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TLC for You

Your marriage

Schedule a standing midweek date
A friend of mine and her husband go out to dinner every Wednesday night, early enough to put their kids to bed when they get home. Restaurants aren't as crowded on weeknights, and it's not as hard to get a sitter as on a Friday or Saturday night.

Squeeze in "mini-dates"
Maybe you truly can't break away for a whole evening. But look for those 10- or 15-minute blocks of time  -- while the kids are watching SpongeBob, say  -- to connect. As long as you know they're safe, you can even relive those old high school thrills by going into another room to make out. (Not that I've done this or anything...)

Make your time together official
Sally Kolodziej and her husband, Tim, go on "running dates." "We actually get a sitter and go for a long run," says the Chippewa, Pennsylvania, mom of Carly, 8, and David, 3. "We get uninterrupted talk time and a great workout." It's easy to apply the same concept to those nights when you don't want to spend money on a sitter. You know how you get your child instantly excited about watching a DVD simply by declaring it "movie night"? Do the same thing with your spouse. Get the kids to bed early and declare it "dessert night" or "massage night."

Start puttering
You're nowhere near retirement age, but you can learn something from those older couples who seem to relish each other's company. While you're getting a task accomplished (weeding, cleaning out the garage), you can be connecting on a more intimate level. (Hint: Most men are more willing to engage in "relationship talk" when they've got some tool in their hands.)

Deal with the tough stuff once  -- and only once  -- a week
Diane Houser and her husband, Mark, take what she calls the "Scarlett O'Hara approach" to household problems, like minor car trouble or a leaking dishwasher. "We think about them tomorrow  -- which for us means Thursday nights," she says. By pushing "business" to one day of the week, they have more time for each other the next six days.

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