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We all get into relationship ruts. And that's a good thing. If you and your sweetie prefer hunkering down for a night in front of the TV rather than going out on the town, chances are you're enjoying a cozy and trusting relationship. You're relaxed -- no longer scanning for signs of trouble. But after a while, doing the same old thing day after day begins to feel like a good habit gone sour. That's when you know it's time to try something new. But what? Here are some terrific tips to spice up your routines.#1 Get a transportation tune-up.
Most days Salli Rasberry, an artist and writer, and hubby Michael Eschenbach, a custom home builder, tool around their hometown in Florida in their sensible vehicles. She's got the car; he drives a big truck. But when they take a vacation, Michael often insists on renting a motorcycle or scooter. "This changes everything. I end up loving snuggling up behind him and holding on tight," says Salli. "It's less expensive than a car and far more thrilling."
Another time they saw a sign advertising ultralight flights (think lawn mower with wings), which really appealed to Michael but frightened Salli. "I watched him survive the trip and decided to go up myself," she says. "It was both terrifying and exhilarating. I got to soar along the coastline, feel the adrenaline coursing through me. Michael and I reminisce about our flight from time to time, so it was an adventure that lasted."#2 Be a bird brain.
On their last road trip, novelist Robin Beeman and her husband discovered bird-watching definitely isn't as dull as it sounds. "We planned our last vacation to go to a place with great birding -- southeast Arizona -- and there we met many couples who love the way that it brings a goal and a focus to any trip," says Robin. One man confided that museums bored him, but he never tires of spotting a new bird. "You can start anywhere with a pair of binoculars and a bird book," adds Robin. "Birding combines the thrill of the chase with a chance to be together outside, leading you to wonderful places you'd never go otherwise."#3 Get wet.
A Boston-area couple with two kids and a home in the suburbs enlivened their relationship recently by taking a white-water rafting in Riviere Rouge in Quebec. There was lunch and a guide and people from around the globe. "We laughed, got wet, and had a great time together," remembers Cree. "And it was invigorating to be using your body. And kind of scary. That night at dinner, even though we were physically tired, we felt good, and we laughed in a way we hadn't in a long time."#4 When sprawled on the couch, remember to touch.
Jennifer, a stay-at-home mom (with an active 2-year-old,) and her busy computer programmer husband, always look forward to a quiet evening watching the latest DVD. "But last week it occurred to us that maybe we could actually sit next to each other and hold hands. Shocking! I know!!" says Jennifer. Sometimes a bit of mindfulness and a small change can make all the difference.#5 Take dance lessons.
Ballroom dancing may not be your thing, but what about water dancing? Couples dance together in warm pools. In other exercises, you lie on your back while your partner moves you around the pool in a series of languid, choreographed moves. Sounds divine. Check out what's available in your area.
There's tennis, of course. Some like working out at the gym. Others run together. Artist Marylu and software developer Roger prefer Tai Chi. "After we do the slow set, our teacher has us do something completely different. It might be just to walk slowly about the room, thinking how we are glowing from the inside out, or it might be to push hands, trying to knock each other off balance, or maybe do the set at about five times the speed," says Marylu. "This all might seem dull, but the extreme focus and the physical presence of so many other people in the same room, with my dear husband, is invigorating. For a while we tried reading aloud to each other from a frankly erotic poetry book, but somehow we usually found it more a cause for humor than for romance."#7 Speaking of reading...
Sarah and Dan are too busy with work, school, and a new baby to think about going out much, but they love popping in an audio book CD on road trips. "The one we're listening to now is Assassination Vacation by Sarah Vowell, which is read by the author with guest voices like Jon Stewart," says Sarah. "It really makes traveling in the car much nicer because we can focus on the story rather than the 'bad' driving of the other party (I drive more aggressively, Dan drives more passively, so it makes each of us crazy to be the passenger)."#8 The couple that bangs together, stays together.
He's a writer and she's a writer. They've lived in Germany and vacationed in France. And like most of us have fought their way through many a home remodeling project. Until recently, that is, because Susan has finally figured how to have some fun with her tool guy when working on a home project. Things go smoothly, "as long as I understand my rank, which is laborer/cheerleader and my role, which is to provide encouragement but not advise," says Susan. "I hold the level or the ladder, chase dropped screws and nails, and deliver all tools like a nurse to a surgeon. Rather than talking, we listen to opera, although I will marvel at his ingenuity and he on my new muscles from power training at the gym. We can manage about three hours of such togetherness and then we repair to the deck in our sweaty clothes to drink wine and toast the new window or screen door."#9 Make a bottle of wine an event.
Bretta, a nurse, and husband Walt, an emergency room doctor, have been married about 30 years. And for most of it Bretta, an ardent exercise enthusiast, has been a teetotaler. Until recently. "Last year in Italy we'd buy a bottle of wine and sit by a fountain or in a park and enjoy the sights and sounds as well as some good conversation," says Bretta. "We've done it a number of times either by the pond or in front of the fire. I'll get dinner almost entirely ready and then we'll sit and talk and watch the sunset or whatever. Sometimes we'll relax for an hour or two before eating. I've been surprised by some of our conversations even after being together all of these years."#10 Something new.
There's nothing wrong with cuddling up on the couch while you watch a movie you've been dying to see. But if what you're really dying for is a change of pace, here are some more ideas: Go on a picnic or take a walk. Take your partner on a surprise date. Buy tickets to concerts, the opera, or a play, and enjoy the anticipation. Refine your chess skills -- or learn how in the first place. Read a book together. Go for a roller-coaster ride. Rent kayaks at a local lake or estuary. Try roller-blading. Visit your local farmer's market and cook a meal together. The possibilities really are endless.
Originally published on LHJ.com, July 2005.