Love’s Labor Lost

Love’s Labor Lost

Trying to give my marriage an infusion of romance

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After 17 years of wedded bliss and three kids, I decided it was time to give my marriage an infusion of romance.

First I perused the Internet for tips. (Here’s a tip of my own: Be careful when Googling any phrase containing the word “sexy.”) Then I copied down suggestions from—at least the ones I could test out for a family magazine. (By the way, half of’s tips could lead to…extensions on subscriptions, shall we say, much as all Disney World exits lead through a store. Nice commando marketing technique!)

List in hand, I set out on a quiet Tuesday evening to unleash love bombs on my unsuspecting husband. Here’s what happened:

Tip No. 1: A compliment a day makes the romance stay.

“You look handsome,” I said to Glenn as he headed outside to mow the lawn.

“Thanks,” he said. He glanced down at his old T-shirt and shorts.

“Is that a mustard stain?” he wondered, pointing at a splotch.

“If it is, it looks good on you,” I said.

He wrinkled his brow, then said, “Oh, remember how we switched the dog’s food the other day? She woke me up to go out at 2 a.m. I’m kind of scared to see what she did in the backyard.”

Me: “Sexy!”

Tip No. 2: Show your love in little ways.

I followed Glenn outside and shouted over the noise of the mower: “Did you want me to lay out your underwear for you tomorrow morning?”

Glenn: “What?”

Me: “Your underwear! I could lay it out on the bed!”


Me: “Like when you’re showering! So it would save you a step!”

He turned off the mower. Then, enunciating as slowly as Christopher Walken: “Is there a problem with my underwear selection?”

Me: “Nope.”

Glenn: “What’s going on?”

Me: “Can’t I just offer to do something nice for you?”  

Glenn: “Seriously, you’re freaking me out.”

Tip No. 3: Say it in a special way. suggests writing a love message in sidewalk chalk. So while Glenn finished mowing the lawn, I scrawled one for him, adding decorative hearts to illustrate my affection.

He almost stepped on a pink heart as he walked toward the house, then he looked down and froze, foot in midair.

Glenn: “Stop it!”

Me: “Stop what?”

Glenn: “Do you have something to tell me?”

Me: “All I did was draw you a love message in sidewalk chalk!”

Glenn: “You’re acting guilty. What did you do?”

Me: “Nothing!”

Glenn: “You did something.”

Me: “What’s wrong with you?”

Our voices had risen an octave or two, and a passing neighbor averted her eyes. Glenn reached for the hedge clippers and began attacking a shrub (probably to trim it into the shape of a heart).

Tip No. 4: Send him an email telling him how cute he looks today.

I found my computer and typed: “You are an amazing, virile man.”

I looked out the window and watched as Glenn reached for his BlackBerry. It was easy to read his lips.

Glenn: “Aaaarghhhhh!”

Next week I’m trying out a candlelit dinner alone with my husband (that is, if we’re still speaking to one another). In the meantime, I asked friends about times their romantic plans went awry. Turns out I’m far from alone.

One couple booked a romantic getaway at a hotel overlooking the U.S. Capitol the same weekend a protest broke out. Angry shouts became their background music for the length of their stay. As the parents of three young kids, they felt right at home.

Then there’s the woman whose father showed up to baby-sit and immediately began teaching ninja moves to her children, one of whom ended up with a bloody nose.

“We stayed in,” she reported, “and ate beans out of a can.”

Forget the romantic night out next week. Delivery pizza and HBO never sounded so good.

Sarah Pekkanen’s latest novel is These Girls (Washington Square Press). Write her at

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