Many articles on spicing up a long-term marriage involve bullet-pointed guidance to be imported directly into a hard-working professional’s obscenely long, cloud-based “to do list,” with specific steps such as “now that the kids are older, have more fun together, take a dance class, adopt a new hobby, or travel more if you can afford it.” No doubt, each might be helpful. But, before you decide what needs improvement, take a step back and look with profound respect at the fact that your institution has survived to middle age, said Pamela Zivari, an attorney and conflict resolution professional.
By remaining in the marriage, you can now look at your and your spouse’s progress over time. Zivari said: "You’ve become your own play, in effect, complete with character development, unexpected plot twists, devastating defeats and mythological wisdom. Because this growth can’t be quantified, or categorized, or updated, or downloaded, or synched, it’s hard to see and even harder to value than the new blush of excitement that comes from a new partnership. Therefore, before you can make significant improvement in your middle-aged marriage, you need first to respect it just as it is, the fact that it has lasted, and that it’s substantially more significant than you give it credit for."
Only after you've done that should you turn to finding ways to make your long-time relationship even better. For advice on how to spice things up (none of which involve the bedroom), we reached out to a few of our long-married bloggers, and here's what they had to say. Have anything to add? Let us know in comments.
1. Look into each other's eyes and say "I love you".
"We don't dwell too much on the other person's shortcomings. We just accept them," said Ronna Benjamin.
2. Let your partner help you.
"I am a lifelong feminist. But that hasn't stopped me from asking my husband from time to time over the years to offer his opinion, or help me to solve a problem, or let him feel needed in other ways. Quite frankly, there have been times when I've asked him to help me with something even when I could have handled it myself. But, I know it makes him feel good," said Barbara Hannah Grufferman.
3. Smile when your partner walks in the door.
"Sounds so simple, but I think many of us end up taking their long-term partners for granted in this most basic way. No matter how tired I might be at the end of the day, or how stressed, I'll still give him a smile and hug, and a quick 'How was your day?' It sets the tone and mood for the rest of the evening, and makes him feel good," said Grufferman.
4. Explore a new destination together.
"My husband are I are celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary this June. We recently bought a second house down south that we plan to use as a retirement home someday. Having a new destination to explore and working on a new house together have been energizing to us in a way making small changes in our lives would not have been," said Mary Dell Harrington.
5. Show an independent streak.
By developing your own interests and friendships, you'll make yourself more attractive to your partner.
6. Find an evening ritual you both love.
"When my husband comes home, technology goes off (for at least 30 minutes). We sit and have a glass of wine and talk. It's grounding and makes us feel connected," said Felice Shapiro.
7. Have separate bathrooms.
"And one more thing -- we have separate bathrooms. That may be the key to another 20 years," said Shapiro.
8. Engage in physical contact outside the bedroom.
Even snuggling in front of the TV or holding hands while walking down the street can help bring back the spark to your relationship.
9. Send your partner a text.
"I usually send a quick 'All good with you?' text during the day, or one that says 'Love you!' so he knows that even after 20 years I'm still thinking of him," Grufferman said.