In premarital counseling, I really enjoy asking questions. Jesus seemed to be great at it and, I feel, was an effective tool in helping people learn about the Kingdom. So I find myself asking a wide-range of questions, not so that I can give an answer, but to give a couple an opportunity to think deeply about some issues that they may or may not have even pondered.
One of my favorite questions to ask is, “What is romance?” (It’s a bit harder than you think.)
Most guys (conservatively saying, 90% of them) want their ladies to answer first, and then reply, “everything she said…that’s what I think too.”
Which is precisely why I don’t let the ladies answer first anymore. I’ve learned that I enjoy hearing the guys give me their take on “romance” as to what it is and/or what that looks like. Most of the time I hear things like, “a movie, flowers, chocolate” and other staple answers. I’m not saying those are bad whatsoever, but they seem to be the “default” or the “go-to answers.” (BTW: I was that guy 19 years ago.)
But more often than not, their female counterparts have a “look” on their face when those “default answers” are given. Then a conversation unfolds before me with statements like,
“That’s nice, but it’s not really romantic?”
“Wait, you don’t think that’s romantic?”
“That may be romantic to you.”
“I guess that’s okay…I have fun…but I find _________ romantic.”
“So you haven’t enjoyed what I’ve done? Are you’re saying I’m not romantic?”
A simple question, with what seemingly had a simple answer, turned into a conversation that revealed two elements that deteriorate romance: Assumption and miscommunication. And usually, BOTH parties are a bit guilty of indulging in both elements on this very important subject. My simple question helps create revelation and warning that romance, if not monitored, can fade away in marriage.
My simple definition:
Romance: Selflessly serving your spouse’s love language.
**NOTE: I wish I didn’t have to use the word “selflessly” as “serving” should indicate everything needed to approach your partner. But it seems, more and more, I find couples only “serve” their spouse in order to get something back. If serving your spouse is based upon what you are going to receive, it’s not serving that you’re doing, it’s manipulation. So I added the “selflessly” to reinforce the Christ-like heart and approach we should have. Jesus didn’t give based upon our response. He selflessly gave (served us) because of His immense love for us (Romans 5:8).
So on the most romantic holiday (according to Hallmark), I thought I’d give you a few thoughts on growing and maintaining the romance in your marriage.
Breach the subject.
Simply said, “TALK ABOUT IT.” Assumption gives access to idle thoughts. And idle thoughts have a way of seeding false senses of discontent, frustration, and anger. Often I hear things like, “well, he/she should know what I like.” While that may or may not be true, leaving your spouse in the dark purposely only invites the darkness into your marriage. The lack of knowledge your spouse may have on what romances you may have nothing to do with their intelligence but the lack of effective and healthy communication from the both of you.
Be the one to step up first.
Lead the way in selflessly serving your spouse. If you’re waiting for him/her to make the first move, your motivation isn’t serving, it’s getting. Now don’t get me wrong, the serving should go both ways. And in time, I’d hope that through communication (and potentially some help from a marriage resource), some good, healthy serving habits would develop in the both of you. But stubbornness about being the initiator may feel justified in the moment, but it leaves you both empty, hurting, and vulnerable. Simply said: If you both are selflessly serving, your love tanks will stay full.
Recognize that your ideas of romance may not be your spouse’s idea of romance.
I spent unbelievable amounts of money on flowers in the three years of dating Anne. Later, I found out, while she very much appreciated them, they were not as big of a deal as I thought they were. And simple conversation in the sweetest tone AND in the proper timing from her switched my romantic approach (not to mention saved me money). I find many couples in the same boat. And the remedy for that: A conversation with the proper timing, tone, and technique can help pave the way for healthy romance.
Don’t assume your spouse still has the same love language.
Romance has a tendency to evolve. And it’s the seasons of life that tends to be the thing that shifts a person’s love languages. Pre-kids, we both were very high on “physical touch.” After Cammi was born, “quality time” became the vocabulary of my wife’s heart. And what we’ve noticed is, through the past almost 19 years, the evolution of the love languages of David and Anne. Romance doesn’t have to fade, but it does changes through the seasons. While our top love languages haven’t budged, we’ve seen the others (words of affirmation, quality time, and gifts) morph into greater and lesser importance.
Find your joy in your spouse’s fulfillment.
It’s not going to feel romantic to your spouse if you look and/or sound miserable while communicating your spouse’s love language. For example, I think I’ve ruined a few “quality time” moments shopping with Anne because I was so bored. I was happy to be with her, but the loud “sighing” and “grumbling” ruined any enjoyment she was having. Learn to love, not by what you receive, but by what your spouse is receiving. When the end-game of your romance is your spouse’s fulfillment, you’ll discover a deep level of marital fulfillment and health only experienced when two people serve each other.
Although I do want you to have a great Valentines day, I would hope that this blog may set your feet on a greater path so your romance isn’t relegated to a holiday or when you want your needs met. I pray that you will be that spouse in your marriage that leads the way in selflessly serving your spouse’s love language.
Thanks for letting me ramble…