“During the time we were just dating, he would buy me flowers, or surprise me with special little gifts out of the blue,” said one spouse we interviewed, “but now after so many years of marriage, he’s just not that romantic and he doesn’t do anything spontaneous anymore.”
Married couples tend to disagree about a lot of things – how to raise the children, how much money to spend on vacations, chore responsibilities, you name it – but one thing that they seem to all agree on is the belief that the key to maintaining a happy relationship is keeping the romance alive. Of course, romance isn’t the only thing that holds a marriage together, (there’s shared values, common interests, mutual respect, etc.), but couples that report being fulfilled over the years repeatedly cite romance as a key ingredient to their satisfaction.
The problem is that romance, much like the rose used to symbolize it, has a life cycle of its own, and time represents its worst enemy. Romantic gestures start out strong during court-ship when love is new and the goal is to win over the potential mate. Gradually, as the relationship settles into that dreaded comfort zone, each partners doesn’t feel compelled to exert themselves for the relationship as they’d done in the beginning. The need to impress or hold on to our partner is no longer a motivating factor. The result is that romance fades to the background as the relationship settles into predictable patterns and the ebb and flow of life take over. Predictability kills romance! However, it needn’t be this way and you can take steps to keep the sparkle in your relationship.
But what is romance and why do we women care so much about it? Romantic comedies like Sleepless in Seattle, Ghost or The Titanic have become timeless classics because they speak to a need we have of loving and being loved in a deep and meaningful way. Romance are those gestures, words and actions that make a person feel loved. The fulfillment of this need becomes crucial to the relationship, especially as time passes and our looks fade along with our libido.
According to Gary Chapman, author of The Five Love Languages, every person has a unique language through which they feel loved. For some people they feel loved through words of affirmation such as “I appreciate you” and “You’re such a great cook, I love how much care you put into our meals”. For others their language is acts of service, and they feel loved when their partner cleans the house or gets the oil changed in their car, for instance. Still others it is receiving gifts. The two remaining love languages have to do with quality time and physical touch.
Essentially, if you are a person who feels loved through quality time, and your spouse brings you gifts as a gesture of love, then both of you will be unfulfilled because you are speaking at odds with each other’s language. Perhaps your spouse is giving you a gift because receiving gifts might be her own language of affection. The key is for each person to learn the other’s love language and take every opportunity to speak the language that their partner receives deep within. That may be what ultimately determines romantic longevity for a marriage – that when we take the time to perform acts of love, the person on the receiving end will receive it also as an act of love.