The sky is the limit when it comes to romance. The word romance elicits a multitude of images to travel through our minds - roses, poetry, sunsets, getaways, candlelit dinners, and the list goes on and on. Running out of ideas is not what stops us from achieving romance (all you need to do is browse the countless web sites on the Internet for tips); what stops us is a lack of time and energy. Between work, bills, groceries, family, homework, dinner, exercise and social events, let alone the emotional burden of making sure everybody around us is happy, it is practically impossible to even get in the mood. The reality is that it is not that hard to lose enthusiasm for romance, since there is only so much a person can do in 24 hours.
Even if we did manage to make time for romance, it would be shocking if no interruptions occurred, especially if children are living under the same roof. To prove this point, in a survey that I conducted, both men and women did rate distractions such as kids, work, and family obligations as the number one reason hindering their romance, even higher than lack of time.
It is undeniably easier for newlyweds to engage in romantic activities, provided that love is present, than couples who have been married for 10, 20 or 40 years! The challenge is how can you keep the spark ignited when the freshness, excitement and novelty wear off? It is inevitable that the flame will dwindle with time; however, try to make sure that your marriage does not get so cold that it turns to ice. There is no doubt that a complete lack of romance will cause a union to be dead and that the hustle and bustle of everyday life makes it difficult to fit in romance. Nonetheless, it is imperative to rekindle romance and bring it back to life. Both men and women in my survey could not agree more, responding that it is indeed important to have a romantic partner. Read more about the survey and learn the do's and don'ts to keep romance alive in your marriage.
Before labeling your partner as unromantic, make sure that you even know what your definition of romance is. Some people do not really know what they want and enjoy complaining that their partner is not romantic enough. Surely, we all have experienced, at one point or another, an outing where friends openly speak about how unromantic their partners are. In fact, sometimes these gatherings can turn into 'who has the worst spouse in the romance department' competition. Sadly, many times the friends know about the dissatisfaction before even the spouse knows. It is natural to yearn for romance and it is not wrong to confide in friends; however, make sure to communicate any concerns with your spouse, not just to your friends. Even sillier, some people expect their spouse to 'just know' or to mind read. Do not assume your spouse knows what you want. Indecisiveness, complaints and a lack of communication may be the things putting a damper on romance in your life. Know what exactly makes you happy (not what others think should make you happy), communicate them with your spouse and realize that complaining never really solves anything.
# 2 Find time for each other
This is easier said than done; however, make sure to plan dates with your spouse by going tete-a-tete and having heart-to-heart talks. Even though nothing is wrong with going out in groups and maintaining an active social life, learn to say 'no' to friends and use the alone time to nurture and revive the relationship. In fact, in my survey, men and women both ranked the gift of spending time with each other as the most romantic gift; better than love letters, roses, expensive items and even gifts that they really wanted.
We tend to think of romance as something that is too burdensome and requires planning but it can be integrated into day-to-day life without too much effort. Romance does not have to be a long drawn out planned ordeal. The majority of survey respondents agreed with 71 per cent of men and 66 per cent of women thinking that romance did not require planning.
Furthermore, women ranked receiving unexpected gestures such as a kiss, hug or 'I love you' SMS as the most romantic and ranked being occasionally surprised with gifts the lowest. You see how miscommunication can affect romance? Men are led to believe, by the media, commercials and magazines, that surprising their partners with gifts, is the key to a woman's heart, when in reality, it could just be a spontaneous gesture that will bring a smile to your partner's face. In addition, romance is not always about fancy outings; sometimes, having an intimate talk with your spouse in the car after the outing is more romantic than the actual outing. Spoil your spouse with the gift of time by making it a point to find it.
