Show your sweetie you careBy Jennifer Haupt
Food has always been at the core of my connection with my husband, Eric. When we were dating—20 years and two teenage sons ago—we’d spend hours lingering over a bottle of Chianti as candlelight threw shadows on the cavernous walls of our favorite Italian bistro.
As our relationship evolved, so did our bond with food. We spent Saturday mornings shopping at the farmers’ market, then cooked together all afternoon. It was a ritual we kept up for years—even after the birth of our first son, Justin. Back then we couldn’t afford a sitter, so “date night” consisted of chopping veggies, stirring sauces and winding up the baby swing.
As Justin grew older and our second son, Andrew, came along, life got busier and our cooking dates were put on the back burner. But over the years I thought often of those romantic nights while making 10-minute tacos. It wasn’t the food I missed—Eric and I dined out often—it was the passion we shared in the kitchen.
So last Valentine’s Day, when Eric told me he wanted to reinstate our weekly cooking date, I was touched. Sometimes saying “I love you” isn’t about the words at all—it’s about celebrating the memories, the jokes and the history that’s unique to your relationship. Here are 10 special ways to say those three magic words.
Make an “everyday date”
“No matter how busy I am at work, dinner with my family takes priority,” says Kim Morgan, 45, who lives with her 6-year-old daughter, Nina, and her boyfriend of four years, Tony, in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. “Tony and I have turned down both work and social functions to get home for our family dinner. It’s one daily way that we show our commitment to each other and to Nina.”
Document your feelings
“I’m on the road a lot for my job, so I started keeping a journal of things I wanted to share with my husband,” says Phyllis Meiring of Piqua, Ohio. “Now he makes entries in our ‘love journal’ too. We pass it back and forth just like high school kids passing notes!”
Keep the spark alive
“My husband, Arlan, does a lot of traveling for work and he usually leaves early in the morning before I’m awake,” says Roxann Sheets of Manchester, New Hampshire. “On those days, he writes little love notes and hides them around the house. I’ve found notes inside drawers, in therefrigerator, even inside takeout boxes—they always make me smile.”
Show that you care
“My husband and I often say ‘I love you’ in nonverbal ways,” says Liza Burby of Huntington Station, New York. “We dog-ear articles for each other in magazines. We download songs for each other’s iPod. We buy little gifts the other might like. I get a lot of chocolate, but it’s nicer to know that I’m in his thoughts.”
Take on one of his chores
Nothing says “I love you” like doing a chore you know your spouse isn’t keen on. “After 24 years of marriage, my husband and I know which household duties the other one dislikes,” says Nancy Shenker of Chappaqua, New York. “I would rather eat worms than fold laundry, so Ken takes care of that. And he’s not a shopper or appointment scheduler, so I take on those jobs. We know it’s important to help each other out—and I love that he pitches in without my having to ask.”
Cherish the memories
“My husband and I just celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary by renting a limo and going on a tour down memory lane,” says D.J. Mitsch of Cary, North Carolina. “We drank champagne, drove past the spot where we met, then stopped at our first house and hugged the tree we planted there years ago. We had a blast reminiscing about the great adventure of our marriage.”
Pick a token of your affection
“My husband, Stephen, and I have been exchanging glass hearts on Valentine’s Day for the past 12 years,” says Judge Maria Lopez, host of the syndicated reality TV show that bears her name. “We keep all 24 atop the fireplace in our bedroom. For us, glass hearts represent the fragility of our own hearts, and remind us to be gentle with one another.”
Forget about grand gestures
“Small favors have a much greater impact than any one big gift,” says Lisa Mcleod of Atlanta, who took over her husband’s job of cooking dinner on weeknights when he launched his own business last year. “My husband is a gourmet cook and loves good food, so I make the effort to put together a nice meal every evening. And he does little things for me, too. Last Valentine’s Day he gave me the perfect gift: a coffee punch card for a local convenience store. It’s not glamorous, but every morning when I get coffee on my way to work, I think of him.”
Share the love
“Vikram takes the time to walk, feed and play with my two pugs, even though they’re definitely my dogs,” says Diana Rohini LaVigne of San Francisco. “I appreciate that my husband’s made such an effort to love my dogs—it’s a way of demonstrating how much he loves me.”
Share a private joke
“Years ago, my husband was served a Caribbean drink with a tiny green plastic fish floating on top,” says MSNBC-TV reporter Ashleigh Banfield. “We both thought it was a cute touch and saved it. Ever since, we’ve taken turns hiding the fish in unexpected places—folded up in Howard’s news-paper, tucked into my day planner, buried in a suit pocket —it’s been our little joke.”