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Hundreds of passionate parents wrote to tell us how they manage to keep romance alive after kids have arrived on the scene. A few classic scene-setters always help: Candles, wine, music, and sleeping children. But sometimes even email and a quick shower do the trick – after all, desperate people are often the most creative.
Flirting and cyber flirting
"I send my husband an email saying that I can't wait to be alone with him. When he gets home, we flirt until the kids go to bed. We also bet on everything – football games, the outcome of a show we're watching, anything. We bet for, well, favors! And every once in a while, I light candles in the bedroom before we go to bed."
"My husband and I have started sending flirtatious messages to each other on Facebook. I think that helps us communicate with each other and keeps things fun. I also enjoy watching TV with him, and we both have a good time laughing and talking about it together. Laughing together is good. I think it helps foster intimacy. Also, we take time to talk about sex, feelings, and preferences. Even though we've been married seven years, there are still things we can learn about each other or things that change."
— A our site member
"My husband and I have five children, so we never have much time to ourselves. To keep romance in our lives, we send each other emails talking about our desires. It's easier to be intimate at night if the thoughts have been floating around in our minds during the day."
"We send short, sweet text messages to each other. We compliment each other. We meet for lunch dates. We often let household chores go undone and try not to worry about it. We don't expect too much of each other and try not to get disappointed with one another. We've learned that these things are vital to keeping the marriage alive, not just the romance."
"If my husband is on the computer, I go over and rub his back to let him know that I'm thinking of him. And if I'm doing the dishes, he'll come over and pat my bottom. With a 2-year-old in the house, sex isn't as plentiful as it used to be. But with all that playing around, it doesn't take long to get in the mood."
Communication is key
"One thing that needs to be stressed here is the importance of working on your relationship. Physical intimacy is very important, but an emotional connection is just as important. It takes work to keep your relationship together before the baby arrives, but it takes even more work after the baby arrives. I think people forget that. As mothers, it's easy for us to get wrapped up in all things having to do with the new baby. It's also easy for your partner (especially if he's not had any experience in this area) to be disillusioned about pregnancy and the postpartum stages. Communication is key."
— A our site member
"My husband and I were like bunnies before we had a baby. But after having our first child, months would go by and we would have no sex. I started to feel unattractive, lonely, and unloved. I talked to him about it, and he admitted to not being in the mood because he was worrying about our finances. It was draining him physically and emotionally. We both decided to do extra work on top of our full-time jobs, budget better, and give each other at least 30 minutes of undivided attention every day. Although securing finances and having intimacy are both important, one need is more urgent than the other. Prioritizing intimacy helps us face other challenges better, including securing the family finances."
— A our site member
"We make sure to have coffee together before I leave for work in the morning. When the kids go to bed we do dishes together and flirt, flirt, flirt! I've always hated doing dishes, but now that we don't have a dishwasher and have turned it into a time to talk and flirt, it's my favorite part of the day! We also have a journal that we each have access to. We write in it to each other, sometimes daily, sometimes weekly. If someone has written in it, we leave it on our bathroom counter. That way, the person who didn't leave it knows that there's a note in it."
— A our site member
"Our favorite thing to do is shower together. It's something we have to do anyway, so we do it together. Once our daughter's down for the night, we both hop into a steamy shower and talk about whatever's on our minds. Our troubles and fears go 'down the drain,' and it lets us slow down, relax, and enjoy each other."
"We're always exhausted (our 3-year-old isn't a great sleeper), and romance is often the last thing on our minds. Still, if we don't find some way to stay intimate, we grow distant and start snapping at each other. So once or twice a week, I wait up for him to get home and we jump in the shower together. The important thing is to stay connected."
"Some of our most romantic evenings are spent cooking together once the baby is down. We choose an item from Gourmet magazine and then prepare it in the kitchen together (with a bottle of wine, of course). We usually listen to Al Green for the full experience. Once dinner is ready, we sit down in the dining room, which is filled with candles, and catch up. It's a lovely way to spend the evening, and sometimes we even take an 'intermission' to make out! And then, of course, there's dessert."
"Our 1-year-old goes to sleep at 8, but only for two or three hours. While he's asleep, my husband and I lay out blankets in front of the fireplace. We turn out the lights, put on some romantic music, have a little wine or dessert, and spend time together by the fire."
