Sometimes, when you've been with your partner for a long time, the shine kind of wears off of your relationship. In fact, I might go so far as to say "always" rather than "sometimes" - shine gets a lot of its sparkle from the newness of discovering one another. Once you know each other it can be awfully easy to just stop talking about all the silly little things you did when you were first dating.

Every marriage counselor or book on relationships will tell you that you need to keep "dating," no matter how long you've been together. Most people, even me, scoff at this idea at first. We don't have time for this nonsense. We already know what our lover's favorite song is and the teacher they hated most in high school and their best childhood Christmas ever. We know their stories. We know what they're going to say before they say it. We don't need to listen to them anymore.

Oh, oops. Wait - maybe we do. We want them to listen to us, right?

Maybe the distance and lack of intimacy might be caused by the fact that we stopped listening to each other. Asking not only about how their day was, but how they want tomorrow and next month and the next several years to be. Not if they want to go away on vacation, but what their dream vacation is. Heck, even just talking about a movie you watched together, laughing and being silly with each other, can renew that precious connection you have.

So here are some tips for Dating, Round Two:

1. A date is not a date until someone laughs. You can spend all the money in the world on flowers and a nice dinner out, but if you're not both relaxed and enjoying yourselves, it doesn't count. Sorry. Make a point to be amusing, tell new anecdotes, speculate on what kind of underwear the dour maitre d' is wearing. Whatever makes you giggle.

2. A date needs to take place away from the home. It's true that it's lovely to stay in, get a pizza, and cuddle up on the sofa for a movie-date. But if you're trying to reconnect, to build (or re-build) your connection, then you need to get away from the house. The house is where you pay the bills and fret about money and lose your keys and burn the toast and bicker about whose family you'll be with for the holidays. A change of scenery is important for creating some mental distance away from the everyday norm. This is special time, just for you two; treat it as such.

3. Seeing a movie may seem like a great date plan, but it really isn't unless you also go to dinner or for a walk or do something else before or after. Why? Because you can't talk during a movie, and this is about reconnecting with your lover, not ogling Angelina Jolie. The way to make a movie work, if that's what you choose to do, is to talk about it afterward. Don't just play movie-critic, though - make sure you're talking on a personal level about what you liked (or didn't) and why. Here's an example:

Bad: "Mr. and Mrs. Smith was awesome! I loved all the action sequences. Kerpow! Bang!"

Good: "Angelina's outfit in the dominatrix scene was hot - did you like it? What do you think about me wearing something like that someday? Does that sort of thing turn you off or on?"

4. Don't talk about money or anything stressful or likely to bring up conflict. This is a date, remember? Remember how those went, way back when you were single? You go out and you have fun together. If you have topics or problems that need to be addressed, this is not the time. Schedule another evening to deal with those, please.

Furthermore, if unpleasant topics come up in the course of a conversation, please accept the gentle, polite reminder from your lover that now isn't the time. And if your partner brings one up, in the most loving, non-combative way you can, suggest another date and time when you can talk about these things. Just not on your date tonight. The focus of your time together is on enjoying each other's company.

5. Be creative! Dinner and a movie or a walk are a great start, but if that's all you ever do, it's going to get boring. Go to a play, a concert, a museum, tidepooling, hiking, take a class together, read a book out loud to each other, go for a picnic, do some stargazing, go wine tasting, check out local historical attractions. Wrack your brains for fun things to do together, brainstorm, make a list. Put it on the refrigerator and whenever you think of something new, add it. Alternate who gets to choose what fun thing you do. (Make sure you both want to do everything on the list, though. No one should be a martyr here.) Do fun seasonal things like collecting wildflowers, carving pumpkins, skiing, snowball fights, dyeing eggs. Have fun. Play with each other.

Most long lasting relationships are romances between friends (plus some hot sex, hopefully). When you rekindle your friendship, when you remember why you enjoy the other person's company and feel connected to them and look forward to spending time together, every aspect of your relationship improves. A discussion about money has a joke thrown in the middle, releasing the tension. Your overall stress decreases in all aspects of your life, knowing that the person you're going home to will hold you and make you smile. Knowing that you'll get through whatever life throws at you, together, and with a sense of humor, will give you courage to face your challenges.

All you need to do to have that kind of relationship is set aside two to four nights per month to go out on a date. Talk about a win-win solution!

And who knows - when you get home after your date, he or she might even put out.

(c) 2008 Julianne N. Bentley All Rights Reserved.

Author's Bio: 

Julianne Bentley, the original Wanton Hussy, works with individuals (and couples) who want to bring the passion and joy back into their bedrooms.

Drawing on over fifteen years of experience discussing the ins and outs of sexuality, in all its forms, Julianne brings compassion and energy to the process of supporting you in making the changes you need in order to have the sex life you want and deserve.