Real Simplereaders reveal how they keep the spark in their relationship.

By Real Simple
Updated July 31, 2008
Married couple holding hands
Credit: Frederic La Grange

Be a Listener

The most romantic thing my husband ever did was around Christmastime, when we had just moved into our new home. I had grown up in apartments, so Christmas lights on a house represented the American Dream for me. One night I asked my husband if he would put some up, and he bah-humbugged the idea. I expressed my disappointment but let it go. About a week later, I drove home from work and couldn't believe my eyes. The whole house was lit up from one end to the other―the bushes, the windows, everywhere! Sometimes romance is about listening to your partner and doing something little that means a lot to him or her.
Holly Ford
Novato, California

My fiancé and I read to each other. The first time we did this was while we were on the west coast of Ireland. He lit a fire, I laid my head on his lap, and he began A Walk to Remember, by Nicholas Sparks.
Kristen Dire
Franklin Square, New York

Gifts, Large and Small

A pitcher of iced tea after a long day of yard work, a walk with the kids to give your partner time to read a chapter in a book―these are romantic gestures that show you care and are thinking of your loved one. That, I think, is what true romance is all about.
Manuela Ake
Posen, Illinois

In the last 18 months, my husband and I have adopted two boys. With this change in our lives, we've invented ways to keep the romance going. Once a week, one of us takes care of the boys while the other spends time alone. We leave love notes on the inside of the shower door. We take turns preparing the other's favorite meal. But, most important, we talk. We share how our day went and always end it with a hug, a kiss, and an "I love you."
Rosa Jackson
Irvington, New Jersey

I think about how thoughtful and caring my husband is. Thoughtful and caring behavior includes cleaning the litter box regularly, doing the dishes, pushing me to pursue my goals at full throttle, and initiating the occasional box step while waiting for a street light to change. Romance comes from recognizing how much your spouse contributes to you, your relationship, and the world.
Rosemarie Buchanan
Chicago, Illinois

I am not the romantic one―my husband is. He is also a writer. At every holiday and on my birthday, he writes me a poem, which never fails to bring tears to my eyes. I have saved every poem he has ever written for me. They last longer than flowers and contain none of the guilt of candy. The best part is that as we read through years of poems, we can see how we have both changed as people. I get to fall in love all over again.
Sandie Behrens
Hightstown, New Jersey

Romance is a note in a suitcase before his business trip, or a note on the pillow before you leave on your own trip. It's a phone call just to say I love him. It's a surprise weekend away. It's a banner proclaiming your love on the garage door. Romance is putting your relationship before your career, your yard work, your hobbies, even your children. Do you want to make your children feel loved? Keep your romance alive. Because your marriage is the foundation of their lives.
Christine Robertson
Annandale, New Jersey

Can't get enough of wedded bliss? Learn the secrets to a happy marriage from other Real Simple readers.

Escaping Together

With three kids, two full-time jobs, and a large extended family who expect weekly visits, my husband and I have only limited time for romance. But every Memorial Day weekend we take a three-day canoe trip down our favorite river. The flowers are starting to bloom, and the trees have sprouted their leaves. We camp on little islands and cook hot dogs over a fire. We take midnight swims when the moon is full. The peacefulness of the river, coupled with the sense of nature's renewal, makes us feel like teenagers all over again.
Karen Freyermuth
Warner Robins, Georgia

During the winter, my husband and I take advantage of the off-season rates, drive 20 minutes across the border into Canada, and spend a night in a wonderful hotel overlooking Niagara Falls. We concentrate entirely on each other and don't discuss finances or children. It is a wonderfully relaxing and rejuvenating experience.
Joan Rockenbrock
North Tonawanda, New York

Every once in a while, my husband and I take a vacation day together. No matter what the activity is―fishing in a small local lake, rock climbing, cooking, going to an art museum, or just spending the day in bed―we make sure that the focus is on the two of us.
Helen Caron
Nottingham, Pennsylvania

Every six months, my husband and I are fortunate enough to get away for a few days to nurture our relationship. It's like taking a mini-honeymoon. Setting up this ritual early on in our marriage has kept the romance alive for 17 years. It brings back all the fun, goofy, romantic times that we experienced in the passionate beginnings of the relationship.
Anita McCann
Ketchum, Idaho

We live in Hawaii, but believe it or not, it still takes an effort to keep the romance going. One of our favorite things is to go to the beach on the night of a full moon and watch the moon rise up from the horizon. We bring a bottle of wine, some munchies, and beach chairs and settle in for the show. It's a great way to relax after a busy day, and this little bit of sharing always draws us closer together. Oh, and no kids are allowed. But we do take our dog sometimes―she's much less demanding than the rest of the family.
Frances Denny
Kapaa, Hawaii

And Another Idea...

I keep changing men. (Just kidding.)
Leslie Wind
Rockport, Massachusetts