The start of a relationship is exciting, risky, even a bit scary, and we savor every slightly out-of-control minute of it. "I'm crazy for him," we say. "He makes my heart pound." That early relationship thrill comes from the high of discovery, from learning your partner's passions and fears. It's the mystery of the unknown and the anticipation of the unexpected: What's he thinking? Will he call?
As a relationship matures, though, we tend to trade that intense feeling of free-falling for contentment and security. But why can't we have the best of both worlds: a rock-solid, comfortable,
deeply fulfilling partnership and a regular injection of "but I barely know you" mystery? According to relationship experts and some thrill-seeking couples, we can. Here are 10 ways to stay in love
and never stop falling.
1. Scare yourselves sillyMedical experts liken the body's fear response to sexual arousal — our pulse quickens and we break out in a sweat, which may explain why people voluntarily bungee-jump or descend full speed down glaciers on skis. We get a rush from being scared in a somewhat controlled environment, and when we do it with a partner, we're brought together by the feeling of having conquered our fears hand in hand. Carol Worthington, 39, of Baltimore, can attest to this: "My husband, Brian, wanted to go skydiving, and even though it wasn't my idea of fun, I decided to go with him so we could share the thrill. It was the scariest thing I've ever done, but also one of the most exciting moments of our married life together."
Granted, jumping out of a plane may be more stimulation than many of us ever care to experience, but there's always the rock-climbing wall at your gym, the scream machine of your choice at the local amusement park, or just watching a scary movie together in the dark.
2. Spill a secretIntimacy and thrills go hand in hand, which is probably why the initial getting-to-know-you period at the beginning of a relationship is so exciting. Walking along the beach on vacation, after we'd been married for five years, my husband and I dared each other to reveal one secret about ourselves. After first insisting, "But I keep nothing from you!" I got up the guts to tell him about the M&Ms I keep hidden in the drawer with my gym clothes, and he told me he'd lost the stuffed dolphin I'd given him on our first Christmas together.
3. Place a betYou and your husband have $20 on Hootenanny to win in the sixth race. He rounds the far turn three back from the lead, but he's closing in fast. The horses thunder past you down the stretch, and Hootenanny wins by a nose! You jump into your husband's arms and suddenly realize you're having a blast. The adrenaline rush, the decadence of throwing caution (and a few bucks) to the wind, and the slightly sleazy atmosphere of the track or your average casino all make gambling a great way to inject a little pizzazz into your relationship. Of course, you don't have to wager your hard-earned cash to get the same effect: Try playing strip poker in your living room after the kids go to bed or going to a pool hall and betting on who has to make dinner for the next week.
4. Be a little daringWhen I was in high school the "in" thing to do during the wee hours of a warm summer night was to sneak into the local pool and go skinny-dipping. Fear of getting caught in a compromising position is guaranteed to evoke some thrills and chills, and you can bring back that feeling as adults in small ways that won't get you thrown in the slammer. How, you ask? The next time the two of you go to a movie, hide in the last row of the theater and fool around. Valerie Gordon, 35, of Santa Clara, CA, ups the excitement factor by showing (more than) a little skin: "When the mood hits and the weather permits, my husband and I take naughty photos of each other in public places like parking garages."
5. Relive your first dateYour first date was a mystery that had yet to be solved. There were several juicy clues — the look in your date's eyes, the way he kissed you — and plenty of nervous tension. But even though you know how that mystery turned out, returning to the scene of that first crime can bring back some of those old goosebumps. Sharon Alex, 38, of Lake Mary, FL, suggests you plan the evening exactly as you did the first time — same perfume, same innocent looks, everything. You can even dress separately and meet each other there, as Alex did: "I met my husband at a nightclub, and we danced and flirted. His arm around my waist made everything seem just right."
6. Cyber-romance each otherThese days it's far too easy for a chasm of cyberspace to grow between a husband and wife. He can spend hour after hour playing a computer game, and she can't seem to get enough of the Women.com chat rooms. But with a few quick clicks, you can use this very same technology to hot-wire your marriage. "With the accessibility of e-mail," says Michele Weiner-Davis, a marriage and family therapist in Woodstock, IL, and author of Divorce Busting, "we can take the time to do things we wouldn't ordinarily do, like sending love letters." One woman she knows decided that if her husband was going to spend all of his time surfing the Internet, she would express her feelings online. She e-mailed him a very personal romantic poem and got an amazingly romantic response.
7. See each other in a different lightKristen Kiser, 30, of Astoria, NY, and her husband add a spark to their marriage by hosting Thanksgiving dinner for friends who can't make it home for the holiday. "I get to see what Marc's like in action, when he's taking charge and acting the host," she says. "It makes me fall in love with him all over again." Says Los Angeles psychotherapist Suzanne Lopez, author of Get Smart with Your Heart, "Seeing your partner with different eyes has to do with letting go of preconceived ideas. It can really change the energy in a relationship for the better." Other eye-opening ideas: Consider taking a boxing class together at the gym, where you both might be a bit more wild and aggressive than usual, or dance lessons, where you might surprise each other with your grace.
8. Become a master of seductionA little bit of forethought can awaken some of the passion in your marriage, even on an ordinary Tuesday night. Rob Czaplewski, 29, of Grand Island, NB, likes to get home from work before his wife and put a love note on the back door. "Then I have her favorite music playing with all the candles lit in the living room and a bed of pillows on the floor," he says, "and finally, the promise of a backrub to help her relax."
Jenna Schlehuber, 42, of Moran, MI, used a bottle of cologne to build temptation. She bought her husband a scent she really liked and had it wrapped. When he went upstairs that evening to take his shower, she left it on his pillow with a card that said, "Would you wear this tonight for me, and only this?" Says Schlehuber, "After a few minutes, I went upstairs to find him just the way I asked, waiting patiently for me to come to bed. What a romantic evening we had — better than ever. And he loved the cologne, too."
9. Profit from the passionSex is something relationship experts universally agree will bolster just about every area of a marriage — including its thrill quotient. "Increased sexual contact," says Lopez, "is a way to recapture the erotic force that brought you together in the first place." Weiner-Davis tells of one woman who, soon after resolving to have more sex with her husband, not only characterized her marriage as more thrilling but said that he suddenly began mowing the lawn regularly and making her coffee in the morning — unasked.
10. Take a trip to nowhereAt the beginning of your relationship, every date was an adventure; you never knew quite what was going to happen or how it was going to end up. So one weekend, take a trip — overnight or just for the day — without knowing where you're going. No packing, no planning. Says Patty Moosbrugger, 35, of New York City, who's been married for six years, "Every now and then we just grab sweaters and sandwiches and get on a train. We get out when we feel like it and spend the day exploring wherever we land." By letting go of some of the control you have over your lives, you'll recapture that exciting sense of the unknown you felt when you first met.
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