#3 Give compliments
Tell your spouse when he/she looks nice when dressed up. However, do not give appearance-based compliments only; praise him/her when he/she impresses you, supports you and even when listening to you. If your spouse is a good listener, unconditionally loves you or gives you his/her utmost emotional support, show your appreciation by saying 'thank you' once in a while and never take your spouse for granted; these traits are not easy to find and are considered romantic. By the same token, complimenting instills confidence and raises motivation to be romantic. Making your partner happy will, in turn, make you happy because chances are he/she will reciprocate, thereby making the bond stronger. Make sure your partner feels admired, adored and appreciated. In my survey, both men and women ranked receiving compliments that are truly meant as more romantic than feeling like a prince or princess, signifying the importance of complimenting while being genuine at the same time.
#4 Learn how to be romantic
Did you ever wonder if being romantic comes more natural to some than others? I do not know if a romantic gene exists out there... if whether some people are more genetically prone to be romantic, while others may not have a single romantic bone in their body. For example, unconditional love takes work, especially for perfectionist personalities who have trouble 'letting go'. They might miss out on opportunities to achieve romance because it is difficult for them to see anything less than perfect; they may have to try extra hard or train themselves to accept their partner's faults in order to experience romance, rather than it coming naturally. There is no doubt that some people may be more inherently romantic than others, but romance can definitely be learned. In fact, 46 per cent of females thought that romance can be learned while a higher percentage of males, 52 per cent, believed it could be learned. Interestingly, more women than men thought that romance is a trait someone is born with. With that being said, there is neither a magic potion you need to possess nor something extraordinary you need to have in order for sparks to fly.
There is no special way to be romantic - there is no right or wrong way. According to the website Dictionary.com, romance is 'an ardent emotional attachment or involvement between people', which holds such a broad definition that it can mean absolutely anything! Knowing and acknowledging your partner's likes and dislikes, in and of its self, can be romantic. Honesty, empathy and open-mindedness can be romantic, not just material things. Sometimes, the way a gift is presented is more romantic than the actual gift. Pay attention when your partner expresses interest in something, like a CD, movie or a book. Isn't it more romantic to get what you really want, even if it's simple, rather than getting a random not-thought-about expensive item? In fact, in my survey both men and women ranked receiving a gift you always wanted as more romantic than an expensive one. Getting something of extreme interest is a sign that your partner really pays attention to you, and is not just trying to appease you.
#5 Accept your partner
Do not try to turn your partner into something they could never be or try to change something that cannot be changed. For example, if you secretly always wanted a taller or more intelligent partner, just keep your thoughts to yourself to avoid creating unnecessary insecurities. Always look at your partner in a positive light and you might see romance begin to sizzle. If you try to program your mind to see the good in things, you will see your partner as more romantic. Try to accept and understand the needs of your partner. Sometimes, a person just admitting when he/she is wrong can be a romantic gesture; it would not be surprising if there was a study out there showing that a give-and-take relationship had more romance than a stubborn one-sided one. If there is no acceptance, there is no compromise; if there is no compromise, there is no romance. If your partner tries to be romantic, never put he/she down by saying 'it is not good enough'; this will surely kill any desire for your partner to be romantic in the future with you. Romance is a mutual effort - it should not lie on just one person's shoulder. Do not just wait around for your partner to be romantic because you might be waiting a long time; take the initiate to be romantic because romance breeds more romance. If you know that your partner is going through a difficult time, do not expect the romance to be on high gear. Sometimes, just showing support will lead to a spontaneous romantic move when you least expect it!
#1 Be boring
Do not be rigid with your perceptions of romance - they change with time, should be flexible and are individualistic. Defining romance is one of the hardest things to do and there are an infinite number of ways to describe it. Did you ever think that having a nice conversation could be a romantic moment? Eloquently put, Andre Maurois's quote reads: 'A happy marriage is a long conversation which always seems too short'. When surveyed, 65 per cent of men and exactly the same percentage of women voted 'yes' to this quote when asked if it was romantic. A further finding which is not unexpected, given that we associate flowers with females, was that men ranked having a deep conversation in the car as more romantic than being surprised by flowers; however, women, on the other hand, ranked flowers almost the same as a meaningful talk! To add salt to the wound, women even ranked watching a movie together with their partners as less romantic than getting flowers. I guess this is why florist shops, probably, make a lot of money. No offense to flowers as they are beautiful and lovely; however, there is also nothing wrong with changing it up a little and branching out into new territory.
