Have you been to a wedding lately? Was there a videographer asking guests to give advice to the newly wedded couple on camera - words of wisdom to ensure them a long and happy life together? It's a common component and, if the couple is lucky, the advice they receive will actually be helpful.
In contrast, most romance novels focus on the hero and heroine meeting in a memorable way, sparring through their relationship, and eventually coming to the conclusion that they cannot live without each other. And then the book ends.
Um… what now?
The "happily ever after" is glossed over and assumed. But in real life, the work has just begun. This is one reason why I like writing trilogies: I get to explore the first rocky years of marriage between Mr. and Ms. Perfect-For-Each-Other. And if the books ring true, there is plenty of conflict.
So what is the best advice for keeping the romance in a marriage? Every long-married couple will have a different answer, but because this is my blog post I get to give you mine: Never. Stop. Dating.
My husband and I were married in July of 1977. On our honeymoon we promised each other that, no matter what our circumstances, we would escape for at least 24 hours every summer to celebrate our anniversary. Our second year, I left a nursing baby behind with frozen breast milk. By our tenth year, 3-month-old baby #4 came with us and slept in the hotel room while we had dinner downstairs.
As our children grew, our times away lengthened to two nights. In the meantime we hired a sitter and went out at least twice a month. Dinner, a movie, or a trip to the emergency room for a broken toe (not kidding) all provided chances to talk about out lives and reconnect as the hero and heroine of our own lives.
I have talked to so many couples who haven't spent a night alone since their children were born. Seriously??? You were lovers before you were parents. Those children are going to grow up and leave; you had better still be lovers when they do. If you aren't, the later years of your life - years which should be your most productive and exciting - might be miserable instead. Or the marriage might end.
No one wants to start over and find themselves dating at 55, do they? It was bad enough at 25 when things were, uh, firm.
If you didn't begin your married life this way, it's not too late to start. Trade children's overnights with a friend so both couples can have the opportunity to experience romance. Trust me, your kids will have a blast. So will you!
Go to a local hotel during low season and take advantage of discounted rates. We always ate dinner at the hotel's restaurant because not getting back in the car made us feel like we were out of town; in actuality, we were only 5 miles from our house.
Then get creative… Shave your pubic hair into a heart. Or dye it. Use temporary tattoos in fun places. Don't wear underwear to dinner. Cut a little bit loose. Surprise your spouse in a good way.
Whatever you do, focus on your partner. Talk about your life together. Have amazing sex at least twice. Remind each other why you couldn't live without them. And talk about the future you plan to share.
Love your hero.
Be his heroine.
"Happily ever after" can be the beginning of your own story.