Romance doesn’t always have to involve splurging on expensive gifts or trips away from home. You can get there by maximizing what you might already have and making it a priority in the bedroom.

If you’re married and share a bed with your partner, it’s not uncommon for things to get stale from time to time. Excitement can easily give way to routine, and eventually, you might find yourself wondering where all the romance went.

The bedroom can be both a sanctuary for healthy doses of shut-eye and a playground for intimate connections with your lover. So, if the daily grind has you falling into bed at night and rolling out of it the next morning without a second glance at your bed buddy, maybe it’s time to relight the fire.

Here are eight ideas for setting the mood in the bedroom.

illustration of couple being intimateShare on Pinterest
Print Illustration by Maya Chastain

Here are some things you can add to your bedroom setup to grow more intimacy — whether it’s emotional, intellectual, or physical (va-va-va-voom).

1. Make a hot and steamy schedule

Even if aligning calendars and setting appointments sounds like the furthest thing from sexy, it’s fundamental to long-term love. This is especially true for married couples who have kids.

Ideally, you and your partner have schedules that allow you both to be home during normal sleeping hours. But even if you go to sleep at different times, try to get into bed at the same time, with a little buffer time before you sleep. This is the golden hour for connection.

There’s also no shame in putting sex on your schedule. If it’s not happening spontaneously, be a boss and pencil it in. Intentionality is romantic!

2. Engage in romantic comedy-worthy conversation

Communication may sound simple, but it also may be the most important step in building romance. In fact, research shows that working on communication skills — particularly expressing feelings, needs, and desires — improves intimacy.

A small 2021 study showed that training in communication skills reduced marital burnout. Signs of marital burnout can be physical, emotional, or psychological, including:

  • fatigue, sleep disturbance, appetite changes
  • resentment, frustration, emptiness
  • low self-esteem, despair, negative feelings toward your spouse

On the other hand, in long-term relationships, increased intimacy leads to increased sexual desire, which leads to increased odds that you are getting lucky, my friend.

But beware of the common date night pitfall of talking only about the kids or how much your coworkers irritate you. The more personal your conversation, the better.

Try these conversation kickstarters:

  • Thank your partner or tell them something you appreciate about them.
  • Give them a compliment about their appearance.
  • Ask questions and listen actively.
  • Try a tool like the Gottman Card Decks App for a nearly endless supply of conversation starters.

3. Give your sleeping space a sexy sensory makeover

Think of your bed as a giant sensory bin to roll around in. Try layering your bed with soft and firm features, fabrics that are silky, fluffy, bumpy, or soft.

It’s a good idea to think about building a nest that may put your body in a relaxed state so that you can focus on your partner. The textures in your room can also be a buffet to experiment with and determine what sensations each of you are drawn to.

Here are some other ideas for dressing your bed for romance:

  • Get low. Try a low platform bed or put your mattress directly on the floor for that relaxed, in-bed-all-day-with-my-lover feeling.
  • Keep ‘em separated. We’re not suggesting you switch your king for a pair of twin beds, but your relationship could benefit from having two separate duvets. Think about all the resentment and cold shoulders you could avoid!
  • Go ever-nude. What if you banned clothing from your bed? If that’s too big of a leap, maybe designate one naked night a month and work your way up from there.

4. Do some heavy breathing with aromatherapy

Don’t underestimate the power of scent! Pump your bedroom with a signature essential oil blend and start making memories. Your romantic scent may continue to transport you back to the good times every time you mist or diffuse it.

Try these scents to evoke a certain mood in your boudoir:

  • Energizing: eucalyptus, lemon, peppermint, rosemary
  • Relaxing: lavender, mandarin, neroli, roman chamomile, vetiver
  • Aphrodisiac: clary sage, rose, ylang ylang

5. Staycation that b**ch

There aren’t too many things as invigorating as just getting away. But if you and your partner can’t escape for a real vacation, why not turn your bedroom into a retreat that feels like one?

What are your favorite parts of your most romantic hotel stay? Chilled rosé and a fluffy robe? The sound of waves breaking outside? A great mattress? Use your imagination and introduce those elements into your bedroom.

6. Get flexible before getting freaky

According to a small 2016 research review of 10 studies, higher levels of mindfulness are associated with higher relationship satisfaction. Bedtime yoga is not the only way to be mindful, but it is a fun way to use your bodies and also get the benefit of being in the moment.

Get mindful by doing breathing exercises, meditating, or focusing on any activity together with your partner. Just remember these key components of mindfulness: Don’t strive for any particular outcome, and keep judgment out of the bedroom.

7. Open the toy chest

Bedroom toys? Yes, definitely collect a treasure chest of adult toys to “play” with your partner. But don’t stop there. Having fun and engaging in novel activity is a big part of romance, even when you’re not being sexual.

Recently, researchers found that two-thirds of university students surveyed found romance with someone who started out as a friend. There’s reason to believe that couples who play together, stay together.

Nonsexual activities build intimacy, too. Try one of these bedtime-friendly activities with your partner:

  • Some light gaming. Yes, screen time disrupts your sleep cycles, but gaming together could be a fun once-in-a-while activity.
  • Netflix and chill. It’s a cliché because it works. Snuggle up and enjoy a show you both love.
  • Book club for two. Reading is usually a solitary situation, but try reading the same book at the same time.

8. Create a sweet nothings soundscape

Round out your romantic bedroom experience with a great playlist or some white noise. Tap back into your mixtape skills to put together a playlist for every bedtime mood:

  • Back in the day: songs from when you and your partner first got together
  • Fantasy atmospheres: sound types like “thunderstorm by the fire in a castle” or “camping by the lake”
  • Mellow instrumentals: music that stays in the background for deep conversations or bedtime reading
  • Sleepy mix: tracks for falling asleep together
  • Sexy trax: songs like “Let’s Get It On” on repeat

Maybe you heard that married people have better long-term health outcomes than people who aren’t married. So far, researchers haven’t pinned down the reason for the correlation, but they have theories. A 2017 study found that married people have lower levels of the “stress hormone” cortisol than nonmarried people.

If being in a satisfying relationship means lower stress, you may experience better physical health, too. Stress can lead to tension, pain, breathing problems, heart problems, depression, lowered immunity, and many other health issues.

In a 2021 study, researchers also found that sexual satisfaction and intimacy are tied to better cognitive health as you age. Not necessarily a causal relationship, but it’s not a bad goal to work toward.

Ask five people to define “romance” and you’ll get five very different answers. What pushes our buttons and makes us relax enough to build intimacy through vulnerability is highly personal.

It’s cute in the movies when someone makes a big romantic gesture that lands perfectly, but most of us can’t guess our way to romance. We have to talk about it!

Talk with your partner about what makes your heart swell. Is it coming home to a clean kitchen? The way they make your coffee? The way they tip dashers so generously?

Talking about what turns you on physically and emotionally can help you build a blueprint for romance in your relationship.

Relationships are work, and sometimes you just want to go to bed, but if you invest in making some slight changes, a lot of good intimacy can come as a result. Try some of these tips to set up your bedroom and your bedtime routine for more automatic romantic opportunities.

Remember, once you get your schedules in sync and practice communicating your feelings and desires, the rest is a matter of doing what feels good.