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My husband and I scanned the calendar for a weekend to make our late-winter escape. After months of Minnesota ice and snow, we were ready to get away — just the two of us. But with a busy teenager and a new puppy at home (and no immediate family nearby to help), we felt our options were limited.

A long weekend in the tropics was out, we conceded. But perhaps a quick trip close to home would spark a little romance.

We agreed that our teenager and pooch could stay home alone for two nights. With neighbors standing by for emergencies, we booked a stay at Grand View Lodge, just a few hours away in Nisswa, Minn.

Grand View’s pine lodge is on the National Register of Historic Places. And though the resort’s primary website image shows it in the height of summer, I could easily imagine it cloaked in white, fireplaces roaring. Adding to the cuddle-up vibe of the place, the dates we chose happened to be the resort’s annual de’Vine Wine and Culinary Weekend.

Soon we were booked for a six-course dinner paired with Italian wines on Friday evening, an afternoon of food-and-wine seminars on Saturday, a “Grand Tasting” event on Saturday night, and a champagne brunch on Sunday.

We wouldn’t have much alone time with this package, we realized. But we love food and wine, and we enjoy socializing and meeting new people. So, we agreed to be each other’s dates and looked forward to whatever the weekend held.

That anticipation is a key ingredient in a romantic getaway, notes Maggie Reyes, a marriage coach and author of the book Questions for Couples Journal. “Just putting a trip on the calendar and saying, ‘We’re going away now,’ gives you something to look forward to together,” she says. “There’s research that shows planning and anticipating a vacation creates as much positive emotion as being on vacation.”

And though my husband and I were no longer anticipating an adventure sans coats and gloves, we did look forward to a change of scenery.

“We get into our routines — we go to the same place for dinner, the same movie theater, the same bowling alley. We stop doing new things,” says Reyes. “Going on vacation, even a weekend getaway — even a one-day getaway in your own city — releases chemicals in your body related to newness. Heading out as a couple is a way to re-create that initial connection physiologically.”

What’s in the Way of Your Getaway?

Though we travel a few times a year to visit family, my husband and I seldom vacation by ourselves. We could argue that we’re busy with work, that we’re on a tight budget, or that we can’t just abandon our obligations. But beneath such logistical problems lie unexamined and unchallenged beliefs about what’s most important, argues Reyes.

“Very often we prioritize our careers or our children or our commitments, and we forget to prioritize our relationship,” she says. “But when we take care of ourselves and our relationship, then we have the energy, the love, the generosity, and the kindness to deal with all the other commitments.”

Reyes says some partners resist planning a vacation if there are unresolved issues between them. But lingering drama doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy each other, and the getaway might actually move your relationship forward.

“So many people stop themselves from having fun today because they have some big thing they have to solve from yesterday,” says Reyes. “One of the things that could help you get through whatever you’re struggling with is spending positive, unstructured time together.”

Make Your Getaway Great

There are no rules for a romantic getaway — you and your partner get to decide what turns on the romance and brings you closer together. That said, consider some of these suggestions for planning a getaway that may be just right for you two, right now.

Explore shared passions.

When planning your getaway, talk to your sweetie about the things that interest you both. Are you golfers? Art aficionados? Mountain-bike adventurers? Sci-fi lovers?

Organize at least part of your escape around these shared interests.

Though my husband and I chanced upon our culinary weekend getaway, it worked out great in this respect: He’s a foodie and I’m a grateful eater of his cooking, so we hung around after presentations to ask the chefs about ingredients and techniques. I had fun watching him geek out a bit, and I’m excited about new dishes that may appear on our menu at home.

Give each other space.

A romantic getaway doesn’t have to mean one-on-one time for days on end. “There’s nothing wrong with doing something on your own during the day, and then having a special dinner where you share your day with each other,” says Tamara Lidbom, owner of Anytime Travel Agency. Lidbom often works with newlyweds, and she encourages them to explore individual interests on their honeymoons. “There are many times in life when you’ll have to navigate separate time,” she says. “It’s a good building experience to do something on your own and then come together and share with each other.”

Embrace spontaneity.

Don’t feel pressured to plan every moment of your itinerary. Sometimes the most memorable moments are unscheduled. My husband and I spent two weeks in Taiwan for our honeymoon (evidence that we can make farther-flung vacations happen if properly motivated). The afternoon we just walked around Taipei visiting the places my Chinese-major husband had lived, worked, and studied (including his favorite noodle houses) was a honeymoon highlight.

Looking back to our jam-packed wine-tasting weekend, we might have done spontaneity better. Next time we’ll leave an afternoon open to explore the resort or check out nearby towns.

Let go of perfection.

“Thinking that a getaway has to look a certain way before you can have fun is one of the biggest traps you can fall into,” warns Reyes. You might miss a flight connection. You might not get the suite you booked. Your favorite museum or restaurant might close. It might rain on your cruise. “We went on a cruise for Christmas that we’d looked forward to all year, and it rained every day except one,” recalls Reyes. “Most of the ports were canceled and we couldn’t be at the pool, either.”

In these situations, Reyes recommends asking yourself, What’s here for me to enjoy?

“We decided, ‘Hey, we’re on a ship! It’s a beautiful place, and we’re with each other. Let’s enjoy this!’”

Think small.

Two nights at a resort close to home may seem short and sweet, but you can eke out an even shorter (but still enjoyable!) getaway in or near your own town.

Take an afternoon off or block a couple hours on the weekend to indulge in a spa day or a bookstore date. Rent bikes and pretend you’re out-of-towners. Go on a brewery tour or visit a museum. Pitch a tent in your own back yard. Once you start looking for novel experiences, it becomes easier to reignite those relationship sparks and welcome the romance.

While much of our getaway was spent in the company of others, my husband and I were indeed able to reconnect. If anything, the busy, social nature of the wine-and-dine weekend made alone time each evening a kind of homecoming where we could appreciate how comfortable we are together and how much fun we can have when we set the daily obligations aside for a while.

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Jill Patton, FMCHC

Jill Patton, FMCHC, is a Minneapolis-based health writer and functional-medicine certified health coach.

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