Romancing The Wife
November 25, 2007 1:41 PM   Subscribe

RomanceFilter: Since getting married and having a kid, the dynamic of the relationship between my wife and I has changed in many ways. One thing she cites is my lack of 'romance' in general... Help me figure out ways I can be romantic in small ways day to day.

You can never overestimate how much becoming a parent will change things - but one very specific one for myself and my wife is our general intimacy. She is often very tired after all day at home with a baby (and now toddler) - this puts stress on our relationship, and has almost obliterated our formerly 5-times-a-week sex life (more like 5 times a year now).

I am still very much in love with her, and try to express it whenever and however I can, but money is tight, and it's hard to just go out an do anything.

One thing she says she wants from me is 'romance' - not big all out special events, but just day to day romance, and I really want to be obliging, but I completely lack inspiration. She says I used to be romantic, but I can't really think what I did 'back then' that was so different. My best ideas are to bring home little gifts I know she'll enjoy from time to time, but that's only going to work so many times - what else can I do, one a daily or few-times-weekly basis to show my romantic feelings. Things that I can easily arrange while at work, that cost little or nothing, and that are varied enough that they won't start to seem systematic or repetitive.

I'm looking for as many little ideas and experiences as you can offer. Obviously what is romantic to others won't necessarily apply to us, but I need inspiration!
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (36 answers total) 34 users marked this as a favorite
my significant other tucks me in every night saying 'can i tuck you in because i love you?' coming from a man over six feet tall and broad, after seven years it still makes my toes curl.
posted by eatdonuts at 1:48 PM on November 25, 2007 [2 favorites]

Say nice things? Give her hugs? Offer to help with chores?
posted by martinX's bellbottoms at 1:49 PM on November 25, 2007 [1 favorite]

* Write her a poem
* Make (rather than buy) a "love-you" card
* Get a copy of next week's TV Guide; take a highlighter to it, marking all of her favorite movies. Set up the DVR to tape all of them. Put a note on the front of the magazine telling her what you've done, and leave it for her. For bonus points, add a $5 box of gourmet chocolates from Target.
* Take over one of the chores that is typically hers (laundry? dishes?) and make it yours, without announcing it.
* Do something that will facilitate her getting to bed earlier one night. New moms need sleep, and will love you for it.
* Tell her, every chance you get, what a great mom she is. Remind her that you appreciate the fact that she's the mother your children will always love.
* Tell her she's pretty.
posted by jbickers at 1:52 PM on November 25, 2007

Do you share responsibility for your child? Your wife may be tired out, too, so it might be a good idea to figure out a way to give her more free time so she can go to yoga or take a nap or whatever.

Gifts, etc., never really work with my SO. Usually saying how beautiful she is, or remarking how much weight she's lost really works wonders. And red wine...lots of red wine.
posted by KokuRyu at 1:53 PM on November 25, 2007

Do housework. Take care of the baby for a while for her and send her out for a manicure. Treat her to a nice massage (by you, which is quite intimate and thoughtful, or a professional).

You're thinking easy to arrange from work, while I suspect things that involve you more hands-on at home would be more effective.

Though, don't get me wrong, cards, notes, even some random thoughtful thing my boyfriend remembers about me, or when he does something that lets me know that he's been truly listening to me.
posted by cmgonzalez at 1:54 PM on November 25, 2007

being proactive about making her life easier will probably go a long way toward making her feel adored. like, doing the dishes every night and a load of laundry every couple of days without being asked. it's not much, but it will mean a lot to her.

also, things like back rubs and taking care of the baby for an hour so she can take a shower and check her email will probably be greatly appreciated.

i don't have kids of my own, but what i understand from my friends that do is that they spend all day tuned into their kids' needs--which takes a lot out of you because they can't talk or communicate beyond crying and squirming--and they have no time to be "off" and take care of themselves, or just relax for a bit. so giving her that will help her reconnect with herself as a woman, a wife, a sexual being.
posted by thinkingwoman at 1:59 PM on November 25, 2007

My husband sometimes leaves me little notes where I'll find them. He also emails me sometimes during the day just to say he loves me.

I sometimes take a dry-erase marker and write something like, "Christine loves Mr. SLP!" on our bathroom mirror. Since I get up before he does he finds the notes before he leaves in the morning.

