The subject of today’s blog is the proverbial complaint I’ve heard from almost every wife I’ve ever worked with: “My husband isn’t romantic!”
What follows this first statement is almost always another one like, “He was very romantic while we were dating, but now he’s not.”
Or maybe, “When I complain, he’ll do it for a while but then he slacks off.”
Or even the dreaded, “If he doesn’t care about romance, I shouldn’t have to care about sex.”
If you’ve had any of these thoughts—or have just been missing the romantic partner you used to know, keep reading to explore the difference between sex and romance, YOUR version of what is romantic, four typical arguments about romance, the “Golden Rule” of romance, and some of the necessary ingredients for a romantic marriage.
The Difference Between Sex and Romance
Ladies, let’s get this last one out of the way right now so you can cross it off your list forever. To many men:
ROMANCE = SEX and SEX = ROMANCE
So, in his mind, if you are having sex and you’re having a good time, he’s been sufficiently romantic. It’s not more complicated than that.
Make sense now? If not, don’t ask why; just accept it and let’s move on. It doesn’t mean that you can never have more of your kind of romance, but it does mean that you may need to accept that you and your better half don’t define “romance” in the same way (and that this doesn’t mean his definition is wrong)!
(And, if you’re a guy and you’ve read this far because your WIFE is the one who’s lacking in the romance department, your frustration and sadness is just as real and just as legit. Keep reading . . . because this is for you too!)
What I suggest to these struggling spouses is to work on broadening your concept of what is romantic to you—and romantic to your mate. After all, they’re not a mind-reader. They may need to hear (or be shown) what you want outside the bedroom.
And if what you want is wine, candlelight, and soft music playing in the background every night, I would say that not only is this picture cliche’ and something that will get old by Night 3, but that your imagination is much too limited. Read on.
What Do You Consider “Romantic”?
Before I started writing this article, I made a list of all the things I could think of that Mike has voluntarily done for me in the past week.
This list includes:
>> Making dinner and bringing it to me on the couch when I felt too tired to move
>> Taking my car to get gas so I wouldn’t have to
>> Cutting the tree branches off our porch roof and wedding the planting beds
>> Abandoning his favorite chair and joining me on the couch to watch TV
>> Taking our dogs for a run when I couldn’t make the time
>> Giving me a “happy first date anniversary” card (and I forgot!!)
>> Reminding me of the lovely time we had together on a recent vacation
>> Taking a surprise day off from work to catch up on my “honey-do” list
>> Helping me with tasks associated with our marriage recovery group at church
>> Making his own lunch so I could have our dinner leftovers and not have to make one for myself
And this morning, instead of rolling over and giving me the typical quick squeeze before hopping out of bed, he pulled me close, found my hand, and snuggled for a few minutes. My favorite . . . and so very romantic!
Maybe you don’t think some of these things are romantic, but isn’t romance about focusing on our partners and letting them know they’re special and appreciated? That’s how each one of these things made me feel.
If you’re thinking right now that maybe I just lucked out, believe me. No one who knows my husband well would ever describe Mike as “romantic.” And I mean NO ONE!
Four Typical Arguments
Whenever I point out to my clients that even mundane, everyday things can be seen as romantic, I usually get push-back in one of three ways:
ONE: “Well, my husband/wife doesn’t do things like that!”
If you fall into this category, you need to stretch your mind to think of other things. Unless they are a complete slug, I’m confident that your mate DOES do things for you! They may simply be things that are easily overlooked—either because they are not things YOU would do to show your love or because they have come to be routine and you don’t even ‘see’ them anymore. Another way of saying this is that the things your spouse may be doing for you are things you have come to expect, so they don’t garner any points in the romance department because they aren’t viewed by you as being new, different, or creative (like everything was, by the way, when you were dating). Which leads me to the second argument . . .
TWO: “S/he was sooooo romantic when we were dating! Now I feel like it was a bait and switch.”
