Posted on: Sunday, June 12, 2005

Keep romance from wilting

   Date your mate
   Keeping romance alive
   When positives turn to negatives ...

By Catherine E. Toth
Advertiser Staff Writer

You don't use your scented candles anymore. You haven't worn that little black dress you've been saving for a romantic dinner. And the last time you received flowers was when you turned 30 and they were from your girlfriend.

The worse part? You're not even single.

You've got romance issues. And your mate boyfriend or husband doesn't have a clue.

Welcome to the reality of long-term relationships.

Couples everywhere experience lulls in their relationship, when both partners forget or don't know how to keep that romance alive. But the feeling that the relationship has fallen into a humdrum routine can be frustrating to one or both partners.

"Often times there are those romantic moments in the beginning, before marriage or commitment then that's it," said Mitzi Gold, a licensed clinical psychologist and social worker who specializes in personal development and relationships. "Men move on to another stage of the relationship, but women still want the romance."

The challenge is finding a way to sustain the romance even when the romantic period typically three to six months into a courtship is over.

There are simple, inexpensive ways to rekindle the romance or keep that fire burning, including love notes, after-work picnics, and massages. The key is to understand and acknowledge the importance of romance in your relationship.

"The end of the romantic period doesn't mean the end of the romance," said Susan Frieder, a licensed clinical psychologist on Maui. "There are deeper reasons for the relationship and you need to look at those. It's about what's good for the relationship."

Romance means different things to different people. Some want intimate moments, others prefer words of kindness. Finding out what your partner wants and needs is the first step. The rest is up to your imagination.

Love to love you

Donald and Sally Parker of Diamond Head pictured with Libby and CC first met 40 years ago in Waikiki.

Jeff Widener The Honolulu Advertiser

It took 20 years, several relationships and a slew of kids before Donald and Sally Parker got together. Again.

The couple first met nearly 40 years ago at Don Ho's show in Waikiki. He was a 21-year-old professional football player; she was an 18-year-old college student on her first trip to Hawai'i.

It was love at first sight.

"I just thought he was so handsome," gushed Sally Parker, now a youthful 57. "It was my first night in Hawai'i ... He stopped me and asked me out to coffee. Of course I said yes."

They dated for about two years mostly through letters before going separate ways. Both got married, both had children.

Then, in 1983, the two met again. This time, though, they didn't make the same mistake. They got married two years later and have been in love since.

Their secret to a healthy, happy relationship? Small, deliberate gestures of love.

He brings coffee to her in bed every morning. She brings home special gifts for him just because. They both love to travel and collect art. And they do a lot with their seven children six from other marriages and five grandchildren. For example, Sally Parker manages her daughter Leslie's new opera company, Golden Key. They host an annual cookie exchange every Christmas. They took three of their children and lived in Tuscany for a year. And their Diamond Head home is always teeming with kids.

"If it hadn't been for our romance or our ability to communicate, we wouldn't have made it," said Donald Parker, 60. "Romance is very important. A friend is a friend, and I've got a lot of friends I'd play golf with, but not like (Sally)."

Added his wife, with a wink: "We're definitely more than just friends."

Nifty 'first' dates

Romance is the expression of love through words, gestures and actions. That could come in the form of a foot massage, holding hands or just picking up the dry-cleaning after work.

While romantic gestures can and often do happen spontaneously, planning them into your schedule is a good idea, considering how busy people's lives have become.

"Sometimes you have to physically schedule it," Gold said. "As with anything in our life these days, if it's not scheduled, it won't happen ... More and more couples are recognizing 'date nights' and getting out for themselves."

Married in May, Jennifer and Peter Binney make it a point to do things together. Lucky for them, they have a lot in common.

They paddle their two-man canoe to the Mokulua Islets, meet for lunch spontaneously and garden together at their home in Lanikai. This March they took a surf trip to Tavarua.

Though married, dating is still a big part of their relationship.

Jennifer and Peter Binney
"He always asks me out on dates," said Jennifer Binney, 32, a jewelry designer. "When we first started dating, one of my girlfriends told him a date means you ask 24 hours in advance, you choose a place and you ask her if she can go. So that's stuck in his head."

But the small things count, too.

Peter Binney writes poems for his wife, sometimes for no reason. He'll even recite a rhyme in her ear while she's cooking.

"He's not Shakespeare or anything," Jennifer Binney said, laughing. "He just writes simple, cute things. He's just like that."

He really went overboard literally when he wrote her a poem, stuck it in an old Japanese beer bottle, and had his brother strategically leave it in the ocean off Lanikai for them to find that day. The couple took their two-man canoe out when she spotted the bottle. She pulled out the message while he quickly paddled to shore and discovered it was from him. On the beach he proposed.

"That was so romantic to me," she gushed. "He put so much thought into that."

Love and acceptance

Contrary to popular belief, romance isn't just for women.

"Men want women who they feel good with," Gold said. "And it's important for women to be aware how their tone and gestures and words affect a man. They need to be able to create that sense of love for him through appreciation, through trusting him and through accepting him as he is."

Some women look at men as "home improvement projects," Gold added. And some men want to "fix" women. Couples should be more focused on love and acceptance, rather than problems.

Cynthia and Richard Rankin
Richard Rankin, 58, is a self-described romantic.

