Love is in the air

Even your love life needs a spring cleaning occasionally. Janet Wilson polled experts on how to get the lustre back.  On the next page, Caroline Phillips spoke to seven Ottawa pairs about how they make it work

Rejuvenate your relationship

Shannon Lawless

After a long winter of hibernating, spring gives us a chance to reconnect with our partners and make sure we’re still on the same page. Shannon Lawless, a couples and family therapist, recommends being open to new experiences, enjoying an activity together outdoors and getting the dialogue flowing. “During the winter months, a lot of us sit on the couch and watch TV. It’s time to break out of the same old routine and reconnect. If you are frustrated about something, write a letter and then read it to your significant other.” She also shared the following tips:

  1. Make time for each other. Plan a date night once a week. Get off the couch and outside.
  2. Unplug your gadgets. Turn off cellphones, TVs and computers for an hour a week and spend time together going for a hike, playing a board game or simply chatting over coffee.
  3. Get a healthy balance in all aspects of life. Tune up your relationship, diet, fitness and intimacy in the bedroom. People who are active often enjoy a more romantic love life.
  4. Spice up your relationship by adding some adventure. Do something you’ve never done before, such as an art or dance class, cooking lessons or a weekly round of golf.
  5. Make each other a priority. No relationship can sustain the honeymoon stage forever. Pay attention, and check in with your partner and really listen to what they are saying. Everyone likes to feel validated.


Finding a mate

Sue McGarvie

We’ve often heard that Ottawa is overflowing with smart, single ladies desperately searching for the love of a good man. But 2006 census figures show there are slightly more single men than single women in the nation’s capital. But love connections seldom happen in the produce aisle. Finding the perfect match involves a strategy, an open mind and a willingness to look at past missteps.

“People make the same mistake over and over again,” says Sue McGarvie, the sex and relationship therapist who wrote Quivering Jello: How to Have Mind-Blowing, Toe-Curling Orgasms. “You get stuck in a pattern and don’t do what it takes to connect with a (partner) and be abundantly happy.” She offered these tips:

  1. Understand your values. What truly makes you happy and what characteristics are you seeking from a potential partner? Make a definitive list of what will make you happy and understand the deal breakers. To find the right match, McGarvie says you need to spell out what’s important to you. Maybe he/she must like your dog, follow hockey, behave appropriately at your company Christmas party, enjoy travel, be kind, for example.
  2. Take a good look at yourself. Do you have that je ne sais quoi that people are attracted to? Or are you crushed from a previous relationship? Do you like what you see when you look in the mirror? Or have you gained 25 pounds since your last break up? If you’re in a rut, do something about it. Spring is the time to get your mojo back. Get fit, tweak your image, improve your libido and flirting skills and reclaim your confidence.
  3. Analyse past experiences. This is important to figuring out what went wrong. Maybe infidelity and being abandoned made you unwilling to trust? Break old patterns, start fresh and you will begin to heal your wounds.
  4. Meet your match. Market yourself with a smart, safe, effective strategy. Develop a personal branding statement and an enticing online dating ad.
  5. Be realistic: George Clooney won’t whisk you away to his Italian villa. But while you won’t get what you want, the Rolling Stones would tell you, if you’re clear, you just might get what you need.


Ottawa couples  on lasting love

Vern White and Sari Musta-White

VERN WHITE is the former police chief and a newly appointed Conservative senator from Ontario. He and wife Sari Musta-White married in late 2010 and are expecting their first child together in June.

Ideal date night: I guess for both of us it would be a nice dinner out, (then) home for a glass of wine and a sauna. We built a nice sauna in our house last year.

Keeping it real: We focus on the little things: Go to the gym together, take a drive to Merrickville to have lunch and walk around town, or go to Fitzroy Harbour and pick up fudge from Judy at Penny’s Fudge Factory.

Favourite time together: Breakfast, for sure. It’s a moment to discuss the day, what’s happening and what we have going on at work. It’s a real time for grounding, and since I am a morning person, it’s a chance to make breakfast, most days.

Biggest challenge: The speed and amount of work I had (as Ottawa police chief). When Sari first moved over (from Finland), she couldn’t believe how many events there were on top of my daily job. We believe this new role (as a senator) will allow for some more free time. But, we’ll see.


Catherine Clark and Chad Schella

CATHERINE CLARK, host of Beyond Politics on CPAC, is married to Chad Schella, director of government affairs at Canada Post. They have two young children.

Ideal date night: Anything that lets us be alone together for a few hours as adults, whether that’s dinner in a restaurant (where we do not have to order chocolate milk and colour on our placemats), or night skiing at Pakenham. The best date night of all gets us home by 9 p.m. so that we can collapse into bed by 9:30.

Keeping it real: Marry someone with a good sense of humour. If you do, that person will never let you take yourself too seriously, and you’ll never be able to stay mad for too long.

Favourite time together: We have two favourite times, one rare, one not. The rare ones are when we get away, just the two of us. Those are the trips that remind us of why we got married, which, as most married parents of young children (know), is something you forget. The second is a daily occurrence, when we fall, shell-shocked, onto the couch after our kids go to bed. This usually involves romantic accessories such as an iPad, an all-sports channel, a good book and a very large glass of wine.

