passionWe spend an awful lot of time and money (an average of about $135) trying to make Valentine’s Day special for our partners.

We expect all those flowers, boxes of candy and fancy dinners to stoke the fires of romance and passion in our relationships.

But if you’re part of a longtime couple, those run-of-the-mill Valentine’s Day ideas might not be doing it anymore — especially if you celebrate the same way every year.

I’m a pragmatist — even about romance. So why not spend your time and money on some Valentine’s Day ideas that actually work?

Why We Get Bored

First, let’s take a quick look at why those Valentine’s Day roses that made you heart flutter the first year of your marriage don’t have quite the same effect on you now (and how something similar happens on a larger scale in marriage).

Roses haven’t gotten less lovely. The problem is that if your husband sends them every Valentine’s Day, you’ve gotten used to them. They no longer bring the novelty and surprise that psychotherapist, Esther Perel, says is essential to igniting desire.

And, just as you’ve gotten used to the roses, chances are you’ve gotten used to the husband who sends them. Maybe he made you swoon when you first met, but now you don’t know notice him as much because he’s so familiar to you.

That’s the challenge of relationships: The longer you’re together and the more deeply you know each other, the more connected you are as companions, but that same deep familiarity chips away at passion.

But knowing this is a normal shift in relationships doesn’t stop us from wanting to feel passion again the way we did in the early days of our relationship.

So what do we do?

The Real Keys to More Passion

To fire up your relationship, try adding some novelty and variety. Luckily, we have a romantic holiday coming up that’s a great excuse to do just that. Here are some Valentine’s Day ideas based on what research has found actually stimulates desire and passion.

  • Keep growing together. Take a class together, or go to an exhibit or talk on a subject that intrigues you both. When you try new experiences and keep learning, the relationship keeps you stimulated and helps you grow as a person. That’s exactly the kind of relationship in which passion thrives!
  • Book an exciting experience together. Exciting, challenging activities make couples more enthusiastic about their relationships than merely pleasant ones.
  • Change up your routine. If you’re more of a stay-in-and-watch Netflix kind of couple, choose a new movie that will get your pulse racing. Instead of making reservations at the same restaurant you always choose for special occasions, try somewhere new that serves a cuisine you haven’t tried. Likewise, skip your usual favorite weekend getaway this year to explore a different destination.
  • Strengthen the relationship habits that have been clearly linked to passion, such as: (1) thinking positive thoughts about your partner (2) thinking about each other when you’re apart, and (3) being very affectionate (kissing, hugging, holding hands) when you are together.
  • If you’d rather take a quieter route to passion, never underestimate the value of just being present for each other. Remember the New York Times story about how to fall in love with anyone that was so popular on social media last month? As the story shows, being fully present is one of the greatest drivers of passion. We all want to be seen by another. Put your phones up and connect through touch, eye contact and deep listening.

You’ll find more ideas about cultivating passion in my book Strong Women, Strong Love. I wish you a Valentine’s Day filled with true passion and connection!