Strange but true: The love affair that starts our life together often falls to the bottom of our priority list. The insatiable demands of raising a family somehow seem to take over. Never ending household chores pile up. The kids' activities usurp our schedules. Watching TV, catching up on email and checking Facebook strangely become more important than spending time alone with our spouse. We allow ourselves to become exhausted. Without a conscious effort, we fall out of touch with each other surprisingly fast.
What are some simple, free and easy ways to reconnect, put our spouse first and show him how much love we still have for him?
1. Say "I love you."
The most obvious, but often neglected way is to simply say, with feeling and gleam in your eyes, "I love you." Of course, we may know it's true, but we never get tired of hearing those words. Say, "I love you" when your spouse does something kind or when you can see they're working hard. Say "I love you" when you say good-bye on the phone. Say it every morning, every evening and whenever your spouse leaves the house. Don't forget to put the emotion behind it so the words have real meaning. Look into her eyes and tell her you love her. Don't let it just become a tape that plays, "I love you, bye." Feel the love as you say the words.
2. Random acts of service
Another fantastic but unspoken way to say, "I love you," is to take one of the chores your spouse has always done and do it for them as a surprise. "Honey, guess what? You don't have to do the vacuuming and dusting (or perhaps the laundry or lawn mowing or grocery shopping) this week. The kids and I have already done it." "Hubby, I took your truck to the car wash, vacuumed the interior and filled it up with gas." "Honey, you are not cooking tonight. I brought home Chinese takeout." What a welcome treat. You really know someone cares when he makes your life easier by giving you a break in some way.
You could try giving your spouse a complete night off with the guys or with the girls. Encourage them to take their friends and go to a movie or an activity without you and the kids. Tell them to start a monthly book club or guys' night. Give her total independence for a brief while, guilt free. He will come back refreshed, revived and full of love for you.
3. Small surprise gifts
Flowers and chocolate seem cliché. But bringing home an unexpected gift really does work, especially on birthdays, anniversaries and holidays, like Valentine's Day or even the Fourth of July. It is a small gesture, but for women in particular, a $5 flowering plant, balloons or a surprise Easter basket goes a long way. Burning a CD of your spouse's favorite songs and leaving it in his car with a special note is another fun way to show you were thinking of him. You could even include songs from when you were dating, something you haven't heard in years.
4. The gift of touch
Men often prefer physical touch as an expression of love. One way to show physical love is to get the whole family involved in a back rub train. Everybody gets in line and even the littlest kids can give dad a rub with their feet. After a few minutes, the train's engine goes to the back of the line and becomes the caboose. Everyone gets a turn receiving physical touch. It could even become a rough housing fest, another way to physically show love, as everybody piles on dad in a big group hug filled with laughter. All of a sudden the TV show becomes a lot less important. Everyone connects with love for a moment.
A foot rub is another wonderful idea. If your spouse is sitting in front of the TV or computer, just walk up, gently grab one of her feet and start rubbing. You don't even have to say anything. Just remember to do both feet. Then walk away after five or 10 minutes, leaving her wanting more but with a relaxed smile on her face.
5. Food: A way to our hearts
In some households, the children's culinary tastes often set the tone. Getting picky kids to eat healthy sometimes becomes our focus and we serve the same things, week after week. Gourmet meals made from following a recipe become a distant memory. Make an effort to create one of your spouse's favorite meals from the time before children arrived. The smells and tastes will bring back memories and revive you both. Once in a while, you can even feed the kids ahead of time, and then get out the wedding china, candles, fancy napkins and table cloths. If you don't have money to spend on a date at a fancy restaurant, turn your home into a fine dining adventure alone with your mate. Or, make it an informal picnic with a blanket on the floor, complete with a basket and picnic foods - indoors in January.
At weeknight family meals, shift the focus away from the kids for a few minutes and really tune in to your spouse. Tell everyone you are going to listen to what mommy or daddy has to say about their day. Give your spouse a turn in the spotlight. Really listening with your full attention and concern shows love in a huge way. Have the kids clear the table and start washing dishes while you spend a few minutes connecting with your spouse. Even five minutes of undivided attention and unconditional love make a huge difference.
Trying just one of these ideas could create that spark you are seeking. Your spouse will know you care. And you will feel great about yourself for bringing more love into your household and heart.