Romance can be defined in a number of ways. Emotionally, romance is the feeling of excitement experienced in a loving relationship. Behaviorally, romance is a special outward expression of love experienced in an intimate relationship. The first, you develop within yourself and the second you share with another person. One thing that I know about romance is that the term has become very ambiguous in its use in our society. So the first thing that I would suggest in order to keep romance alive in your marriage is limiting the use of the word. Instead of using “romance” in your discussion with your spouse try being specific and descriptive with your wants and desires.
Yes, I said discussion, with your spouse, about romance. Many people think that it is not romantic if you have to discuss it. This is one of the great myths imposed on our society by Hollywood. The idea that “romance” must be spontaneous and natural to be “real” is very dangerous in a relationship. So the first key to keeping romance – emotional and behavioral – alive in your marriage is open communication.
It is very important to understand that good, effective, romance making communication is made up of two equal parts. Speaking and Listening. Use your words to honestly talk to your spouse about your wants, desires and even your fantasies. Be sure to express your desires etc. to your spouse rather than focusing on what he/she is doing wrong or “needs to do differently.” For example, “I would really like it if we could…” or “I have always wanted to try…”
If you want to ensure the emotional excitement remains strong in your marriage, remember the importance of giving daily compliments to your spouse. Research is very clear that if you deliberately look for things your spouse is doing well and tell him/her that you notice, both of you will experience “good feelings” as a result. “I really like the way you _____ when we were at dinner.” Or “When you __________ that feels really good.”
The second equal part of good, effective, romance making communication is listening. Effective active listening is a skill that very few people come by naturally. You may need to read a book or attend a marriage enrichment weekend or even a few sessions with a relationship counselor (Such as the ones at CFI) to gain more knowledge about this tool. However, it is beneficial to remember this: Always listen to your spouse’s wants, desires and fantasies with a non-judgmental ear. Never respond critically to your spouse when he/she is being open and honest with you. There are few things better than never having to guess what your spouse wants or desires. And if you shoot him/her down when they try to tell you, guessing is what you will be left with.
As part of your open and honest communication, include discussion about your expectations. This goes hand in hand with your desires. However, unlike desires, you may not always be fully aware of your expectations. So, become aware of your expectations, then talk about them. You may find that your expectations for your spouse are unrealistic, in which case you can work together to develop a more realistic plan. Many times, simply making your spouse aware of your expectations in an assertive, non-demanding way will go a long way to getting them met. An excellent resource for this is The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman. Recognition that you and your spouse have different, but equally important desires for expressing and receiving love is very important to keeping the romantic spark in marriage.
Finally, any information on “romance” in marriage would be incomplete without two of the most important aspects of lasting love: Quality Time Alone and Physical Touch. Romance and friendship go hand in hand. You cannot achieve romantic love without friendship. And you cannot achieve true, loving friendship without spending time together. Of course I am not talking about everyday activity time together either. I am talking about fun, relaxing, quality time together. Regular date nights (does not have to be expensive), special traditions, even walks around the block discussing things you enjoy about your relationship, would fall under the quality time together category.
Quality time builds the friendship needed as the foundation of romance in a marriage. Special physical intimacy sets the relationship apart from every other relationship in your life. You know where this is going. SEX. Sex is very important to maintaining romance in marriage. But I am not just talking about sexual intercourse. There is so much more available. I am talking about sexual intimacy. This requires a deep knowledge of your spouse unlike any your other relationships. To achieve this you need all of the topics discussed above; Open communication; discussion about realistic expectations, desires and fantasies; a great deal of time getting to know one another in this physical way. Research shows unquestionably that married people have better sex than single people. Why? Because we take the time necessary to do it right and build that intimacy.
In most areas of life, routine is an essential method of reducing stress. However, in marriage, routine can be a romance killer. You’ve heard “Variety is the spice of life.” This is absolutely true with regards to marriage. If you find yourself in a routine (also known as a rut) in your romantic life, talk with your spouse about adding variety. Try new places to eat on date night, or different days of the week for date night. Try having date night during the day. Spice up the bedroom by experimenting with new “techniques” – frequently. Since the audience reading this may vary, I won’t go into much detail about this, but variations in the “When, Where and How” will go a long way to adding to the sexual intimacy and romantic experience in your marriage.
Romance, both emotionally and behaviorally is very important to the health of your marriage. This article only scratches the surface of the myriad of things to consider in order to keep that “spark” alive. But one thing is certain; Romance does not just happen. Romance in marriage takes time. Time to effectively communicate, time together, time to get to know one another and enjoy one another. If you and or your spouse are not “feeling” that romantic spark anymore, please understand that it is not because you are not meant for each other or that you do not love that other person. It simply means that the tools necessary for maintaining romance in the marriage are not being utilized. You can get those tools and use those tools to re-kindle that flame that you desire.