it helps him feel more excited about sharing this thing he loves.
    Asking random questions when everything's gone silent can be a fun game. I'll randomly ask my partner something like "What's your favourite sandwich?" or "As a kid, did you ever try to make a random animal your pet?"

    15 agree
    • I love this.
      I am guilty of tuning out my husband when he talks about work. He's an environmental engineer so when he talks about all the measurements, plans, etc. I get confused and therefore change the subject, which I shouldn't.
      Next time I'll just ask what his favorite sandwich is but I already know it's turkey.

      4 agree
    • This is similar, but we sometimes play the "this or that" and "would you rather" games in the car or while waiting for something. And having that knowledge of preferences squirreled away in the back of your brain comes in handy later.

      3 agree
    • I'll second that. I don't think I even realized I was doing this until recently. My dude loves to talk motorcycles and racing and none of his friends are really that into it. I have a very basic grasp of it, I know a couple racers, and a few different brands, but the mechanics make my eyes glaze over. So I make sure whenever he starts ranting about a new design tweak that I ask questions every few minutes. One, it keeps my eyes from glazing over. And two, I'm actually kinda learning about this thing that he loves so much. And now we can have a conversation about it, instead of him talking and me going, "uh huh. Yup. I know, babe."

      3 agree
  13. To keep it fresh in the bedroom, my husband and I have planned a "development day". Basically it's a day for us to try things that need some refinement before (or if) it becomes part of our regular sex life. Like the best way to use certain toys, fun ways to use furniture, a fashion show, trying foods that won't leave us feeling bloated and gassy (and medicine that will get rid of the gassy if needed!), that sort of stuff. And of course, communication! It's going to be a day full of "oops"'s, laughs, and of course, freaky sex!!

    11 agree
  14. My husband has had weird schedules for pretty much the whole time we've been together. We are at a point where usually weekend mornings are safe. So now we try to make it a point to have breakfast together at least one morning every weekend. It might mean me shifting when I go for my daily walk if he has to go out (my hour-long walk can really delay breakfast) or it might mean yanking the frozen leftovers waffles out of the freezer. But we have a yummy breakfast together that's more exciting than my weekday cereal. We usually watch a tv show together. It's a nice togetherness thing that we may or may not manage during the week or for any other meal depending on when we have classes, work, time with friends/family, errands, etc. But we try hard for at least one breakfast.

    1 agrees
  15. As working parents with two young kids… life is usually an endless list of chores and obligations. Now that my older kid is in school, even our weekends are busy! We keep things fresh by having a date night AT LEAST once per month (even if it's just for a walk). And now that my youngest is approaching 2, I'm looking forward to ditching the kids with my relations and getting away for a night!

    It would be good to have this style thread for parents because really… after work sex doesn't work if you have a few kids sitting outside your bedroom door waiting for their dinner!

    15 agree
    • After writing this post I did realize that the sex part would be almost impossible with children. I can't even imagine how much your sexlife changes as a parent, especially with kids that want to sleep in your bed.
      I'm interested to see a few parent's ideas on how they keep their relationships spicy.

      1 agrees
      • I think the sex-after-work thing can be easily modified to sex-after-kid(s) are asleep, assuming your kids are decent sleepers. Our night for anything grown-up (except together/outside the house) sort of begins after the baby is soundly tucked in for the night.

        3 agree
      • We find that afternoon nap time is good for sex- our kid sleeps for a good 1.5-2 hours and we are both actually awake. We also traded some classic dates for "day dates". Instead of a night out involving reservations, babysitters and the awake problem we both took a personal day, our child went to her regular child care and we had a whole day of actually speaking, window shopping, lunch out and then the house with no one in it to hear anything;) And we had a nice evening with our kid.

        1 agrees
  16. We're the complete opposite on the phone thing. Technology is great. Obviously if you don't like how it's affecting your life and/or your relationship, then put it down more often! But for us, we'll go out to dinner, both read our phones, and often talk about the stuff we read as we're reading it. "Did you see this news story? Look at this cute picture! Holy shit these two friends are dating now" or whatever. If our phones die or something, we can talk without them, and do all the time. But constant access to the internet is great for us, and we love it.

    Also I never want to be without my phone because I have anxiety and I WILL worry that something horrible has happened and no one can get ahold of me, but that is a different issue entirely. 🙂

    6 agree
    • I like the compromise of initially putting the phone away, but then being allowed to get it out to look up specific things and put it away again. No idle browsing! (For us)

      2 agree
      • Yup, that's what we do. (Or try to do most of the time, anyway.) We're both stubborn about our knowledge of things, so we have to look up info to prove we're right. (In a totally loving way of course.) But I'm also one of those people who gets soooo annoyed when I know something and can't think of it. So I like being able to pull out my phone and pull up IMDB to tell him the name of that actor he's thinking of. So for the most part our phones are away, but there's not a strict ban on them either.

    • For date nights/dinners/family time we have the 'cell phone tower' rule. Cell phones are on the table in a tower. We have even grabbed my mother in law's phone from her and added it to the tower when we've been out for dinner with her. There is also the stipulation that it can be retrieved at need, but it always returns to the tower and the super family fun time continues!

      2 agree
  17. Any suggestions to create intimacy for those of us who, for health and pain-related reasons, can't engage in regular sexual activity? I have endometriosis, which means I'm in pain a lot of the time, not just during sex, but otherwise, which as you might imagine, kills the mood. My fiance and I have replaced a lot of sex-time with snuggle-time, but those really fill different needs. :/

    • I know almost nothing about Tantra (or rather, Neotantra), but what I do know suggests that it's as much about intimacy through eye contact and breath work as it is about any sort of actual sex stuff. Might be worth looking into?