Biggest challenge: Trying to be good role models for our children as we attempt to also be a good husband and wife to each other. That, and not eating all of our kids’ Halloween candy.



Julian Armour and Guylaine Lemaire

JULIAN ARMOUR is artistic and music director of Music and Beyond, artistic director of The Chamber Players of Canada and principal cellist with The Thirteen Strings Chamber Orchestra. He’s married to violist Guylaine Lemaire, who performs regularly as a chamber musician and orchestral player. They have two young boys.

Ideal date night: Dinner and drinks with just the two of us in a cosy, casual pub — no cellphones allowed!

Keeping it real: It’s important not to let what happens in the outside world affect how we are with each other — but easier said than done.

Favourite time together: Any time we’re alone together, whether it’s taking a break at a rehearsal, travelling to a concert, meeting up for lunch, grocery shopping, or even being stuck in a line at the bank. We’ve always enjoyed spending time together before and after rehearsals and concerts, especially when visiting other cities. Now that we have two children, we enjoy the quiet time we have together after the boys are in bed.

Biggest challenge: Making sure we rise above the huge daily challenges, tensions and pressures we face in our professional lives so that we’re
always great with each other.


Connie Bernardi and Stu Schwartz

CONNIE BERNARDI is a music blogger and a radio announcer on Majic 100. She’s married to “Stuntman” Stu Schwartz, PA announcer for the Ottawa Senators, morning show host on Majic 100 and celebrity emcee and auctioneer. They also have two children.

Ideal date night: An ideal night would involve a dinner out where we don’t talk about the kids for at least 45 minutes, followed by a movie. We’ve been to two movies in a theatre since our kids were born. That’s right — two.

Keeping it real: “Never go to bed mad at each other” was one of the best pieces of advice we ever got. It’s so simple, but it works. Also have fun, laugh a lot, be spontaneous and give space when space is needed.

Favourite time together: When the kids are miraculously asleep by 7:30 p.m. and the house is quiet. We catch up on all of the TV shows on our PVR or watch the Food Network. We can sit and watch and talk uninterrupted. It’s bliss.

Biggest challenge: The juggling of our schedules. We rely on my parents and babysitters a lot and sometimes we can go a whole week without really seeing each other, except for saying a quick “Hi” as we pass each other going out the door. It can be overwhelming, sometimes, but you make it work. The balancing act is hard and there is a lot of sacrifice, but in the end it’s what works for us.


Erin Phillips and Chris Phillips

ERIN PHILLIPS is married to Ottawa Senators defenceman Chris Phillips. They have three young children and are involved with several local charities.

Ideal date: Our evenings are pretty full with the kids’ activities, hockey games and charity events, so our ideal dates are during the day, while the kids are at school, and after practice. One of our favourite things to do is to go to a Scandinavian spa (at Tremblant and now the new BleuSpa in Cantley), followed by a great lunch or early dinner. Can’t beat that day!

Keeping it real: Communicate! With three busy kids and the lifestyle we lead, it’s really important that we are always on the same page. We talk all the time, making sure Chris is involved in everything we decide as a family. This sometimes is tough — he is on the road and needs to focus on his games — but that’s an effort we both make to ensure our family unit is strong.

Favourite time together: Our favourite time together would probably be out at our (Manotick-area) farm with our family. No house, no cell reception, just great outdoor family time.

Biggest challenge: Finding time to be alone. We always want to include our kids because Chris travels so much with work.


Jan Harder and Larry Harding

JAN HARDER, Ottawa city councillor representing Barrhaven, is married to Larry Harding, who is a buyer with Tannis Foods. They have five daughters and six grandchildren.

Ideal date night: We make dinner together with our favourite food.

Keeping it real: We are a team; our love grows as we enjoy our children and our grandchildren. We are very involved in our “babies’” lives and we love that. We figure out ways we can be alone and design that time for when we need it. It may be a weekend away.

Favourite time together: Over a glass of wine, definitely. We chat about the day, about life, the kids and grandkids and work. I make sure not to dump my huge work life on him, but I know, when I need to unload, he is the person I go to. He is the nicest man I know.

Biggest challenge: Time! My life is 24/7, no question, so we value the times we have just doing regular stuff together.


Joan Weinman and Rosemarie Leclair

JOAN WEINMAN, principal at The Melbourne Group, is partnered with Rosemarie Leclair, chair and CEO of the Ontario Energy Board and former CEO of Hydro Ottawa.

Ideal date night: Because of our work lives, we are out all the time. An ideal date night for us is settling down in front of our old stone fireplace after enjoying a home-cooked meal, with a great glass of wine (or two),  with phones, BlackBerries,
iPads and laptops all turned off.

Keeping it real: Share your Pradas willingly. Hold hands every day. Treat every moment like it’s the first moment that took your breath away.

Favourite time together: It’s waking up early in the morning, when the rest of the world is still asleep, and sipping that first cup of steaming coffee and sharing our plans for the day — just the two of us.

Biggest challenge: Spending time together. If it’s not 24/7, it’s not enough time.

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