No two people showed their love more than Jim and Della in the story of The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry. If you don't remember the story, it was about a poor couple at Christmas. As the story goes, Della sells her hair to buy Jim a chain for his watch, and Jim sells his watch to buy Della combs for her hair. This story is about giving for the sake of love, even if you have to sacrifice the one thing you treasure the most.

The Gift of the Magi illustrates what this article is about: romantic gestures. A romantic gesture is a physical way to show your partner you care. The important aspect of the gesture isn't its grandness or cost. The intent behind the gesture is the true present. Romance boils down to making the extra effort, even when you think you don't have the time or the energy to show your love. This is especially true when children are added to your love life.

To make it a successful transition, all you need to do is learn a few final points about how to keep your romance alive by paying attention to the little things.

Everyday gestures of love show your partner how much you appreciate him or her-as a partner, in addition to being a parent -- and demonstrate that the relationship is a top priority. When you learn how to protect your investment in your relationship, you and your partner will bask in the rewards of a romantic life together.

Make your partner a part of your life

One day over lunch, Bridget told her friend that she felt as though she and her husband of 12 years were just strangers living together under the same roof. They got along like two roommates, or co-parents, without any problems, but something was missing. Bridget reminisced about how close she and her husband had once been and had no idea when things changed. She missed the closeness and had no idea how to get it back. Her friend sympathized with her because she felt the same way about her husband, too.

These two women share a very common problem in long-term relationships. Fortunately, this problem is easily fixed: Just remember to make your partner a part of your life.

When a relationship passes the honeymoon stage and into the comfortable stage, people often stop sharing things with their partners. This tendency is a normal process of growing closer. People just get busy in their normal routine and don't take the time to share like they did early in their relationship.

The remedy is to devote a certain time every day to share the highs, lows, passions, frustrations, memories, hopes, and everything else you go through every day. Keeping the lines of communication open will keep the romance burning bright in your relationship, and that's the key to feeling close to your partner.

Talk time
Knowing someone takes a lifetime, so you need to keep the lines of intimate conversation going. These important conversations will prevent the two of you from ever feeling like strangers living together.

Encourage these conversations by reserving nightly time together before you fall asleep to have talk time. You don't have to verbally arrange a time to talk -- it's better to keep it casual by creating a habit of talking each night. Talk time isn't a time for serious discussions or conversation about the children; it's more a time for relaxed, fun conversation to get to know each other better. The following are some good questions for you to ask your partner at talk time:

  • Tell me about your favorite pet when you were a child.
  • Who has been your best friend the longest?
  • What's a holiday tradition that you like/dislike?
  • When you are old, what will be the highlight of your life?
  • If you could be the creator of any invention throughout time, what would it be?
  • Tell me about your first day in high school.
  • What are your favorite smells of each season?

Keeping life balanced

In most couples today, both people have careers. Dual-career couples often experience an increase in relationship stress and a decrease in the amount of time they have for each other. As long as the relationship is well-organized, and nothing unexpected comes up, work and relationships run smoothly. However, life usually doesn't work that way.

Couples must keep their lives in balance. If they don't, their relationships will suffer. You won't fall out of love just because you're a workaholic.

But continually putting your other responsibilities ahead of your relationship means that you and your partner will pay in terms of emotional neglect for each other's needs. Get a sitter if you need some time alone. Take a sick day to put your relationship back in good health. Do what's necessary to balance the needs of your life with the needs of your relationship.

Making your dreams come true

Too often obligations in life keep you from maintaining the closeness you originally sought in your relationship. You can combat this by focusing on sharing your life with your partner.

Real romance isn't about flowers and candy, it's about daily expressions of love. It's about your commitment to your partner and the actions that prove your commitment. Expressing love is not about the big things you do for your mate, but the small things.

These little gestures make your partner feel appreciated, cared for, and special. For those times when you don't feel up to giving, just remember that it's hard to have a vibrant, growing relationship with someone when you are more deeply committed to something else.

Even if you aren't comfortable expressing your love, you still need to do it. Be realistic; it's all right if you start out slow. The point is to start. In a great country song called "Me Too," a husband struggles to tell his wife he loves her, but he can only manage to say, "Me too." Of course, she urges him to say, "I love you," but he can't. To reassure her, he talks about all the things he does to say "I love you," but she misses all of them. Let this song be a reminder that sometimes your partner may be trying his best to show you he loves you. Sadly, some people find it difficult to express their love verbally.

But this difficulty does not mean they do not show their love in other ways. You just have to learn the ways your partner shows you he cares. Just think of how good it will make your partner feel to know you see how he expresses his love for you. Every effort either of you make to be romantic and to show love counts.

Make your relationship a top priority in your life by keeping your full attention on it. Relationships don't stay strong and happy because of mere proximity. Instead, your relationship is happy because you care enough to make it work.

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