How to Keep Loving Your Spouse

Thirty years of small gestures and good sex.

How to Keep Loving Your Spouse

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photo courtesy of Evgenij Yulkin

filed under Couples, Parenting, True Stories

Because I love Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, they are waiting on my night table when I wake on our wedding anniversary each year. And because I love my husband, a package of Raisinets awaits him next to his car keys on the kitchen counter. He’s sentimental, so there will also be an oversized card with sparkles tucked in my underwear drawer to find while I’m dressing. I’m not so sentimental and also, I am cheap, so I will write him ten lines of poetry I hope convey that, when not annoying the hell out of me, my husband still floats my boat after 30 years.

Because we are still in love—though occasionally wish the other would disappear for a few days, like when he procrastinated about getting the heat fixed in my car during a Massachusetts winter—there will be hugs and kisses before work when I’m half-asleep, and more than hugs and kisses at bedtime when he’s drooping and I’m bright and awake. We say we don’t need a night out since we are paying a lot of college tuition for two sons right now, so we don’t make restaurant reservations. To make the day a little special, I might wear the nice blouse he gave me for my birthday two years ago, and he will probably wear the bright pink shirt that’s my favorite, and one or both of us will say, “You look nice today.” Some years when we feel tired of each other, like the year I was in grad school and he was (allegedly) learning to cook and both our sons had broken bones, we just dress normally.

Because we still want to please the other (when we don’t want to banish the other), most years I will bake his favorite chocolate cake, even though I am not great at baking. Sometimes I’ll cut it into a heart shape, even though I am clumsy, and always I frost it and then swirl on the words “For My Romeo.”

Because his last name, which has been my last name for a long time now, is actuallyRomeo, my husband will say something corny like I hope I’m still your Romeo when we’re old, and I’ll laugh and kiss that spot on his neck that he likes. However, we are not yet old, which means after cake, we’ll dance around the kitchen. And our sons, if they are home from college, will roll their eyes. And when they aren’t looking, one or both of us will cop a feel while loading the dishwasher. He likes that I once wrote an article titled, “Your Kids Should Know You Have Great Sex,” and I like that I could honestly write it, though there are times when we aren’t so frisky, like that year I didn’t want him to touch me because being cold in my car with the broken heater made me cold, period.

Because some years I’m not speaking to my husband over some dumb thing, I may leave the Reese’s unopened, and I claim I could not find the card in my underwear drawer. The Raisinets I leave him will be snack size, that is if I don’t decide to lose them in the pantry. When we are not speaking over some dumb thing, he may come home with a single rose and two pastries from that expensive shop, and then all will be forgiven, especially if I’ve forgotten the dumb thing I was supposed to forgive in the first place.

Because kids, jobs, elderly parents, bills, health insurance, or snow to shovel could all blot out our anniversary day, he writes it in red on the kitchen calendar, noting the year. One anniversary, when I was drowning in postpartum depression and blaming him, he gave me a pair of dangly earrings that I kept next to the baby monitor on my dresser because they let me hope I’d one day feel better.

Because I can be sentimental after all, one time years ago I went in search of the tiny red heart-shaped candies that I wanted to sprinkle in my husband’s pockets, lunch bag, bathroom cup, dashboard, gym bag, and change tray. I couldn’t find them in any store, so I gathered up the toddler and preschooler and the three of us made jagged little paper hearts on which I’d scrawled simple things like “I’m glad you’re my husband,” and “Always.”

Because one year I had the flu and couldn’t get to the store, I asked my best friend, who was going to the store to get me chicken soup, if she would buy the Raisinets. She came back with three varieties and I left them all for him and let him think I dragged my sick self to the store. One day when we were all teenagers, that best friend and I met two best guy friends who would become our future husbands. Often, she remembers our anniversary and calls after breakfast to remind me what a good guy I married. On those occasions, I reconsider making restaurant reservations. Sometimes I do and we splurge and even order a glass of wine, but usually not dessert because by then we remember about the tuition.

Because my husband painted my office walls the bold red I wanted (after I yelled at him in Home Depot when he suggested it was too red), and I am surrounded by those cheery walls for eight hours a day, I think of his heart most days when it isn’t our anniversary and I remember: I love that guy. Not every day, it’s true. But most days.

Lisa Romeo is the author of Starting With Goodbye: A Daughter’s Memoir of Love After Loss. Her essays have appeared in the New York Times, O The Oprah Magazine, and many literary journals. She lives in New Jersey.

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