Can you think of the last time that you did something particularly romantic for your spouse?

Really? Has it been that long?

Here’s the thing about romance: When you have “that feeling”—like when you were dating or engaged, or during a particularly romantic night or weekend as a married couple—you find yourself thinking, I sure would like to have that feeling again.

And when it doesn’t happen, you start thinking, What’s wrong?

Romance isn’t something you bring out on special occasions. Instead, it’s one way you express your care and love for each other. And it ought to be a part of the very fabric of your married life.

On occasion when I’m talking to couples about romance in their marriage, a husband or wife will say to me, “I think we’ve just lost it. The feeling I used to feel? It’s gone.

“And besides, my spouse doesn’t do anything romantic for me…”

Well, if you really want that feeling again, you may need to be the one to take the first step. Break the stalemate.

Here are a few ideas for how you might begin. I developed this list after asking some friends to share their advice for romance for the romantically challenged.

This list is not comprehensive, and I realize we are all in different places when it comes to romance. But trying a few of these practical tips might just add some sparks to your marriage and your life:

1. Remember what you did when you first fell in love? Do that again.

A pastor told me that he often counsels couples by taking them to Revelation 2, where Jesus addresses the church in Ephesus. Verses 2-5 say, “I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance … I know you are … bearing up for my name’s sake, and you have not grown weary. But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. … repent, and do the works you did at first.”

This church was going through the motions. But it was no longer passionately in love with Jesus Christ.

This pastor said, “I think that’s pretty good marriage advice. In those times when you just don’t have the feelings, repent and do the things you did at first.”

2. Make sure you acknowledge your spouse’s birthday on the actual birthday.

One person apparently learned this the hard way. He said, “If your wife’s birthday is during the week, and you decide to celebrate it the weekend before—and you take her to a nice restaurant, and you have an expensive gift, and you have a deep and meaningful conversation—but you don’t give her a card on the day, you’ve still failed at everything!”

3. Don’t reduce sex to a formula.

This tip is especially for husbands. One woman described what she had experienced: One Friday evening, she and her husband went out for dinner at a nice restaurant. After dinner, they took a walk together. They talked and laughed. The mood was just right. The evening ended with the two of them making love.

About a week later her husband asked, “Hey, why don’t we go back to that restaurant for dinner?” She said, “I knew exactly what was on his mind—and it had nothing to do with the food.”

That husband thought he’d found the formula: restaurant + walk = sex. But his wife told me, “Women don’t want to be figured out. They don’t want romance or sex reduced to a formula.”

4. Never buy your wife a gift for a special occasion that can be plugged into the wall.

If it has a plug on it, consider taking it back, now!

A friend wrote me about something that happened back when he was dating his wife. Her roommate, who liked to cook, received “the most expensive Cuisinart food processor I have ever seen in my life.”

The guy who wrote said that he was very impressed, but the two women were not. They couldn’t believe that any man would give his girlfriend such an “insensitive gift.”

Ladies, let me just add here: Most men like stuff with plugs. Or batteries. We may never use them, but we like to get them for gifts.

5. What seems romantic to you may not actually be romantic to your spouse.

Dr. Gary Chapman says in his book, The Five Love Languages, that there are five primary ways that we express love to one another:

  • Physical touch—holding hands, playing with hair, giving a back rub.
  • Acts of service—washing the dishes, helping out around the house, or just folding the laundry.
  • Words of affirmation—saying tender, sweet, or encouraging things.
  • Gifts.
  • Quality time together.

Each of us, Dr. Chapman says, has what he calls a “love language”—a favorite from this list. Let’s say your love language is words of affirmation; you love it when somebody says to you, “You’re really special” or “You look handsome” … those kinds of things. So when you want to express your love for your wife, you naturally say all kinds of sweet things.

But if your wife’s primary love language is acts of service, you can say all the affirming words you want. Unless you’re picking up a broom while you talk, it won’t do much good.

You need to determine your spouse’s love language and then express your love by speaking it. I like the quote from one co-worker who said, “I’ve learned that the little green light on the dishwasher is a real turn on for my wife—if I’m the one who set it!”

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6. When you’re talking to your wife, give her your undivided attention.

This applies no matter what your wife’s love language. Being distracted when you’re talking together is not good for romance.

That means if you’re trying to have a conversation with her while a game is on TV, you’re going to need to do more than pushing the mute button on the remote. Wives need undistracted, focused conversation for your relationship—and your romance—to thrive.

7. Using the words “I told you so” does not create a romantic buzz.

Avoid those four words at all cost.

Ogden Nash expressed this well when he wrote:

To keep your marriage brimming,
With love in the loving cup,
When you’re wrong admit it,
And when you’re right, shut up

8. Laugh together.

Laughing together promotes romance. You are never more attractive than when you are happy, and joyful, and laughing. Nobody is drawn to a person who is grumpy and distracted. Nobody sees an angry, grumpy person and thinks, I just want to be with you. You are making my heart go pitter-patter.

9. Taking the time to cultivate a warm, tender relationship will usually improve the frequency and quality of your sexual relationship.

In other words, good sex doesn’t lead to good romance; good romance leads to good sex.

10. To love your spouse well, you need to first understand God’s love for you.

When you realize God’s amazing love for you, you can love someone else well.

Engraved inside the wedding band of my wife, Mary Ann, is the verse 1 John 4:19. This verse says, “We love because He first loved us.”

In every relationship, our ability to love one another well is linked to our understanding of God’s love for us. The more you understand, the more you meditate on, the more you focus on and believe God’s love for you, then the more you are able to pour out love for your wife.

One friend told me that he has learned that romance is never so alive and fulfilling than when he is actively pursuing his relationship with God. “My wife has said on numerous occasions that when I’m pursuing God, it makes me irresistibly attractive to her.”

Cultivating a healthy, romantic relationship requires work and wisdom. If the spark is gone, maybe part of the reason is because you’ve quit trying. Hopefully, some of these pointers can help reignite the flame and deepen your relationship with one another.

Copyright © 2012 by FamilyLife. All rights reserved.