What did you think of when you heard the word “romance” before getting married? Ladies, did you immediately imagine yourself in a horse drawn carriage with a flawless version of the love of your life? Was he holding a bouquet of fragrant long-stem roses in one hand and an upgrade to your already-upgraded ring in the other? Was he singing your favorite love song—in perfect tune—with the fireworks lighting up a moonlit sky? Fellas, did the word “romance” transform you into a superhero? Did you carry your damsel-in-distress to a love nest, then to a one-way trip to that extraordinary place way beyond her wildest fantasies?

According to Merriam-Webster, that’s all about right. Romance is defined a few ways: one—a medieval tale based on legend, chivalric love and adventure, or the supernatural, two—a prose narrative treating imaginary characters involved in events remote in time or place and usually heroic, adventurous, or mysterious, and three— a love story, especially in the form of a novel. So in other words, romance is a tale with imaginary characters. Wow. Who would have thought?

It’s no wonder that after marriage, couples find it so hard to “keep the romance alive” when the basic understanding of the word is rooted in unrealistic untruths. Perhaps we simply need to forget the term “romance” and really define what we are trying to do. How do you stay hot for your hubby? How do you keep your mouth watering for your wife? How do we keep the passion going?

Along with the questions come a mortgage, a cable bill that could be another house note, perhaps one child in daycare and another that went from second grade to puberty in a matter of minutes. Add to that nosy, needy in-laws, snoring that keeps you up past 2 a.m., an unsympathetic, tyrannical boss, a leaky roof, unanticipated stress, unreasonable demands, and no vacation in sight. Sounds romantic, right?

You force yourself to sit down and really give thought to keeping the romance —I mean, passion —alive in your marriage. You may or may not have thought about doing horrible things to your spouse in their sleep, especially when the snoring sounds like a buzz saw on rocks, but they are indeed the one you vowed to cherish all of the days of your life. They deserve to feel appreciated, desired, special and loved.

With all that daily life dishes out, how can we make our special someone feel especially special? Ahead are three easy ways to turn up the heat on the passion meter.

1. Ask the “what” questions, then follow them. Seems obvious doesn’t? Simple but thoughtful questions about what your spouse wants will reveal more than you think. Understanding the “what” and then consistently acting on it will push the passion tank back to full. It’s important to ask specific questions to discover how to make your loved one’s heart skip a beat again. You can ask: “What made you fall in love with me?” or “What is something I did when we were dating that blew you away?”

Perhaps it was when you took her on a surprise date for a sandwich picnic at the lake. You thought it was just a date, but now you understand she appreciated your taking the time to carefully plan a day just for her. The effort is what made her feel like the most important person in your world. Mitch Temple, contributor to Focus on the Family, a global Christian ministry said: “Attraction often follows on the heels of serving each other like you did in the early years of your relationship. Often it’s the little things that count – not the big ones.”

2. Learn their love language, then master it. The five love languages defines how people speak and understand emotional love. According to Gary Chapman, author of The Five Love Languages, “Once you identify and learn to speak your spouse’s primary love language, you will have discovered the key to a long-lasting, loving marriage. Love need not evaporate after the wedding, but to keep it alive, most of us will have to put forth the effort to learn a secondary love language. We cannot rely on our native tongue if our spouse does not understand it.”

Take the test together at www.5lovelanguages.com. Let’s say her test reveals her primary love language is “acts of service.” Run her a bubble bath, grab the kids and the keys to her car, tell her to relax and do absolutely nothing for three hours. If you come home three hours later with her car full of gas and the kiddos out of gas, flames will be fire hot and your love tank is guaranteed to be overflowing.

3. Make time all the time. We certainly cannot expect to be on our loved ones minds every hour of every day. We have kids to raise, corporate ladders to climb, family to help, bills to pay and health to improve, but with all of that we absolutely must make time for our better half. People often frown at scheduling time. Whether it’s date night, passion-play night, or just TV night with no kids, we must remove all of the noise of life to the side for a time and focus attention on strengthening that primary relationship. “At the beginning of a relationship, the excitement and anxiety of connecting with a new partner makes time together a top priority,” psychologist Ryan Howes said. “When that urgency goes away and we start to feel comfortable, time for the relationship becomes a lower priority.” But, Howes said, “if we don’t make time to feed the relationship, it will wither, it may die.” Schedule the sitter, then schedule a backup sitter, turn off the cell phone, disconnect from the laptop, and show your spouse just how truly special they are.

In fairytales, wedded bliss lasts happily ever-after. In real life, the honeymoon phase averages two years. When spontaneity can no longer compete with after-school sports schedules, and the excitement of an all-night love fest is nonexistent after a 12-hour shift, remember that marriage is the constant. After the dust settles, the kids are gone, the house is paid off, and you’ve bid the job adieu, who will be standing by your side? The one you vowed to cherish all of the days of your life. And they deserve to feel appreciated, desired, special, and loved.

This essaye was published in The Connect’s Summer 2018 issue. You may purchase the full issue here, or download the digital version here.