Basically any small gesture you do just because you love her will be something she'll appreciate.
posted by christinetheslp at 2:02 PM on November 25, 2007

feet massage, kiss the back of her neck, cook her favourite dish. go for walks hand-in-hand. Whisper sweet nothings in her ear while grocery shopping. Make sure you kiss her every time you say goodbye and hello.
posted by b33j at 2:02 PM on November 25, 2007

Make her breakfast every Sunday. Proper breakfast mind you, something that requires cooking (pancakes, scrambled eggs, eggs benedict etc.). And squeeze the juice yourself, use plunger coffee etc.

It's not daily, but being pampered never gets repetitive.
posted by kisch mokusch at 2:03 PM on November 25, 2007

Response by poster: Doing housework. Prepping a nice dinner. Going on a picnic. Mailing her a love letter from your work or to her work--my partner loved that one. If she's the type for cute, you could play little games with her that are disgusting to anyone watching, you know, walking up behind her, covering her eyes, and saying shit like "Knock knock" and when she answers "Who's there?" say "I love you!" I guarantee that stuff comes off incredibly cheesy but when someone you adore does it to you, you can't help but smile. If you guys go on a walk, pick a flower and put it in her hair. Get into tickle fights. Flirt with her--pretend you're at the beginning of the relationship if you have to. Do little things that remind her not just that you love her, but the two of you are in love.
posted by Anonymous at 2:03 PM on November 25, 2007

Nothing says "I love you" like "I did the dishes/laundry/bill paying so we could have some time to snuggle" Also, any time you are thinking of bringing home flowers or something small and nice and think "but isn't that a tired old cliche and aren't I terribly unoriginal?" It's not and you're not. You can also change up the little "I love you"s with things that show you're sort of paying attention "You look lovely in that" "I like your smile" "I never get tired of that laugh" "I like being close to you" "this reminds me of the time when we __________" New kids are a delight and the lack of sleep and time you have will be temporary but it's hard to keep that in mind. Help her remember what it was like before and how you want it to be in the future, with all of you. Sometimes some close-time just thinking about things together can be really pleasant and relationship-affirming.
posted by jessamyn at 2:11 PM on November 25, 2007 [2 favorites]

Nthing the suggestion to proactively take on tasks associated with housework, child care, cooking, and shopping. Lightening her load will go a long way to helping her feel you're focusing on her needs, not just your needs or the needs of your child. And she might get a spare moment to focus on her own needs herself...something she probably feels she hasn't had the chance to do for a long time.

Above and beyond that, there are lots of little thoughtful things you can make for little or no money. Flowers on a regular basis (and I mean the $5 bouquet at the grocery store -- no need to break the bank), surprising her with a cup of coffee/tea/cocoa in the morning or evening, texting/emailing random "I love you" notes, giving her a massage, etc. And yes, flirt! She still catches your eye? Catch her eye and let her know.

A wonderful romantic gesture that my boyfriend made about a year ago was to read one of my all-time favorite books in secret, then he took me out to dinner and surprised me with this information so that we could spend the evening talking about it. I'm a bookworm/editor/former English teacher, so this made me weak in the knees; your wife's mileage may vary re: such a gesture, but maybe there's something analogous for her that you could do.
posted by scody at 2:19 PM on November 25, 2007 [1 favorite]

Whisper sweet nothings in her ear while grocery shopping.

Either take your baby shopping with YOU, or keep the baby while she goes shopping. My friends with kids all universally say that going shopping alone is like catnip.
posted by Medieval Maven at 2:45 PM on November 25, 2007

Every once in a while, I'll pick an evening, day, or weekend to be completely at her service. Sometimes that means I'm doing a lot of chores and errands. Sometimes it means getting the kids out of the house for the day so she can relax on her own.

I'm kind of dense when it comes to anticipating her needs, so I use this method to skirt the mind-reading game.
posted by pmbuko at 2:57 PM on November 25, 2007 [1 favorite]

Write "I Love You" or your initials surrounded by a heart in snow or in the steam on the bathroom mirror or anywhere else you can think of. Stock up on those little candy hearts and cheesy kid's valentines around v-day and leave them around for her all year.
Story People has some fun e-cards that are free. You can mix and match the stories and the cards to come up with your own. Here's an example of one that might work for you.
Look under "Fun Stuff" to find out how create your own.
posted by BoscosMom at 3:00 PM on November 25, 2007

You should skim the book The Five Love Languages (maybe the table of contents would be a good start), figure out what "language" means the most to your wife (affirmation, quality time, gifts, acts of service, touch), then work within that area. This should help you figure out what would touch her heart most directly.

