My boyfriend was digging trenches as I weeded my way through a forest of nettles on a small farm in Italy. We returned to our barn and– with the remnants of what little energy we had left– attempted to start a fire in our tiny and infuriating wood-burning stove.
Flash-forward to the next day– Valentines Day. We went to the tiny supermarket and used our few Euros to buy a simple dinner. He ran back inside to get something and returned with a single rose. That night he made ravioli, we traded handmade cards and wished each other a happy Valentine’s Day.
In some of the hardest times, a few simple gestures are all you need to keep the spark alive in your relationship.
My partner and I have been together for over five years after meeting in South Korea on an island called Jeju. We have lived in countless countries, which may sound like a fairy-tale, but the truth was, it could often be a nightmare.
On reflection I can really appreciate how little time we had for each other, the constant barrage of chores and challenges were distracting and disenchanting. So, how did we keep the spark alive through these trying times?
Here are my five tips to keep the spark alive in your relationship:
1. Use open communication.
I’m sure a lot of women would agree; we don’t want to tell a guy to romance us. However, I’m equally sure a lot of fellas would agree, how are they meant to know you want more romance if you don’t tell them? My approach was to speak to my partner. I wanted him to surprise me with the details, but if I was feeling there was a lull or holding any resentment for lack of affection or appreciation, I would talk to him openly.
When you speak to your partner, don’t place blame as it could cause your significant other to get defensive, try to keep it positive or use the old reliable “I feel…” statements. Talk about how you could both make an effort; you want this to be about your relationship, not an argument.
2. Do nice gestures.
Whether it’s a gift, a reassuring touch, love notes or just washing the dishes, a gesture can reassure them of your investment in them and your relationship. One recent study on money and relationships found that the longer couples were together the less they spent on gifts for their partners.
Reflect on your relationship, and ask yourself has the longevity of your relationship affected your romantic gestures? Are you spending less money, time or effort picking birthday, Valentine’s or Christmas gifts? Showing in some way that you are as or more invested, whether it be emotionally, physically or financially, can be reassuring. A surprising romantic gesture can really light the fire and keep the spark alive.
3. Pay them compliments.
Compliments may seem like a no-brainer, but a lot of us are guilty of letting the compliments lag and become lazy. It is always ideal to be intuitive and observant. Has she or he put extra effort into their appearance, did they complete a chore that benefits you both or just seem to be doing well at work?
Complimenting them is not only a form of flattery, but from you it is a verification of your continued interest and appreciation. If they are not expecting a compliment it can be a simple way to surprise them.
4. Be kind and considerate.
Whether you’re together or apart being considerate is fundamental to keeping the magic alive. Perhaps surprise them with coffee in the morning. After seeing they were stressed, run them a bath or give them a massage. A random act of kindness is always appreciated. It is important to be attentive to one another by listening and communicating your feelings. Often taking a moment to really consider your partner’s perspective can avoid the development of any potential resentments.
5. Have fun together!
Don’t forget to have fun! Do things that differ from your norm. Here are some affordable suggestions for fun and affordable things you can do together:
- On a night out visit a photo booth
- Buy canvases and paints and have a painting night
- Sneak your own drinks into a fancy restaurant
- Have a movie marathon
- Take a class together and learn something new
- Enjoy a night of embracing the other person’s hobby (keep it light and be willing to laugh at yourself if you’re not a natural)
- Cook something simple together
Despite living on a meager budget and fatigued from often back-breaking labor, my partner and I both allocated time and efforts to appreciate and romance one another. Acts of romance do not have to have financial or gender requirements. Whether you’re a man or woman, poor or rich – you can always make the time and effort to appreciate your partner.