      Alternately, maybe someone reading knows more than I do?

    • Have you tried snuggling naked? It does not have to be very sexual but I find it very intimate. Showering or bating together and massage are also ways my husband and I have found to be intimate in less sexual ways. Also, we try to participate in each other's masturbation if one of us is horny and the other isn't or we are very tired. Often it is just fondling or cuddling but it does help us feel connected sexually.

      14 agree
      • BATHE.TOGETHER. The opportunity to soap each other up, "help" the water wash it away, rub shampoo in each other´s hair, etc. It allows you to caress/handle the other´s body sans clothes. Also, not distractions (eg: phone, tv, etc)!!! To us, it´s also official "how was your day" time (it´s harder to glaze over/ignore the other :D). Yes, it may lead to sex, but it also may not! 🙂

  18. I need to take all of the advice in this article. My job wears me down so much, and we are both so content to spend ages just comfortably doing our own things while in the same room. We are together but aren't always as intimate as we could be.

    Discovering new places is one of my favorite ways to make things feel "fresh." Going on an adventure – to a new restaurant, a new city, or (when possible) a new country – works well for us. This gets us out of the routine of the everyday and can add to our wealth of shared experiences. Then the phrase "remember when we . . ." can get updated every once in a while, so it's not "remember when we did that really cool thing 6 years ago?"

    I suppose this isn't especially unconventional, but I guess I can stress the idea that the new adventure doesn't have to be a trip to Italy (though we've done that, and it was awesome) or a pleasure cruise, or whatever. Even a trip to a restaurant that's a tad outside your typical comfort zone or a day trip to a nearby attraction that you always overlook can liven things up.

    4 agree
    • This is almost exactly what I was going to suggest. My partner and I have been trying to have a new "adventure" every weekend. Last weekend was a visit to a boardwalk/tourist trap on the opposite side of the (very large) city from where we live. Sometimes it's a new restaurant or bar or type of cuisine or walking route or entertainment. Once a month or so it's a night or two in a hotel, sometimes in a different town.

      We are both introverts with social jobs, so if we didn't push ourselves it would be really easy to spend the whole weekend holed up with Netflix and takeout from our usual Thai or Tex-Mex place. We still do take time to recharge, but it has been SO nice though to get out of the house and see new things also.

      So in summary, are we the same person?

      3 agree
  19. Thanks for the article! A couple of those might work for us.

    Something we started recently that has given us a major freshness boost was a vow we made to always go to bed naked. No boxers, nightgowns or sweats. We noticed that the amount of clothing we were wearing to bed was steadily increasing and our sex life was vulnerable to long dry spells. After the naked vow, the level of intimacy and sex has boomed and it's been fantastic. Always go to bed naked!

    4 agree
    • I had started going to bed naked in the summer (I mostly started because it was so hot) and you're right, so much more lovin' went down in those few weeks.
      With winter coming now I'll probably go to bed looking like a not-so-sexy eskimo.

      • Try adding more blankets and flannel sheets, you would be surprised how comfortable it is to sleep naked year round. After a year of coaxing my husband finally got me to shed the last of my p.j.'s and I am rarely ever cold when I sleep, if I do get cold I just burrow further under the blankets (or reclaim my share.)

        3 agree
        • I sleep naked year round, and convinced my husband to as well (partially because I tend to get cold more easily than he does, so he'd get overheated if he was wearing PJs and I wasn't). Sleeping naked under warm blankets on cold nights does make it even harder to leave the cosy nest in the morning, though…

          3 agree
          • My partner and I have slept naked-or-mostly-naked our whole relationship. We have an agreement that if I am particularly desirous of sex, I come to bed wearing sexy lingerie, and if he's particularly desirous he leaves sexy lingerie on my pillow for me to put on. We don't only have sex on lingerie nights, and we can say no, but it's a low-pressure way for us to signal interest. Not to mention it means I actually ever wear all the lingerie he's bought for me over the years.

            4 agree
  20. I LOVE the idea of after-work sex. Sounds amazing. I wish we had done more of that when we were sans kid…

    I hope someone has a solution for upping the sexy factor when you have children. After the kid is in bed, it's around 8pm and we get exhausted (because the entire early evening is centered around baby eating and getting ready for bed), and the little bum always manages to wake up when we try to take advantage of his naps. We've had to start "scheduling" things, which feels weird.

    2 agree
  21. If it's possible, day or weekend trips are our way of being romantic. They're mini vacations but they don't have to be expensive or require time off work. They get us out of our work/clean head space and force us to be present with each other. We don't have kids but we do have pets, so day trips with or without the pets are fun…we can leave them for several hours with no problems. I usually google day trips from xxxx or just look at random towns 1-2 hours away and research them… then just get in the car and drive.

    Another thing we do together is shoot guns. Specifically sporting clays. I know that's not for everyone, but it's challenging, outdoor activity where we can be competitive, develop skills, and bond. So I guess a non-gun equivalent to that (disc golf?) if you're not into firearms.

    1 agrees
  22. My husband and I read together a lot–we're LITERALLY CHAPTERS FROM THE END of the Harry Potter series right now, and I'm FREAKING OUT ABOUT IT. He reads to me when we're driving somewhere; we read most nights before bed; we get books on tape to listen to while we're washing dishes or working on a canning project. We tried for a while to read more serious books, but we've figured out that it has to be something exciting and high-suspense–that's what keeps us both coming back instead of doing our own thing. We've read among other things the Hunger Games, the Lord of the Rings, the Earthsea trilogy, and (my personal fav) A Tale of Two Cities.

    3 agree
  23. This was pretty good, but I feel like herpes jokes are SO played-out, and are going to alienate 1/4 of your audience.

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