When you’re looking for ways to spice up your love life, you probably don’t think of consulting the Catechism of the Catholic Church. You might be surprised.
CCC 2365 describes the fidelity of a husband and wife bearing witness to the world of the fidelity of Christ for his Church. If you read further, you see St. John Chrysostom’s advice to young husbands on what to say to their wives:
“I have taken you in my arms, and I love you, and I prefer you to my life itself. For the present life is nothing, and my most ardent dream is to spend it with you in such a way that we may be assured of not being separated in the life reserved for us… I place your love above all things, and nothing would be more bitter or painful to me than to be of a different mind than you.”
What bride wouldn’t swoon to hear her beloved say this to her? This has got to be the most romantic thing ever! They didn’t call St. John Chrysostom, “golden-mouthed,” for nothing! And he was a celibate priest who lived more than 1600 years ago! Wow.
I’d like you to pause here and go back and read that again, thinking of your true love when you read it, whether you’re the bride or the groom. Go ahead. I’ll wait.
Are you making time for romance in your marriage? With all the bills to pay, meals to cook, babies to change, kids to schlep to school, laundry to fold, lawns to mow, and work to do, are you still making time for romance?
Do you remember when you first fell in love? Did your heart skip a beat when you heard your beloved’s name? Did you thrill at the touch of his hand? Did you silently gasp when you saw her walk down the aisle on your wedding day?
Maybe you’ve grown accustomed to his smelly clothes tossed on the floor at night. Maybe you’ve noticed her tummy isn’t quite as flat as it once was. Your heart palpitations that used to happen every time she walked into the room have returned to a normal heartbeat. You’re tired of picking up his socks along with the kids’ toys. Is this what marriage is supposed to be?
Well, yes…and no.
Marriage is about self-sacrificial love and that’s what you’re doing when you stop yourself from commenting on her love handles or his beer belly. You’re practicing self-sacrificial love when you pick up his dirty socks off the floor and toss them in the laundry pile. You’re practicing self-sacrificial love when you come home from work and, instead of commenting on how messy the house is or what a hard day you’ve had, you ask her how she is doing. And you listen.
Okay, but where’s the romance in that?
Self-sacrificial love is the foundation of married love. Sex is the bond that renews our marriage covenant, as well as making physical, the spiritual “one flesh” union. (See Genesis 2:22-24 and Mark 10:6-8). Romance is the spark that lights the flame to heighten our enjoyment of sex. Romance is the foreplay to foreplay. Romance keeps love burning brightly, even when life comes tumbling in, like a two-year old with a bad dream and a wet diaper crawling into bed between the two of you, just when the sparks began to fly.
We need romance because we need to know we’re important and valued and loved by our beloved. It may lead to other things. Or it may not. It’s still important.
Here are ten simple ways to keep the romance alive amidst the chaos of family life:
- Compliment one another.Women want to be appreciated and desired. She wants to know she is beautiful and loved by her husband. Men want to be appreciated and respected. He wants to know that what he says and does is important. He wants to know his wife respects and admires him. As we say to our toddlers, “use your words!” and tell your beloved that you love, respect, admire, and appreciate them.
- Encourage one another.Little words of support and encouragement throughout the day can mean so much. Something as simple as, “I am praying for you today,” is encouraging. You can also give each other spiritual graces when you actually pray for one another!
- Pray with one another. Yes, praying together can be romantic because it is a form of spiritual intimacy. When we expose our inmost selves to one another by sharing our deepest desires through prayer, we open our hearts to one another and become vulnerable. Try asking God, who invented romance and sex, to teach you how to better love one another.
- Hold hands like you mean it. Scientific studies have shown that holding hands can decrease pain and stress and increase the bond between two people. And studies have confirmed that oxytocin, “the love hormone,” is released by our brain when we hold hands. This important neurotransmitter not only makes us feel more trusting, generous, and compassionate, it also decreases our levels of fear and anxiety.
- Kiss like you mean it. There’s kissing, then there’s kissing. Do both kinds. Do them often. Sometimes you have to kiss even when you don’t feel romantic. Think of it as making a deposit in a bank account that you’ll need to draw on eventually. A kiss planted on the cheek or forehead, when you’re still bristling from an argument, is important. Never forget that.
- Don’t go to bed angry. Don’t leave for work angry. Don’t walk out of the house angry. If you disagree about something, then learn how to disagree without being angry. Learn to say “I’m sorry,” and “I forgive you.” These are powerfully romantic words.
- Get enough sleep. Never underestimate the importance of sleep. To impress the importance of sleep upon his troops during WWII, General George Patton said, “Fatigue makes cowards of us all.” This is true in love, as well as in war. We can’t function well if we’re tired. Most of us aren’t getting enough sleep. You aren’t going to enjoy “sleeping together” if you aren’t getting enough sleep!
- Exercise together. Whatever sort of exercise you enjoy, do it together. This really works! My husband and I prefer the sort of exercise we can do together outdoors, because it’s more social, but if going to the gym together is your thing, then do it. You will get healthier together and your love life will improve.
- Practice Natural Family Planning. It may seem counter-intuitive, being told to plan your times of intimacy based on her fertility cycle, rather than being totally spontaneous. Remember what we said about love being self-sacrificial at the beginning of this article? That’s the foundation of true love. Spontaneity may seem romantic, but anticipation is the master when it comes to romance. Planning your special evenings in advance can give you time to grow in your love for one another while you practice the sacrificial love that strengthens marriage.
- Keep a sense of humor. Life doesn’t always work out the way we have planned. While we may have expectations for romance and sex in our marriages, sometimes life intervenes. When your two-year old has a bad dream and needs to sleep between the two of you, being able to relax and laugh (or at least smile) can keep the flame of romance alive for a later date.
If nothing else, go read St. John Chrysostom again.