"I make a romantic (but quick and easy) dinner for two and email an invitation to my husband at work. Once our daughter's conked out, I light candles, put on music, pull out a bottle of wine, and voila! It's like we're real people again."
"We found that waiting around for 'babysitter nights' provided too few dates for us and was hurting our marriage. So three times a month we order a prepared (but uncooked) gourmet dinner. We begin cooking everything at 8. Our son goes to bed at 8:30, and we put a white tablecloth, candles, and a bottle of wine on the coffee table. The food is ready soon after, and we sit down for a candlelight dinner and a (hopefully romantic!) movie. After the movie, we have time for more 'romance' before falling asleep."
"I asked a friend to take some sexy pictures of me as a gift for my husband. Nothing showed in the pictures – just almost. My husband is a bull rider, so I put on his chaps and used his hat to cover strategic places. Let me tell you, it spiced things up for quite a while!"
"My husband and I get a babysitter and plan a date – but not a typical, married-couple kind of date. He goes somewhere else to get ready, and we meet at an agreed-upon place and act as if we've just met. Sometimes we pretend to be someone else. Last time, I was a doctor and he was a policeman."
— A our site member
"When all else fails and we get desperate, I tell my husband that there's a leak in the bathroom he needs to fix right away. We lock the door behind us for a quickie, with a little help from Barney or the Disney channel!"
"Every night, we thank God for all our blessings, including Elmo. Picture this: Elmo on TV in the living room, while down the hall we are in our bedroom with the door slightly ajar, just in case our son wonders where Mama and Papa have gone. But usually Elmo keeps him excited and enthralled – just like we are!"
"We have secret 'afternoon delights' in my husband's home office when our youngest is napping and our oldest is otherwise occupied in another room. It's a great release for both of us, and we feel so naughty."
"We have spontaneous sex anywhere in the house after the kids are asleep. It's a little naughty and risky, and it makes us feel like we're still teens."
Stealing some alone time
"When my husband worked nights, I made it a point to go home for lunch and "wake" him up occasionally. We loved the extra time together, and I wasn't too tired from a long day."
— A our site member
"Sometimes my husband and I take a vacation day during the week and have a date while our daughter's at daycare. We have a leisurely lunch, then catch a movie. It's a treat for her to have both Mommy and Daddy pick her up, and we love having the evening together, refreshed after our 'couple time.'"
"My husband and I both work full time, so we prefer to spend our free time with our child. Instead of hiring a babysitter at night or on the weekend, we leave work early and meet for a movie and dinner – or at home for a rendezvous. What's great about these daytime dates is that we have enough energy to really enjoy each other."
"With a newborn, it's difficult to be alone and in the mood for anything but sleep. So we've found a great way to combine taking care of the baby and ourselves at the same time. At night, I hold our baby and gently rock him to sleep in my arms. My wife stands near me and holds me while I rock our son. She and I get to be close and romantic, and the baby is gently swayed to sleep."
Little things count
"The other day I had on a sundress that showed a little cleavage, and I did my hair and makeup because my husband was supposed to be home that night. I sent him a black-and-white picture of myself in the car going to pick up the kids from school. It wasn't revealing at all. Plans didn't work out because he didn't get home until really late, so I was in jammies. But he said that picture made his whole week."
— A our site member
"On the intimacy front: Full slips and pretty everyday underwear. I also make a point that he 'accidentally' sees me getting dressed. I splurge on good silk slips to wear under my dresses and skirts, so he knows what I'm wearing underneath and loves it! He knows that I'm not just wearing the old standby underwear, and he can't wait to get my clothes off!"
— A our site member
"Our secret is simple, and we only recently rediscovered it: Going to bed at the same time. It sounds trite, but for nearly six years, my husband stayed up late to catch some quiet time alone. It's hard to have much of a sex life – or any kind of intimacy – when one partner crawls into bed after the other's asleep. Going to bed at the same time facilitates 'pillow talk' and all that goes with it."
