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The Naked Truth

How to Keep the Romance Alive

Expert advice on rekindling the passion in your long-term relationship

Question from Annie: Now that our kids are grown and have moved away, it seems like my husband and I have nothing in common. A lot of my friends complain about the same thing. Is this typical — and if so, how can we make sure our relationship survives?

PS: Hi Annie. It is typical but it IS repairable. Here's how you got there: You took care of the kids and did your life; he did his work, some parenting — not as much as you — and he did his life. It was very efficient and good for the kids, but you lived parallel lives. Now the thing that brought you together — the children — is gone. So here's my question to you: What brought you together in the first place? Was it travel? Was it going out dancing? Outdoor activities? Meeting up with friends? Figure out the things you used to do that you still like, and that you no longer do, and do them now. And think of something to begin together. Maybe take a college course on contemporary politics. Or, for that matter, medieval church history. You might not like my suggestions, but you do need to have something to talk about together. So bottom line, share things that create fun, conversation and similar interests — date again!

Question from Guest: When does boring monotony become a red flag for the relationship?

PS: I think [that because] you brought it up, it’s already a red flag to you. There's a difference between something you do daily and something you do daily that you don't like. There's no reason why you can't change something that's boring. I'm not saying it’s easy, but, for example, if having dinner every night is getting boring, then go out or invite friends over, join a gourmet club, do something with it that's different. Take a cooking class together. George Washington Carver said: Do a common thing in an uncommon way. I think this is wise.

Question from Guest: My husband and I are separated quite a bit due to business commitments and travel. It is very hard on me and I have been very hard on him as a result. What can I do to overcome my "neediness," which is simply awful? Yes, I have a lack of confidence in love!

PS: I think it’s great that you're looking at yourself and your part in this. That's a good beginning. But my guess is that he has some contribution in this, as well. Maybe what you need is a way of exchanging affection that helps you feel more secure. For example, how about saying something affectionate by e-mail or phone every night you're gone and have a little ritual of saying that you miss each other? Maybe send each other pictures or in some other way that you’re keeping touch, even if your job takes you away. If you're feeling insecure about him, something deeper might be going on, and that's worth a good discussion, too. Trace your feelings when they happen. What is it that makes you feel most needy? See if the two of you can figure out a way not to press those buttons.

Question from Bob: What about turning off cell phones, TVs, computers, etc? Too many distractions ...

PS: Oh yes, oh yes, oh yes. The bedroom should be a technology-free zone, or at least have tech-free hours. I think we have forgotten how rude it can be to get hung up on phones, BlackBerrys, etc., in front of one's spouse. It's worth talking to each other about, setting some rules.

Question from Gina: What do you think of separate vacations?

PS: Makes me sad to think about separate vacations ... unless you have a lot of little together vacations, too. For example, I think it’s great fun to have a girl’s getaway, but not if that's 50 percent of the time you might have together. I think vacation brings people closer together. I would be hesitant of depriving a couple of having at least several vacations a year — short or long — that give them time for fun, deeper conversation and more romance.

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