#2 Be materialistic
Do not expect the world from your partner. If you do not expect much, you will not get disappointed. Be realistic. Do not always expect an expensive gift from your partner because if your idea of romantic is only based on material things, you might be disappointed, especially that times might be tight during this economic downturn. Do not expect your partner to do what celebrities do for their significant others. Be aware of your partner's financial status and try to be understanding. Keep in mind, even if you can afford it, that romance is not measured by cost or how fancy something is, but by how much meaning something holds and how relevant it is to that person. It is also not about abundance: women ranked a single rose equally romantic as a dozen roses, while men ranked a single rose as more special than a dozen. Try not to get side-tracked with material things, because you might lose the real significance of romance.
Do not compare the romantic level of your partner with other people because you might be overlooking something very special in your partner. What is romantic to you might be so unromantic to somebody else. For example, one person might think that the most romantic gesture is to send roses to their partner's work, whereas, another person might get embarrassed if roses were sent. If you think flowers and going out to fancy places are not romantic, do not force it because other people might think they are. You cannot compare romance between people because it is like comparing apples and oranges. The meaning of romance can range from somebody who thinks being showered with gifts is a must all the way to somebody who thinks that being called a silly nickname is romantic. As you can imagine, everybody holds their own idea of what tickles their fancy.
#4 Think of romance as fairy tales
Starting from childhood, we have been indoctrinated by pop culture, soap operas, film and television to believe that romance is when a prince falls madly in love with a princess, goes off into the sunset together, and lives happily ever after. This could not be further from the truth. If you are dreaming of a Prince Charming, you are setting yourself up for disappointment. Let's face it - more women than men wish to have that perfect mate to sweep them off their feet; whereas, men seem to be a bit more realistic. Twenty-nine percent of men said 'yes' when asked if their partners had unrealistic expectations, while only 22 percent of women voted 'yes'. However, oftentimes, men do have unrealistic expectations where the wife must be perfect in everything - good looking, good cook, good lover, and a good mother. Marriage and romance is not easy, takes work and you should not use fairy tales as your guide to romance. Holding unrealistic views of romance can leave a person feeling unloved, lonely and even deceived if the fantasized expectations are not met. Fairy tales are not meant to be real; they are make-believe stories that are entertainment for our children, not a manual for romance.
#5 Think romance is hard
Marriage can get monotonous and mundane and even hectic while trying to juggle between romance, kids and career. Try to get out of the same routine and take a break once in a while. Take a trip, have a picnic outside, go for a walk or just send the children to grandma's house for a change - whatever it is, try to do something different. Although very easy to do, avoid falling into a stagnant 'we are together only for the kids' kind of marriage by keeping your relationship fulfilling, exciting and alive. Sometimes, it seems as if romance in marriages is a rare commodity, and this is because romance, oftentimes, is perceived as hard work. A staggering ninety per cent of females, in my survey, voted 'yes' when asked if a couple must work hard in keeping romance, while 77 per cent of males thought it was hard. Here is a thought to ponder... given that the majority of respondents voted that romance did not require planning, then why should it be viewed as hard work to maintain? Maybe if we changed our thinking patterns and did not view romance as such a huge task, maybe we can do more of it.
Try not to put romance on the back burner because you think it is too cumbersome. Remember that when it comes to romance, it is not about the big things, it is the little things that count when it comes to making your partner feel loved, special and desired. Check out all the complete survey results on my blog. Maybe the results will shed some light on how romance is perceived and - not perceived. Your perspective on how men and women view romance might even be changed. The results speak for themselves.
Dr Sandy Zabaneh is a US board-certified Doctor in Pharmacy who holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology, as well as a Bachelor of Science degree in Physiology from University of California, Davis. She is the Health Editor of U Magazine, clinical pharmacy consultant and life coach. Dr Sandy likes to follow the motto set forth by the World Health Organization in 1948: Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity. Check out her blog at http://www.sandyzabanehblog.com