Renovate your marriage for happiness

IT'S not always easy keeping the dream alive.

There's a whole lot of stuff they never tell you at the altar.

And it isn't until your bridal bouquet has been dried and pressed, your wedding video mysteriously taped over and replaced with the Charlie's Angels' reunion special, you've "broken" all those ugly, crystal ornament thingies given to you by the out-of-town relos, and that once-precious top layer of wedding cake you so carefully wrapped in foil and placed in the back of the freezer has been accidentally thrown out with the Boxing Day prawn shells that it finally dawns on you: this whole "forsaking all others and til death us do part" caper could last longer than that hideous floral foam lounge suite you bought together.

So it's not surprising that after a few years of holy matrimony some couples start going on romantic holidays.

Trying to escape from stress (bills) and from their day-to-day worries (children) they sail away to far off tropical islands in search of passion.

Other couples opt for adventure-style holidays and renew their wedding vows while bungee jumping, white-water rafting or climbing mountains in an attempt to reconnect and reignite that all-night-long honeymoon spark.

In an effort to keep our marriage alive and to ensure we don't smother each other (with the slightly saliva-stained matrimonial pillows) hubby and I take yearly trips to a place called Reno Land.

It's not a particularly romantic place. No hula dancers wearing grass skirts waiting with pineapple daiquiris, no luxurious day spas, no deserted sandy beaches, no chaise lounges by the pool and no indulging in duty free shopping, but for us, Reno Land gets the adrenalin pumping and gets us communicating.

Other couples may pant. Not me and hubby. We paint.

I'm not saying it's the perfect solution to keeping a relationship alive.

Like all well-adjusted married couples, we still have times when we want to throw small pieces of furniture at each other, but this week, full of enthusiasm and excitement, we began our yearly pilgrimage to Reno Land. And the communication level kicked up a notch as soon as we hit the paint aisle of Bunnings.

"I've found a great colour for the lounge," hubby said, holding up a paint chip that looked like the flat, lifeless, nondescript shade of grey you get when you mix all the Play-Doh colours together, and "look, it's called Just Perfect - isn't that a coincidence honey?" he triumphantly offered.

"Yes, well I'm not after Just Perfect. I had in mind a shade called 'my choice this year' cos you got to pick last year."

"I can't see a chip with that colour on it."

"Sure you can sweetheart. It's right next to the 'when-hell-freezes-over grey' you just showed me."

And this is when the passion and fire of our relationship usually kicks in and we finally get some alone time as the Bunnings' staff start making slow, deliberate movements in the other direction.

After checking out quite a few more charts and still not being able to agree between the "you-can't-be-serious" and "are-you-nuts?" paint colours, we finally found a colour we could both live with.

It isn't going to set the decorating world on fire and it certainly won't have the team from Home Beautiful rushing over to do a centre spread, but I think the shade of 'meet you in the middle', although not wildly exciting, will go the distance.

It will also go with the furniture.

Family Taming is a weekly humour column written by Wendy Andrews.

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