What does romance mean? No matter how many dictionaries you consult, you’ll get a lot of different definitions. But essentially, romance relates to the feelings of pleasure and comfort, or even mystery and longing, that are associated with a person you love and are in a relationship with. Romance, for our purposes, relates to the language of love and how we speak it.
Your idea of romance may be different from mine, and more importantly, it may be different from that of your partner. Giving a little thought to romance is a good idea if you are in a relationship. (Note: romance, whether noun, verb, or adjective, is not the same as “romanticize,” which means to have an idealized—aka unrealistically favorable—view of another person.)
Who do you think is more romantic, men or women? If you guessed men, you are right! Research indicates that men, overall, tend to engage more in romantic behaviors, think more romantically, and give the notion of romance more weight than women do. (Go figure.)
Gary Chapman’s five love languages (which he discusses in his book by the same name) are filled with romantic gestures. For example:
- Words. Affirming words, including compliments (the sincere kind) and words of encouragement, are a way to romance your loved one. When your partner has a bad day, the sweet reassurance you offer is part of the language of love and important to a romantic connection.
- Time. Time spent can equal romance for sure, when it is “quality time” and is focused on one another. If you have your partner’s undivided attention, that feels pretty good, right? It’s an important part of romantic love.
- Gifts. A player can give a heart-shaped box of candy to each of his 5 girlfriends and that won’t be romantic, though they may be fooled for a little while. But the giving of a thoughtful gift—and it does not have to be big—is like saying “I see you; I know you; I love you.” (If my guy stops off at the local coffee shop for a latte just the way I like it—that is enough to get my heart pitter-patting!)
- Help. Again—it’s partly about paying attention. If your partner sees you are running late and walks the dog for you, even though it’s normally your chore in the mornings—that is part of romance. It is a gesture that has meaning because it genuinely makes things better for you.
- Touch. There is often more romance in hand-holding than in sex, though love-making can be powerfully romantic as well. Simple touch—whether it is sex, hand-holding, an arm around the waist, or kissing is a vital part of the love-language, and of romance.
Is romance important? Good question. Many people would enthusiastically shout, “Yes” to that question. We are programed, by literature, film, Western tradition, to believe in the power of romance. There are people, however, for whom romance just doesn’t track. But even they can learn to “do romance.”
In the beginning stage of love, romance can really spark a relationship. Actions really do speak louder than words, and confirm that we are being truly seen and appreciated in a way that words cannot. Words, alas, are all too easy. Romantic actions—showing our loved ones that we are thinking of them, we like them, and want to spend more time with them—move a relationship along.
Romance later on, in the more mature stage of love, can reinforce the bonds in a relationship. Those romantic actions may be slightly different later on, but their impact is still significant. They show our loved ones how much they mean to us, that the more we know them, the more we love them.
Romance and love are not the same things, yet they are linked in our minds. It is worth pointing out how they differ.
Love is a feeling. It combines intimacy (based on trust), commitment, attachment, and emotional and physical passion. Romance is a gesture or action. It demonstrates a feeling for someone.
Want more romance in your relationship? You’re in luck. Though you can’t make love exist where it does not, you can make romance happen by doing certain things. If you want to show the person you love how you feel, and ramp up the romance in your relationship, start by thinking about him or her. What would be meaningful to your partner? If you love backpacking, surprising your husband with a three day trip will not be romantic if he hates backpacking. What would work better?
Romance can be a grand gesture—tickets to Paris—or a small one—“I love you” scrawled in lipstick on the bathroom mirror. Romance can be special—breakfast in bed now and then—or everyday—helping with dinner clean up even though it’s not really “your job.” Romance can be thrilling—a balloon ride—or quiet—handmade hors d’oeuvres by the fire on a Friday evening.
Whatever your version of romance turns out to be—the payoff is worth it. You and your partner will be flooded with all the yummy feelings that come along with romancing. Let me know how romance turns out for you! I’ll look forward to hearing your stories.