The difference between dating and marriage is worth exploring in another article all its own, but suffice it to say that the dizzying, exciting dating period simply cannot be sustained in marriage. “Romance” takes a different form as you begin to navigate life—and all its twists and turns—as a married couple. Dating would quickly cease to be very romantic if you had bills, kids, and chores to deal with. This doesn’t mean marriage is “less than” marriage in any way (and, in fact, quite the opposite!), but at some point you’ll need to accept that dating is very different than marriage, no matter what you see on TV.
THREE: Yet others of you are insisting, “My partner doesn’t do these things around the house for me; they HAVE to be done anyway!”
Yes, maybe they do, but the fact is that you would have to do them if they didn’t, and they truly believe they ARE doing some of these things just for you. (I know this because Mike led me outside to look at the porch roof and explained, in detail, how it would be a LONG time before I’d have to worry about this again).
FOUR: Finally, a few of you who are really relationship-savvy will say something like, “My husband should know my ‘love language’ and show me love that way.”
I get that: most of us give love in the ways we’d like to receive it, whether in the form of quality time, gifts, physical touch, acts of service, or words of affirmation. But remember that the same goes for your spouse. Look closely at what your mate is trying to “say” through their words and actions and see if they aren’t falling into the trap of only conveying love (a.k.a., “romance”) in the way that comes most naturally to them.
Do you believe “romance” is proof of your mate’s love for you?
If so, you need to read this article!
The Golden Rule of Romance
One last thing we simply can’t get around related to #4 above is the question of whether or not YOU are showing your partner what you’d like by doing things for THEM.
I’ll never forget the litany of complaints I was raising against Mike one day about all the things he wasn’t doing for me, when he stopped me and asked, “Not to turn this back on you (as he was about to), but when was the last time you did any of those things for ME?”
It stopped me cold. And, as much as I hated to admit it, he was RIGHT.
The point here is that, if you want your mate to be more romantic—whatever that means to you—you may have to step up to the plate and:
>> Be more outwardly thankful for what they ARE doing for you, even if these things fall outside your personal definition of what is romantic.
>> Start doing things for them that will take them by surprise and make them think twice.
>> Model what you want by choosing things that fit THEIR definition of romance, even if they don’t fit yours.
>> See the everyday things you do as romantic, if done with the right motive and attitude.
Focus on JUST these 4 things for a few weeks and see what happens. You may be surprised at how very romantic your spouse becomes!
The Recipe for Romance
Just like you need specific ingredients to make a cake, romance requires certain conditions to exist and grow. If you’re truly concerned about this aspect of your marriage, start with some introspection and answering these questions:
>> How would you rate your overall communication as a couple?
>> How much quality time do you spend together during the week?
>> In what areas have you become complacent in your relationship?
>> How are the levels of trust, respect, and intimacy in your marriage?
>> Are lingering resentments or unresolved conflict present in your relationship?
>> Are one or both of you struggling with stress outside your marriage?
>> What distractions or commitments do you need to say ‘no’ to in order to say ‘yes’ to your marriage?
A lack of romance is a common complaint in many marriages, sometimes because one partner or the other has unrealistic expectations based on their dating experience or different views on romance vs. sex. To improve the romance factor in your marriage, look at how your spouse may be trying to convey love and affection for you, even if it isn’t in ways you would prefer. Going the extra mile to do things for your spouse that they will enjoy to demonstrate how much you love and appreciate them can spark romance. Even everyday, mundane tasks can be seen as romantic if done with the right motive and attitude. Finally, evaluating other aspects of your relationship may reveal areas you need to work on before romance can emerge on its own.
If you’d like help to turn the heat up in your relationship, why not get a tune-up? Simply to go marriagemojo.com/schedule to get on my calendar and start taking your marriage from “better or worse” to “better and better”!
This article was originally published on July 5, 2018 but has been updated and expanded for this release.