Carol, an old friend, began to rush our conversation along as she spoke to me about love and how she’s managed to remain happily married for over 10 years.  “It’s date night,” she said hurriedly. “It’s our thing.”

Since they were college sweethearts, Carol and her husband have worked to spend at least two Fridays a month out on the town enjoying each other’s company. She reminds me that these types of rituals are what keep relationships alive and interesting, and it’s the advice she gives to other couples trying to rekindle the fire in their love lives.

“Never stop dating,” Carol argues. “As much as we’ve been able to—outside of raising kids, steering careers and having our moments of disagreement—we commit to this time together. It gives us something to look forward to.” Carol and her husband have the right idea. Creating rituals that both partners agree to, and work diligently towards, make love, sex and passion a focused priority. 

Carol and a few other happily coupled folk shared how they keep the passion alive in their relationships. In addition to the advice above, here are three more ways to keep things hot, or “get that old thing back” in relationships.

1. Never stop flirting. Shauna sends her boyfriend Phil flirtatious texts and emails while he’s at work. Along with pics that tease him just a bit, she also remembers to compliment him.

“I tell him how sexy he is before he leaves for work, or sometimes randomly during the day,” she says. “I figure if I don’t, someone else will. And complimenting him excites me too.”

One may be amazed at what a few bats of the eyes or a red pout may do to kick-start some awesome loving. When I’m out on dates, I enjoy gently running my fingers up and down my dates hands and the insides of his wrists. I also love to play footsie.   And fellas must practice flirting as well. Remember to tell your lady she’s beautiful. Surprise her by grabbing her hand as you walk casually through the grocery store.  Whisper in her ear and make her blush. It truly is the little things that keep love fresh, and we should always continue doing those things that made us fall in love in the first place.

2. Sex(y) yourself up. “I’d just become frumpy, to be honest,” Nicole say about how the passion and regular sex left her relationship with Michael. “After the baby was born, the lingerie got pushed to the back of the underwear drawer. Even though Michael loved my body after I gave birth, I wasn’t comfortable with how it had changed, so I just started wearing sweats or extra-large T-shirts all the time.  Eventually he stopped trying, and his lack of desire made me feel even more self-conscious.” 

Nicole asked me a few months ago how I keep my “sexy” while being a single mom, because she was struggling to feel sexy at all (even with full-time parenting help from her husband). I told her that all of the rituals many women learn to perform for others, I choose to do for myself. I take time, each day, to moisturize from head to toe when I exit the shower. I experiment with makeup and fashion. I don’t reserve lingerie for when I’m not sleeping alone. I also spend a great bit of time in front of a full-length mirror.

Our bodies change as we age, have children, become stressed, and more. We’ll never learn to love them and see our beauty if we won’t even look at them without shame. I firmly believe that the passion we seek begins within, and I commit to being sexy with and for myself first.

3. Initiate the change you want to see. Tosh admits he spent a lot of time complaining about how the intimacy in his relationship with Kaya had fallen off.  “I guess as men we’re just taught that we have to grin and bare it when we’re not satisfied in relationships. There’s also the assumption that the only intimacy men want is sex. I didn’t know how to communicate what I wanted to her, and I found myself beginning to look around for something else.”

To remedy what had becoming a wondering eye, Tosh began gently initiating the intimacy he wanted, and communicating his feelings about what had gone missing.  “I also asked her how I could make her happier, satisfy her more. I made her the focus instead of myself, and she was much more open to the intimacy I’d been craving.”

We have to work to be the partners we wish for, because we often get exactly what we give in life, especially in love. True commitment means learning the difference between self-care and selfishness. We should communicate our desires while offering our partners a bit of the compassion and tenderness we seek ourselves.

These are but a few ways we can reignite the flames of our love, passion and intimacy. How do you keep the passion alive in your relationship? How have you reignited your love’s flame? Sound off!

Josie Pickens is a cultural critic, educator and soldier of love. Follow her musings on Twitter @jonubian.