Q. My husband and I are best friends. Seven years into our marriage, we still make a great team in terms of taking care of the kids and the house. But it feels like we're stuck in to-do mode. The spark is gone -- we're not connecting emotionally like we used to. How can we get the intimacy back?
--Toni M., Avon, Connecticut
A. You're smack in the midst of the householder years, so it's normal to forget your partner is a romantic being who can talk about anything more fascinating than Little League. Facing the issue takes energy and guts, so congratulate yourself for not keeping your head in the sand.
First, be grateful for your strong partnership. As boring as that may feel some days, it's a superb foundation on which to re-create intimacy. Then, take a weekend away. I don't care what it takes, but two full nights sans kids will feel like the most luxurious vacation you've ever had. Don't make it expensive or far away, because you don't want to put undue pressure on yourselves or waste time driving. Hotels often offer inexpensive weekend packages, though a tent in the woods near a river is my idea of heaven. Who will take the kids? If you have no willing grandparents or baby-sitter, try trading with another couple and offer to reciprocate later.
Start your weekend, as seventies as it may sound, sitting back-to-back and breathing together for a few minutes. Relax your belly and feel your partner's heartbeat. Go on to share at least five things you appreciate about each other. It may take hours or even a day to get into the groove of being emotionally intimate again. Be aware of any thoughts you have about how he "should" act or you "should" feel, as these ideas will stifle your reconnection. So will calling the kids every hour to see how they're doing. Focus instead on being sensual, connected beings, luxuriating in the moment.
Once you're home, the weekend glow will inevitably fade, so try to set aside 10 minutes daily to relax together. Rub each other's feet and share the high points of your day. And try this exercise adapted from "Getting the Love You Want" by Harville Hendrix: Write a list of 15 to 20 acts of affection you could do for your partner -- things that pleased him in the past, such as leaving a love message on his voice mail or surprising him with breakfast in bed. He'll jot down ways to please you, too -- but neither shows the list to the other. Surprise each other daily with an item from your lists. Just one every day, without being asked.
Your relationship is like a plant: It doesn't matter who waters it; what matters is that it gets watered. If you start the watering, nine times out of 10 your partner will follow suit. If you can think of your relationship as one of your most precious resources, you'll have the extra motivation and energy it takes to connect.
Jennifer Louden is the author of six books, including "The Life Organizer: A Woman's Guide to a Mindful Year." She leads workshops on self-care and creativity around the country. Visit her at jenniferlouden.com. If you have questions about some of the life issues you face today, email them to firstname.lastname@example.org.