Keeping the spark alive

23 tips to make your relationship sizzle

Written by Sara Garrison | Photography by Visual Fusion Photographics

To love and to be loved in return is one of the most gratifying experiences in life. Being in a relationship is exciting and invigorating, but making a relationship last requires a partnership between two people that includes mutual commitment and respect.

"It is hard to not get in a rut and do the same thing every day," says Vickie Pennick, licensed marriage and family therapist with Pennick Family Therapy who has been married for 47 years. "Doing the same thing, day in and day out, can be the death of anything, be it in a job, or in a relationship. It is important to go outside the norm and routine and try something new."

Here are a few tips Pennick suggests to maintain a healthy love life and help your relationship sizzle.

1. Touch each other. Loving another includes all forms of touch, be it sexually, physically, intellectually and emotionally. Don't forget to hug, cuddle and hold hands with your spouse.

2. Respect. Treat your loved one, as they want to be treated.

3. Listen. There is nothing sexier than having someone's full attention when you are talking.

4. Be curious and ask questions. Ask about your spouse's day and show interest in what they enjoy.

5. Maintain your identity. Enjoy your own friends, hobbies, activities and interests.

6. Acknowledge and validate feelings. It is important to listen to your partner and un derstand how they feel.

7. Keep up your physical appearance. Physical attraction is an important component to keeping love alive.

8. Go on dates. As a parent it is easy to get wrapped up in your children and forget about your spouse. Make time for alone time. Partner time is as important as parent time.

9. Fulfill fantasies. Role-playing keeps things exciting in a relationship. Call up your spouse and pretend you are a stranger. Surprise them with a sexy outfit.

10. Set common goals and dreams. Working together to achieve common goals promotes intimacy.

11. Create a romantic sanctuary. It is important for a couple to have an emotional and physical space to feel comfortable and be intimate.

12. Be adventurous. Couples need to take turns planning dates and try new activities alone together.

13. Travel. If your budget allows, traveling and visiting a new place is always exciting.

14. Write love letters. Send your spouse a note reminiscing about past special experiences. Place cards around the house requesting a romantic rendezvous.

15. Play games. Go bowling, play golf or board games together. Competitiveness sparks intimacy.

16. Be a best friend. Your spouse should be your best friend. Without friendship it is hard to have a relationship that lasts.

17. Be there. It is important to be there for your partner when they are unhappy. However, it is not your responsibility to make your spouse happy and vice versa.

18. Keep sex hot. Don't be afraid to try something new.

19. Share your feelings. Share what you feel, and listen to your partner's feelings without criticism and judgment.

20. Flirt. Have a secret word or statement that you use just between each other.

21. Embrace the unexpected. Surprise your spouse with flowers, a special gift or breakfast in bed.

22. Set a secret spot. Take a walk together with your spouse or meet them at your secret place. Spending time together does not have to be expensive. It is the time that counts.

23. Laugh. Laughter improves communication and reduces stress.

"It is never too late to work on your relationship," says Pennick. "You and your partner must have the willingness to change and put effort into the relationship. You can't change your partner but if you change yourself; you will change the relationship."

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