Spice Up Your Pandemic Love Life

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For many people, the monotony of the last 160-plus days has depleted just about everything. You aren’t alone if you barely recognize yourself, let alone your partner and the special qualities that attracted you to him or her in the first place. Stress and worries over health or financial hardship might have increased, and romance and excitement in your daily life may have disappeared.

“Newness, curiosity and diversions are things we don’t have right now,” said Kathryn Smerling, a couples therapist in New York City. “During Covid, couples have become lazy. They’re required to do a lot of things but not be creative with each other. Because we are so limited, couples have not made enough time to reconnect.”

Rebooting your romance and reigniting that spark are more important than you think, especially now. One way to reconnect with your partner is to revisit your first date. This may sound silly, but the payoff is surprisingly rewarding. “It gives you the opportunity to bond in a way you haven’t been able to in a long time while re-establishing the excitement of your relationship,” Dr. Smerling said.

Below are several suggestions to help you turn back the relationship clock and relive your first date.

Sit down with your partner and make a list of 10 details you loved most about your first date. Perhaps it was how he ordered food, or the way her perfume smelled, or the sound of laughter that attracted you.

“It can be both revealing and significantly touching to the other person to know what someone has remembered about them,” said Melody Li, a licensed marriage and family therapist in Austin, Texas. “The key is to be specific and to say how these details impacted you. Being noticed helps partners feel seen, appreciated and cherished by that other person while creating intimacy.”

Common first dates typically involve a meet-and-greet morning coffee or evening cocktail, or a get-to-know-you meal and you-liked-me-enough dessert.

“Food is a memory bank,” said David Burke, a chef whose restaurants include David Burke Tavern and Mister French, among others. “It’s a conversational focal point. It’s the first time during a date when you’re sharing something similar and intimate with another person. Usually you’re sitting close to that person and looking into their face.”

Though you may not be able to go back to that fancy eatery for oysters or the intimate cafe for an iced latte, you can remake your original date meal — or a new one, say something you wished you had ordered back then.

If you like the competition, Mr. Burke suggested you each make one course. For a more bonding experience, prepare the entire meal as a team. If you’re sick of cooking — and who wouldn’t be at this point — perhaps making this meal will revitalize your passion for each other, and for your kitchen.

Don’t forget drinks: Make that signature cocktail or mocktail if you have one, or if you shared a special bottle of wine, consider ordering that from your local liquor store.

Upgrade the experience by adding high-end ingredients like truffles or candy rose petals to make the evening feel indulgent, Mr. Burke advised. Or heighten your memory landscape by finding a photo taken during your courtship and place it under your partner’s napkin. If you can’t find one, a handwritten love note is a thoughtful substitution.

“Food is a physical, shareable experience,” Mr. Burke added. “If you set the table like it’s a special night, you’re reminding someone how it all began and how you fell in love while walking yourself through your timeline from the beginning.”

If you still have the outfit you wore during your first encounter, and it still fits, wear that as well.

If you can remember a specific story you told the other person during your first date, repeat it. If there’s back story you never explained — maybe you looked up the wrong person on the web and were pleasantly surprised when you met — now is your chance to share. Dr. Smerling suggested asking your partner, “What was the turning point that made you interested in having a second date?”

“One of the most exciting things about first dates is the unexpected chemistry and the anticipation of a second one,” Dr. Smerling said. “Giving information that brings you back to the initial feelings you had for someone is a wonderful way to bond. It’s a chance to reaffirm your original connection and why you fell in love.”

According to Dr. Smerling, memories trigger other memories, which awaken feelings that may have been painted over by life. “Telling the other person something positive rewires your brain,” she said. “It involves sharing intimacy, physical closeness and being vulnerable.”

Perhaps there was a song you heard the first time you met — blaring from speakers at the bar or innocently pouring from the stereo in your car. Maybe there was one song that encapsulated your relationship. If possible, play it now — and boldly dance to it.

“Music connects us because it releases endorphins,” said Smiles Davis, a D.J. and producer based in Los Angeles (she changed her name from Monique Proctor 11 years ago). “It elevates your spirit when you hear something enjoyable, especially if you’re with someone that matters to you. It creates camaraderie and connectivity.”

A specific ditty shared by you and your boo creates a sense of safety and allows you to relive a specific time and place when you first heard it. “A feel-good experience is heightened because that song holds special meaning to you,” Ms. Davis said. (For inspiration, listen to a playlist of Ms. Davis’s 100 favorite love songs on Spotify.)

If a neighbor, co-worker or a random college friend insisted you meet the person you’re with now, take time to reconnect with him or her on Zoom or with a phone call.

“I encourage couples to practice gratitude in times like these,” said Damona Hoffman, a dating coach and host of the podcast “Dates & Mates” in Los Angeles. “When you take stock of the reasons why great things have happened, like meeting your partner, that helps you approach life and your relationship with humility and appreciation.”

She also suggested asking the mutual friend or “fixer-upper” why they thought you’d be a match.

“Sometimes we forget why we chose our partner,” Ms. Hoffman said. “Hearing those reasons from the person who set you up has significance. It creates both community and nostalgia.”

Now that you’ve your groove back, find ways to keep moving your relationship forward. Maybe it’s a cup of coffee shared daily, writing a love note left in a secret place for your person to find or ordering a “date box” filled with relationship-building activities — think crafting, games and bonding exercises — from a subscription service like Crated With Love or DateBox Club.

“Intentionally creating a specific date or fun routine gives people something to look forward to,” Ms. Li said. “Putting these actionable routines into practice helps us reconnect and prioritize our relationship.”

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