Actually, the web site lists them -- maybe that would be a good place to start.

This book has been recommended by many people, including my fiance's psychologist cousin (who gave him a copy immediately on meeting him for the first time - I guess it's a standard greeting for her).

It sounds like you're trying to figure out what "romance" means to your wife; that's exactly what this is about.
posted by amtho at 3:15 PM on November 25, 2007

This is a small thing, but will be appreciated if you can do it even just once or twice a week. Pack her a lunch, even if it's just something simple like her favorite sandwich. Stick it in the fridge at home with her name on it and a short handwritten note for her inside. It'll save her a few minutes during a busy day with the toddler, give her a break from eating leftovers or making her own, and remind her that you are thinking of her.
posted by PY at 3:22 PM on November 25, 2007

My wife likes to talk to me. Sometimes, just making time to sit and listen is all it takes. Oh, and I think I'm supposed to respond as though I care about what she's saying too :-).
posted by denishowe at 3:23 PM on November 25, 2007 [1 favorite]

Fellow posters gave many wonderful suggestions about meaningful things one can do to show his partner that she is loved. The aspect of the lack of intimacy concerns me most. I learned that when close contact and touching tapers off, the desire for those things can taper off, as well. Small things like holding hands, stroking her hair, and unexpected caresses rebuild that need for contact.

Growing up in non-touchy-feely environments and a poor twelve-year marriage, I was not prepared for the amount of "mauling" my beau lavishes upon me. At the very first I was alarmed and somewhat mystified. Now I crave his contact and being intimate with him continually. The hormone Oxytocin plays a major role and you both need more of it.

The small physical gestures may take awhile for her (and you) to adjust to and, hopefully, she will reciprocate and you can regain (or exceed!) your prior intimacy.
posted by bonobo at 3:46 PM on November 25, 2007 [1 favorite]

My husband died about 2 1/2 years ago at the age of 32. The thing he did that really made me feel beautiful and loved was, he would hold my face in his hands and say, "I just want to look at you." It still makes me feel warm and loved and weepy.
posted by ittybittyteenyweenyyellowpolkadotbikini at 4:02 PM on November 25, 2007 [9 favorites]

Speaking as a mother of two and a wife of nearly 13 years, there is nothing more romantic than a spouse who does the laundry. I'm exaggerating, sure, but not by much. Especially when my kids were little, and I was being touched all day by little hands or I spent most of the day with a baby in my arms, the last thing I wanted was more touching, needing, wanting. What I really wanted was to have my partner really "in it" with me. The intimacy and romance pre-kids was about being in the same place and responding to each others' needs -- and post-kids, it's the same thing, except that my needs are different. Waking up in the morning to find the dishwasher loaded and the living room clean -- or the kids fed and the morning routine taken care of... That, as unromantic as it sounds, was what made me feel loved. Because when he did those things, he was anticipating what needed to be done and taking some things off my plate, so to speak. And that made me feel open instead of resentful and loving instead of grumpy. So I would say, sure, go for the flowers and the love notes, but don't discount the romantic power of taking out the trash.
posted by mothershock at 4:11 PM on November 25, 2007 [2 favorites]

I'd do the following--make a list every day of what you love about your wife.

Your mind will act accordingly and do the rest. That way it won't be forced.
posted by Ironmouth at 4:14 PM on November 25, 2007

From watching friends with kids and healthy (and unhealthy) relationships:

-Have someone come over once every (2 weeks? month?), such as a friend or relative to babysit. Go out on a date like you did before you were married. Time away from the baby as adults is important, too.

-Offer your wife a chance to go out with a friend or two for the evening. You watch the baby, and let her go see other adult friends.
posted by Wolfster at 4:53 PM on November 25, 2007

Everyday try to do something that reminds her that she not only a mom. The needs of a child are so all-consuming that it's tough to remember that she used to be a wife, daughter, friend, etc. Give her some time away from your child so that she can regain her sense of balance.

That means you take 100% responsibility of your kid for a period of time. If you need to bug your wife six times during her bath to find out how to amuse the baby, then that's not helping. Also, don't watch your child and leave huge mess for your wife to pick up afterwards. (Not saying you do this, but it does happen.)

