Romance, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. And like beauty, it can fade as the years roll on. I’m speaking from experience. Kelly and I have been together for nearly 60 percent of my life, and where he’s still handsome as ever to me, we’re probably not as romantic as we once were.
We’re not unique in that situation. For LGBTQ parents, keeping a relationship fresh and romantic can prove to be a challenge. Tammy Shaklee, a relationship expert, LGBTQ matchmaker and founder of H4M Matchmaking tells me, “For LGBTQ parents, there’s often not a perceived or traditionally assumed role of one parent over the other. That can spill over into romance. I often coach couples to both assume you need to take the lead, take the initiative, make the first move.”
Dana McNeil is a licensed marriage and family therapist and the founder of San Diego-based The Relationship Place. She suggests, “All romantic relationships take work. All couples need to tend to the romantic parts of the relationship without getting stuck in the minutia of the business of co-parenting. Don’t make the mistake of assuming just because you have a strong relationship you can coast on your prior good vibes and commitment; keeping a relationship strong requires continued filling up the other person’s emotional bank account.”
For Kelly and me remembering what first knocked our socks off has never been an issue. Now, I’d never presume to understand what makes me rock his world, but to me, he’s the funniest person on the planet. He makes me laugh every single day, and that’s hot.
But we’re not much for dates, unless you count watching Project Runway on the couch or going to Costco together. Actually, Shaklee argues that date nights can bring with them a great deal of pressure and the challenge of mixed expectations, all of which can lead to disappointment.
“One person can think ‘date night’ means roses, candles, Sade singing in the background,” Shaklee adds, “While for the other it’s all about rocking sex. It’s better to have dedicated adult time — just the two of you, no kids — however that manifests itself. It can be anything from watching tv to spending time quietly talking. That way there’s no pressure, and expectations are more easily met.”
McNeil advocates for date nights, suggesting that too many of her parent clients can’t remember the last time that they went on a date, or that the conversation didn’t center on the kids.
“Carving out time to remember the person you fell in love with, and the reasons why, helps to keep the relationship vibrant and romantic,” she says. “This requires spending some time engaging with each other in the ways you did when you were first dating.”
That’s especially important as your family dynamic changes. Although we’ll always be our sons’ parents, they’re both on the brink of adulthood already. The day they move out, get married, start their own families is on the horizon. It’s an important evolution for parents. That’s why Shaklee suggests the importance of investing time in your relationship. She says, “Dedicate time and thought to creating memories for you as a couple, not just for you as parents or for your kids. When the kids are gone off to college, or out of the house as adults, it will be just you two. Keep courting that partner for sustainability.”
And sustaining our relationship is worth it. Afterall, I found a guy that’s handsome and makes me laugh. That’s all the romance I need.