He plans surprise parties for his wife, Cynthia, and has dinner ready for her when she gets home from work. They play tennis and go boating together. And on Friday nights, they enjoy a glass of wine with pupus at a favorite restaurant.

"They say there are three things important in life: fortune, fame and love. I'd definitely go for love," said Richard Rankin, an economics teacher at Iolani School. "And I mean love, not lust. I know she loves me, and that makes me the happiest guy in the world."

For his wife's 50th birthday, he planned his most elaborate surprise yet. He convinced her they were going to meet someone who was interested in buying her 8-year-old Jeep Cherokee. Instead, he drove her to the BMW dealership on Kapi'olani Boulevard, where a 2002 325i sedan was waiting for her, topped with a red bow.

"I just started crying," said Cynthia Rankin, 50.

And though she doesn't plan any intricate surprises, she does one thing that makes her husband of 14 years feel very special: She packs his lunch everyday, often leaving little notes such as "Have a good day" inside.

"It means so much to me that she (does that)," Richard Rankin said. "Cynthia isn't one to fall in love with you on a spur-of-the-moment and then fall out. Once she falls in love, she'll be in love with you forever."

You're being observed

Often, relationship patterns are learned from parents. So it's important for parents to model romantic behavior for their kids, experts say.

Rich Stevenson and Mahina Chillingworth
Mahina Chillingworth and Rich Stevenson have to find creative ways to be romantic in front of four children his two, her one and their one together.

"With kids around the majority of the time, it's not like we can walk around the house naked," joked Chillingworth, 39. "We'll walk past each other and pinch each other's 'okole. Then we'll just crack-up laughing."

Stevenson, a 36-year-old prison guard, does thoughtful things, like bring her a lei after her big canoe races. She returns the gesture by telling him how handsome and sexy he is.

And then there are the hugs.

"That's a universal thing," Chillingworth said. "When he hugs me, I know he loves me."

While he may not plan lavish candlelit dinners or shower her with dozens of roses, Chillingworth isn't complaining.

"Sure, the romantic part could use a little boost, but he's as romantic as he'll come," she said. "I could ask for me, but I shouldn't because I'm happy with what he gives me already."

Reach Catherine E. Toth at 535-8103 or ctoth@honoluluadvertiser.com.

 
Date your mate

OK, no more excuses. Being romantic doesn't have to be expensive or difficult or require the entire crew of "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition." All it takes is a little creativity to create the special moment for your special mate. Here are some ideas:

Schedule "date nights" at least twice a month. You could go out to dinner, take in a movie or even surf together after work. Write them down in your calendar, as you would all important appointments. Hire a baby sitter, if you have to. You need the quality twosome time.

Do something "just because," such as buying the book she wanted or renewing his magazine subscription. If you decide to send flowers, skip the roses: opt for a bouquet of tulips, daisies or sunflowers instead.

Make something from your memories. Frame your baby photos together and display them in your home. Or make a scrapbook of your life together, starting with photos from the early stages of your romance.

Plan a weekday lunch date at a nice restaurant near your workplace. It will be a much-needed, much-appreciated escape from the workday. And something your partner can look forward to.

Turn your living room into a spa. Set up candles and play soft music. Then use scented oils or lotion to give each other full-body massages. (For extra points, pick up some dessert. Cheesecake is always good.)

Re-enact your first date. And make it a surprise. The date will bring back happy memories. And just remembering what you did that day will make your partner smile.

Put up surprise love notes all around the house. Seeing "You're hot" taped to the bathroom mirror in the morning will make your mate's day.

Make your partner's fave childhood meal, whether it's macaroni-and-cheese or a full Thanksgiving spread. Get the recipe from his/her mom if you have to. Putting in the effort will show how much you care.

 

Keeping romance alive

Romance doesn't always come easy. Here's advice from Mitzi Gold, licensed clinical psychologist who specializes in personal development and relationships, about how to keep the fire of love burning in your relationship:

Recall: Think back to what sparked your interest in your partner in the first place.

Remember what kind of chemistry existed, how you felt and how those feelings developed over time, Gold said. "You want to reignite that," she added. "You've gone on through life and became domesticated and forget what you felt the first time you met."

Release: Sometimes the distance between partners stems from some unresolved issue in their lives. They might be harboring hurt, pain, anger or resentment. These negative feelings need to be dealt with, often with help from a professional, in order for healing and forgiving to begin. "You have to be able to have the emotional mastery to release these negative experiences and heal," Gold said, "because a lot of times people's hearts will close. It's very hard to love when your heart is closed down."

Realign: People change, it's inevitable. Maybe when you first started dating, you worked out together at a gym. And now, 10 years later, you don't have the time or your interests have changed. That's when you need to realign, Gold said. "You have to ask yourself, 'What do you want to do together now?' " she said. Maybe you would prefer hosting small dinner parties with friends instead of going clubbing. Maybe you like symphonies over rock concerts. "It's important to realign with what might work now," Gold said.

Reconnect: Couples need to make a concerted effort to reconnect with their romantic feelings toward each other. Schedule date nights or plan a special weekend retreat together. "You have to actually take the time to do the things that help you reconnect, whether that's with quiet moments or hobbies," Gold said. "You have to actually sit down and schedule this in advance."

 

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