Doing Family Right

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Marriage: Are You Romantically Challenged?

There are few things in life that compare with being “in love”. Occupying the center of another person’s universe is an emotional ecstasy as addicting as any drug. It’s simply amazing to be wanted, pursued and valued. That wonderful feeling is innate to all of us.

Once we have experienced this healthy sense of loving and being loved, we long for it. We learn all we can about love. Innocently, we begin to play the romance game with notes, gifts, flowers and more. We learn to turn on the charm when we want to impress someone. We put our best foot forward on every date. We give gestures of affection and lots of attention. And…it works.

But when romance starts to feel like a game, it puts a bad taste in people’s mouths. Too often, one’s charm is deceitful. It can be doing what you do to get what you want. That, of course, is manipulation. If romance is like bait in sport fishing, we swim away to avoid being reeled in as someone’s trophy catch. We want to be loved for who we are.

This kind of self-centered romance is both fleeting and defeating. It is the stuff upon which flings and one-night stands are made of but not a lasting marriage. Forming a relationship around a passing, insincere attraction doesn’t create lasting loving bonds. So should romance be abandoned? Hold on.

It’s true that the euphoria of being “in love” with its huge doses of romance can be an infatuation that is short-lived. Once the ideal catch is landed, the pursuit is often over. No more bait is needed. Romantic actions fade and soon the romance dies. Relational research shows that the rush of emotional adrenaline – the romantic “in love” feeling – lasts an average of 18 months into the marriage. What then?

Do we trust the wisdom of romance in marriage? Is it valid or dangerous? I’m going to argue that romance is measured primarily by its motives. Healthy romance is about the other person first and foremost. It is giving. Unhealthy romance is about me – now and forever. It is taking.

Naturally, we long to be loved in return for our romantic pursuit. But healthy romance is an unadulterated gesture of loving the person for who they are and not what we get in return. Real love is about volition, not coercion. Authentic romance reflects this.

But what about for those people who are romantically challenged?

Can we still learn to do romance right? I think so. First, let’s make sure we are on the same page. To me, romance is the expression of tender emotions and thoughtful gestures of devotion. It is the intentional and intense adventure that confirms attraction and creates attachment. To master this art for those who are romantically challenged, we would be wise to focus on the following principles.

Romance is ESSENTIAL. It keeps your love alive. Special treatment of your spouse is what drew you together. Don’t make assumptions. The deterioration of a relationship begins when you start taking your partner for granted. Ongoing affirmation of love creates a security and a closeness that make for a good marriage. Keep pampering, talking, flirting, and engaging as friends and lovers.

Romance is EFFORT. Make no mistake. Romance is work but it has its rewards. It involves making intentional and consistent attempts to express your devotion. To romance well, you go out of your way to show kindness and even practical help. Send her away while you watch the kids. Wash his car. Write a note. You simply must go out of your way to express love.

Romance is EXCLUSIVE. The heart of romance is the unique focus on one person above all others. If you are showing affection to many you are not romantic, you are a flirt and a cavalier. Real love is single-minded. There are no rivals. The ring on the finger says so. You think about them when not with them scheming about your next romantic expression that will confirm your loyalty.

Romance is EXTRAVAGENT. The trivial can become significant. Little details matter. Time in travel doesn’t matter. Denying yourself is normal. Saving extra to lavish a big surprise is common. Healthy romance is impractical, over the top and yet perfect because you know your spouse so well. You write a song or plan an evening. You surprise them with a getaway overnight. You lavish your love even if it seems crazy to others.

Romance is ENTICING. It keeps your spouse coming back to you. Romance is attractive. To feel wanted, appreciated and exclusive is what we all crave. It is as predictable as a moth to a porch light. The draw of attention and affection will keep your marriage strong to last long. You’ll never regret any efforts you make towards romancing your partner.

Romance is ENDANGERED. You may say, “I’m not romantic”. I challenge you that lack of romantic intention is both careless and dangerous neglect. Love always takes an effort. Turn this trend on romanceless relationships around by first refocusing your own commitment to love in details. Then, model a crazy, engaging romantic kind of love in front of your kids and your friendship network. You’ll never regret putting you marital romance first. Psssst…by the way, use Valentine’s Day to romance well this year.

© Dr. Dave Currie – January 2011

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