I don't think you're being an unromantic husband. I think perhaps she's so far into Mom mode that she can't see any romance anywhere.
posted by 26.2 at 4:56 PM on November 25, 2007 [1 favorite]

Leaf through Porn for Women. It's a joke, but...
posted by The corpse in the library at 5:49 PM on November 25, 2007

Fictional and anecdotal: On House (last season, I think), when Chase was pursuing Cameron, he made every Tuesday "I love you" day. On Tuesdays, he would say, "You know what day it is, right? Today is the day that I tell you I love you." Adding periodic (not just daily) routines might help by giving your wife something to anticipate.
posted by ramenopres at 6:21 PM on November 25, 2007

I'm the mom of a 16 month old, and I think scabrous has it dead on.

a couple of other suggestions of things my own husband does:

-- he gets up with the baby on the weekends and lets me sleep in. Ah sleep. Blissful, uninterrupted sleep. Wonderful warm sleep.

-- Incidental touching, and not in a needy way. Brushing back my hair; holding my coat and letting his hand brush against my back, holding my hand in the car ... kind of like the way you might touch someone you're newly dating but aren't yet sleeping with -- someone you crave contact with.
posted by anastasiav at 7:22 PM on November 25, 2007 [1 favorite]

I'm not a parent yet, but I am a busy busy woman, and I agree that finding a way to help ease the burden of caretaking, errand-running, and housekeeping will really help. I know it's not what you have in mind and doesn't seem sexy; but if your wife is anything like me, she's got a list of priorities in her head and can't relax and connect until they're satisfied. Your child is probably very high on the list, and perhaps the condition of the house/bills/ etc.

If you can remove some of those concerns that really act as barriers to living in the moment, it's likely she'll respond. But make sure she knows why you're doing it, and that you're not doing it begrudgingly, but as a gift to her.

For instance, I was really touched recently when I was out of town for awhile. I was really worried about my car and knew that as soon as I got home from this long business trip, I'd have to take it in and get it fixed and be without it for a while. Well, while I was away, my boyfriend took the car in and got the work done. It was running perfectly when I got home. Sounds prosaic, right? Yet I can't tell you how loving I found it. It was considerate and showed he understood that it was worrying me and wanted to remove the worry.

So I second all the suggestions that entail finding ways to get things done around the house before she either has to ask you or does it herself; finding someone to come in and watch the baby so the two of you can go on a date; finding a way to let her nap on a weekend afternoon, taking the baby for a few hours, so that she can stay up late with you and watch a movie after the baby's sleeping; etc. You need to make some space for the two of you, and I bet the way to do it is clear the decks of her life a little bit. The transformation she's undergone and the sense of responsibility she feels to the baby is pretty huge. If you can find a way to share the burden, you'll all be closer, and when she feels warm and gooey about you, the sex is likely to resume, too.
posted by Miko at 8:00 PM on November 25, 2007

Read the Five Love Languages, figure out her "love language" and overload her with it.
posted by blue_beetle at 11:04 PM on November 25, 2007

As a mother I concur with the other mothers upthread that housework=foreplay. I find paid work much, much easier than staying home with a child, if you haven't yet had 24 hours alone with your child being soley responsible for all his/her needs (as well as probably most of yours unless the toilet paper fairy magically replenshes your supplies each week) then you can't imagine how physically and mentally exhausting it is. When you come home from work yourself you need to step up and give your wife the evening off. Is your wife a morning person or a night person? Choose which-ever time she find the most difficult and entirely take over either the morning or bedtime routine so she has a "coffee break" every day. And take over the opposite routine occasionally too. I know that is two hours out of your day that you will get nothing else done but that is two hours she needs to recharge herself. She also really needs to connect with other people as an adult (not with other mummies while the children run around underfoot). It is hard to see your world shrink down to [name of child]'s mother. I found when my children were super young I didn't WANT to be touched (although previously I had been very sensual) because I was touched all day long by little hands. A sore point still in my marrage is that my husband spent $100 on a gift certificate for a massage several years ago but was never willing to commit to a time to look after the children so I could go get the massage without them. Don't be him. If my husband came home with flowers or poems but ignored my true needs I'd think he was insensitive, not romantic. ("How nice for YOU that you obviousy have so much free time you can sit uninterrupted and compose a poem or visit a shop ALL BY YOURSELF while I am looking after OUR child non-stop"). The luxury of doing even routine tasks such as stopping by an ATM without a child is an aphrodisac beyond measure.
posted by saucysault at 6:38 AM on November 26, 2007

