"How can I possibly keep the spark alive?" you ask. "The house is a mess, there are three kids pulling on my dress, spaghetti sauce is boiling over and I don't know how we're going to pay the electric bill. Who has time to even think about sparks?"
This common attitude evinces two serious mistakes:
1) that it's okay to ignore the need for sparks
2) that it takes significant time to generate them and keep them alive.
Of course there's no time if creating sparks involves a major effort. But it doesn't need to. It begins with not despairing, with not being resigned to a "spark-less" existence. And with being realistic about how to create them.
If you have young children (in fact, if you have any children at all living at home!) you probably won't be able to serve elaborate candlelit dinners, but that doesn't mean you can't prepare a nice meal. That doesn't mean you can't cook your husband's favorite foods. It's not either candlelight or macaroni and cheese. Although a simple act, cooking what your husband likes says "I care." It says "Your needs matter to me."
If you care about him, you care about what he does.
Being interested in your husband's day at work can also help keep your marriage vibrant. Maybe you tend to go glassy-eyed hearing about his job. Snap out of it. Sit up straighter. If you care about him, you care about what he does. I remember a number of years ago, I tried to organize a social activity for a group of wives whose husbands all worked for the same institution. When I called one woman to ask her to attend, she was very dismissive. "Why should I come? That's my husband's job. It has nothing to do with me." I beg to differ.
After a long day -- at home or elsewhere -- everyone likes to get into their most comfortable clothes. But let me make this clear: ratty old sweat suits do NOT help keep the spark alive. Our husbands deserve that we devote at least the same attention (actually more) to our appearance that we do when we join our girlfriends for lunch or another couple for dinner. While a complete change of clothes may not always be possible or practical (especially if we are cooking that nice dinner and we have infants wailing for attention in the background), straightening your hair and freshening your lipstick is.
These small actions say "I'm excited to have you home." "I've been looking forward to seeing you."
While there is clearly room for romantic evenings in every marriage -- I certainly don't want to discourage that -- we shouldn't feel that we have to wait for those rare moments to work on keeping our marriage alive. Or that there aren't many varied ways of keeping the flame burning. Each couple has to find their unique road.
It doesn't have to take a lot of effort. It doesn't have to take a lot of time. It doesn't have to be expensive or elaborate. It just has to be consistent and regular. We can't let the demands of our daily existence overwhelm us to the point where we forget to connect with our husbands. That's the real secret to keeping the spark alive -- making our relationship with our husbands our number one priority.