"Before my daughter was born, I worried about how it would impact our love life. I worried about my wife losing her sex drive. I worried about the romance burning out. I even worried that I'd be turned off after seeing a baby come out of my wife. Now that my daughter's here, I see that she's bringing us closer than before and that the romance is inside us. It doesn't have to be wine and cheese on a beach with music in the background. After having a baby, romance is taking the time to listen to your partner, to rub her back when it's sore, and to let her sleep while you take the 3 a.m. feeding. One day we'll be able to get a sitter and go somewhere romantic. But right now our romance is our family."
"After our second baby was born, I bought a journal shaped like a heart, wrote a love letter to my husband on the first page, then slipped it into his bedside drawer. When he found it, he replied with a poem on the next page and slipped it into my drawer. We've continued the tradition ever since. We don't write in the journal every day, but it's always a treat to open my drawer and see it there."
"Sharing responsibilities is the way to keep romance alive. I get up at night to feed the baby (now that she's not solely nursed anymore). I give her baths. I share the work equally with my wife. One tired parent does nothing for romance, so help your partner with the housework!"
"We play one online video game together. We both enjoy it, and it helps us wind down. But in the game we constantly sweet talk (or dirty talk) each other while we play. And usually by the time we're done, we're ready to make good on all our flirting."
— A our site member
"We turn in a little early and give each other rubdowns wherever our partner requests. It only takes a few minutes to feel better, and it's less work than a full body massage. By alternating the body part each night, the massage is sometimes funny or unexpected, which leads to laughter or intimacy."
"After we had our little girl, we had little or no time alone. To keep our relationship alive, my husband bought a set of candles and put them next to our bed. Whenever a candle is lit, we know that we need to make time after the baby goes to sleep to talk and be together. It keeps the lines of communication open and reminds us to take time out from our hectic lives and give each other some much-needed attention."
"It all comes down to your mindset. Women are often worried about stretch marks, sagging breasts, and a not-so-flat abdomen. Our secret? We constantly tell each other we love each other and say 'thank you' for helping to bring our daughter into the world. My husband also tells me every day that he wants 10 more children. I know he's not serious, but it makes me feel wanted, sexy, and appealing. Gradually all thoughts about stretch marks and the like have faded away."
"It helps that my husband finds me sexy in anything. I've gained some weight, and when I get down about it he makes sweet comments or pats my butt to let me know he loves me unconditionally. That alone makes me want him more each day."
"I always make sure to hug my husband when he comes home from work, no matter how busy I am. It takes just two seconds to reconnect with him, and it's well worth it."
"We remind ourselves that in 18 years our daughter will leave us, but that we're forever. This helps us make decisions to invest in our marriage – date nights at least twice a month, occasional weekends away, prolonged kisses at the door, spontaneous sex during afternoon naps, and loving conversations in front of our toddler to show her how important we are to each other. My parents did the same, and it gave me a wonderful sense of peace to know that they loved each other so much."
"Remember, when the kids are grown they'll leave. Your spouse is the person you'll spend the rest of your life with, so he or she should be the most important person in your life. Kids are demanding, yes, but they can survive just fine with a trusted babysitter. We make it a point to go out every week without the kids. (We have five.) We have a limited budget, so sometimes it's just [dinner from] a fast-food drive-thru, then sitting in a quiet spot eating our burgers. But it is time spent together away from the stresses of home and office. This has worked for us for 24 years now."
"Take care of yourself. It's not too hard to see why couples lose interest when they don't make an effort to look good for their mate. Sure, this sounds shallow, but it really isn't. Getting a new hairstyle, dyeing away that gray, wearing something besides sweats and stained T-shirts, eating healthier, and participating in physical activities (besides chasing kids) not only keeps your mate interested, but keeps you healthier and encourages your mate to do the same."
"I tell my wife that I love her as often as I can. I watch out for knee-jerk responses to irritating things. I remind myself to look at the big picture. I make sure that I cuddle with her at bedtime. Sometimes I just cuddle. It always pays off right then, and later on (wink, wink). And every evening we have a few minutes of 'Mommy and Daddy talk' when we get home. The kids have to amuse themselves for a little while, but they're better served by parents who've had a chance to reconnect."
"We revel in the changes in our marriage. No, I don't feel the same as when I married him – I love him more, and I love him differently. The spark we had for each other in the beginning is now a comfortable, predictable, gentle glow. Things aren't what they used to be, and I'm glad because we're better than we used to be, having weathered life shoulder-to-shoulder for 22 years."