I'm not a parent but I'm going to nth the housework-as-aphrodisiac. At least keep the bedroom/master bath area clean and neat so there is a refuge from kids toys, etc. If you can't or won't do it yourself, hire someone to come in once a week.
posted by desjardins at 11:58 AM on November 26, 2007

Thirding "The Five Love Languages". You definitely don't want to be doing X when she doesn't care about X and Y is what she needs to feel loved.

But cheerful, proactive housework is practically a universal in this situation. Really.
posted by RikiTikiTavi at 1:09 PM on November 26, 2007

-- Incidental touching, and not in a needy way. Brushing back my hair; holding my coat and letting his hand brush against my back, holding my hand in the car ... kind of like the way you might touch someone you're newly dating but aren't yet sleeping with -- someone you crave contact with.

Anastasiev nailed it. The saddest thing once a relationship becomes established is for either partner to act as if this contact is a given.
posted by Wilder at 1:17 PM on November 26, 2007 [2 favorites]

i agree that different people communicate and respond to different types of acts, so you might need to figure that out first. it took a while, but upon evaluation i realized i was a "quality time" type of girl, so i feel most loved when my boyfriend makes a point to carve out some space just for us to spend time together with no distractions, even that just means getting home from work right away so we can watch movies in bed together or grab a bite to eat. but i express my affection to him mainly through silly unnecessary notes and making sure i've done all the chores i need to before he gets home from work so i'm free to hang out with him. i think he responds more to touch and to gifts though, so i'm working on it. it depends.

and i will always say that like previous responses above, the most amazing thing was when he used to hold my face and really look at me, and say or imply he just wanted to do that--really see me for a moment. that always put butterflies in my stomach. that someone could be that interested in little ole me. just let her know you still SEE her, still appreciate seeing her and being in her presence. that doesn't cost jack and it's too rare as relationships go on...
posted by ifjuly at 8:07 PM on November 26, 2007

First off, wow! This is a great topic! Thanks for asking this question.

It's funny that a lot of people have suggested chores around the house, and that's a good one too. I mean it certainly is greatly appreciated, but there are only two things which makes me feel truly loved. That is knowing that for everything I do, he notices the hard work I put into it and he fully appreciates me for doing so. The other is reminding me that I am deeply loved.

I love it when he says that the meal I made was absolutely delicious and my cooking is his favorite. I love it when he tells me that I astonish him with all that I do around the house, that I'm an amazing mother, or when he tells me that I'm his sex goddess. I love it when out of the blue he kisses me and tells me he loves me, and so forth.

One caution though: it has to sound genuine. Compliments and words of love that sound pre-planned will backfire so fast that it's not EVEN funny.

Good luck to you and your wife. She's obviously very lucky to have a man who wishes to be romantic. :)
posted by magnoliasouth at 6:43 AM on November 30, 2007

I would have to agree on some of your wife's concerns, which is something that is inevitable in any long term relationships with children. While I think many people posted here with great intent about helping out with the baby and doing some chores, I would have to disagree. While it is helpful and considerate, to be quite honest, that is something you should do EVERY DAY because it is part of your responsibility. Helping out around the house you both share and the baby you both made is not romantic, it is somewhat required. So I do not think that counts.

As for romantic ideas, I say, and this depends if you have family that can watch the baby, if you are both comfortable with that idea. If not, why not spend some quality time with you, her, and the baby. Forget about the laundry, forget about vacuuming, forget about house chores. Go rent some movies and order a pizza and get a six pack of beer. I know it is not the typical candle lit dinner, but I have been a new mom, and trust me, being able to sit with my husband and watch a movie, not have to cook dinner, and just relax is a definite treat.

You do not need to pull all the stops for a new mom. Most of us like the idea of a day out with a pedicure, but honestly, we miss quality time with our husbands. We miss feeling like a woman. Being a mom is a wonderful gift, but womanhood gets lost. Remind her of that. Remind her with just a simple post it note on her mirror saying "you're beautiful" or "i love you."
posted by dnthomps at 7:07 PM on December 7, 2007

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