To be clear: Despite what rom-coms and the above headline might imply, romance isn’t simple. In fact, there’s no formula, fix, or surefire move that will automatically make you worthy of a Luther Vandross lyric. That’s because romance depends on so many factors—from your relationship status (are you courting or are you comfortable?) to all the other internal stuff that you bring to a relationship, a rendezvous, or any one moment in time. And that’s not even including the factors like self-esteem and trust that influence how we give and receive romantic gestures throughout our lives.
Despite romance’s complexities, that doesn’t mean you can’t improve your amorous arsenal with your partner. After all, isn’t the whole point to dance with your beloved through life in sync, close together, and maybe even a little sweaty, too? So read on, and learn how to raise your romance-level through the roof. And for more amazing tips, know what to avoid with the 40 Relationship Tips That Are Actually Terrible.
Hugs and kisses should have energy, says Dr. Jessica O’Reilly, host of the @S**WithDrJess Podcast. “Use your dog’s energy and enthusiasm as inspiration,” she says. “When a dog greets you with a wagging tail and affection, it calms your nerves and makes you feel loved.”
Shoot her the old “heart eyes” in the middle of the day.
A favorite Instagram post of the two of you, printed and framed.
Take 60 seconds every day to do something that makes your partner feel important, says O’Reilly. That can be anything from making their tea to warming up the car to cleaning a laptop screen. “Small favors pack a huge punch in terms of maintain the connection,” she says. “When you make them feel important, they benefit from a boost in serotonin, which can help you ignite passion in the relationship.” And if you’re still on the market, know the 40 Best Dating Tips for Men Over 40.
Say thank you for things you take for granted, like grocery shopping or any kind of run-of-the-mill responsibilities, says O’Reilly. It reduces the resentment and increases the harmony, she says.
To the neck.
Greet your partner exiting the shower with a towel you just took out of the dryer.
Getting flowers < knowing which flowers to get < Surprising with flowers for no reason at all.
Doing chores < doing your partner’s chores < cleaning the toilet/sheets/towels before they need cleaning.
Posting < commenting < keeping it to yourself.
Ava Cadell, Ph.D., author of Neuroloveology: The Power of Mindful Love & S**, recommends a fruit salad as the go-to dish. “I know it sounds simple,” she says, “but once you stand by side, slicing juicy mangos, peaches, oranges, plums, and apricots, it won’t be long until you’ll be feeding each other the succulent fruit.” And also: Know the 17 Worst Things a Man Can Say to a Woman.
Smothering may work for butter, gravy, and marinara, but not for relationships. Time alone makes for better time together.
“Wanna [other verb]?”
Date night for long-term couples should use strategies from short-term couples: Trying something new each time. Studies show that novelty is good for romance. It can be as simple as driving across town for dinner to get away from routine spots or more elaborate outings like doing some kind of weekend retreat that focuses on something like cooking or yoga. For more inspiration, check out the 40 Best Date Ideas if You’re Over 40.
Goes for decision-making, meal-making, love-making.
Research shows that when communicating with a partner, you need to make five positive comments for every negative one, says Sadie Leder Elder, Ph.D., associate professor at High Point University who studies romantic relationships.
A wink is only effective if it comes sparingly and selectively.
Research shows that those who do something altruistic outside of the relationship have a better connection.
Love notes are good. I’m-sorry notes are better.
Treat good news from your partner the way you would a sporting event. A study in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found better relationship satisfaction when a person was very enthusiastic about good news from their partner. And for more amazing tips, learn How 50 Famous Men Wooed The Women of Their Dreams.
A Baylor University study found lower relationship satisfaction when couples perceived their partners choosing their phones over them.
Cliché that doesn’t come off like one: Wine, pizza, and a movie. Cliché that does: 4-foot tall stuffed animals.
Dessert. The remote. Laps.
Toothbrushes. Offices. Sub-tweets about your relationship.
If logistically possible, carpool every so often. It’s a chance to catch up and slow down in an otherwise hectic schedule.
Hike a little more. Hustle a little less.
Vary from so-so-so-so light to love-love-you tight.
Candles can bring different scents into your home, but you can make the smells even more personal by taking a trip to a spice or herb market and picking out ones you both like, Cadell says. Combine them to make a customized bowl of scents for the bedroom.
Notice something that never gets noticed.
You don’t need to win every disagreement. The willingness to sacrifice is a big component of increasing connectedness in a relationship, Elder says.
Undress yourselves slowly and silently, Cadell suggests. Watch. Listen. Wait.
Tune in for birthday-present hints starting at 180 days out, not 180 minutes.
Wordplay is foreplay.
One recent study showed that both relationship and s**ual satisfaction increased when as much time was spent being close with each other after s** as it was beforehand.
When you clink glasses, say something short, say something specific, say something sneaky. “For helping our daughter with her history project” trumps “Cheers.”
Ask more than you answer.
One of Cadell’s favorite ways to sweeten s** is a game using honey, your body, and blindfold.
Shave her legs. Shave his face. Hot water, lather, steam, skin, and sharp objects make a cocktail of trust and sensuality.
Especially at the most vulnerable moment, Cadell says. “Even s**ier than seeing is to truly feel like you are being seen,” she says.
Vacations, even for one night, can start the simmering. Vacations, if they involve bathing suits and bodies of water, raise the temp to boiling.
The most underrated use of your own tongue: Biting it.
Remembering a wedding anniversary is a given. Remembering a stealthier anniversary—a first date, a first sight—is golden.
People with high self-esteem report having higher levels of connectedness, Elder says. Part of that comes from feelings of unconditional love—the kind that parents give children, she says. That doesn’t mean you can’t have conflict, but forgiveness shows relationships are less fragile.
Send an appropriate-to-your-partner story link with the subject line “reminded me of you.”
And not as a chore. It’s a time to bond, a time to chat, and a time to—literally and metaphorically—show that you’re willing to be the one to clean up the crap.
One night a week, help each other stretch before bed.
To your partner’s other circles—friends, family, co-workers—even if you mix together like OJ and toothpaste.
Accomplishments as much as—if not more than—appearances.
When nobody is watching. When everybody is watching.