Ignite The Spark At Any Stage Of Your Relationship
By the time today is finished, over three million people worldwide will have done the same thing: they will all have gone on first dates. These brave souls will put themselves out there. Risking their hearts, spending their time (and cash) in the pursuit of that elusive adventure… romance.
Of course, not all these first-time daters will be successful in their quests. Romance isn't easy! More than a few of these meet-ups will turn out to be hilarious disasters, and will become stories shared only with close friends.
Other dates will lead to marriage, to family, and to a lifetime of love.
Whatever the outcome, the longing for romance is a common theme throughout most people's lives. People from all backgrounds and cultures will go to great lengths to find it. And even in relationships where romance fades, the desire for romance rarely does.
Love is all you need ~ The Beatles
People want to stay in love forever. And who can blame them?
Neurologically speaking, romantic love has an almost addictive quality. Researchers have found that being in love is not so different from using cocaine. So it's no wonder people keep coming back to get their fix.
Kings and queens have gone to war because of it. Poets and artists have spent their lives writing about it. Seemingly ordinary men and women have risked everything (to the point of life and limb) in its pursuit.
And yet, despite this intense power that romance wields, there are so many stories of how it fades.
So often, the flame of romance dims, flickers, and ultimately goes out.
Even when a relationship reaches the stage of marriage, there is no guarantee that the newlyweds will maintain a healthy romance over the long haul. There are over 2 million weddings annually in the United States, but roughly 40% of those (800,000) will end in divorce.
You would think that something that has such potency that would last forever. Especially when people go to such great lengths to find it. You assume most of them don't make their wedding vows expecting to get divorced. So what changes?
If people feel that strongly, why does the feeling then disappear?
What is this mysterious thing called romance?
If you have it, how do you keep it?
And if you are in the process of losing it… how do you get it back before it's too late?
What Is Romance, Anyway?
If you were to ask a dozen strangers what romance means, you'd probably get a dozen different answers. No two people are precisely the same in what they consider romantic. And while the feeling of “being in love” is a thing many people will experience, it's complicated and difficult to define.
This holds true especially if you quiz both men and women. There's a well-documented history of difficulty getting on the same page in this regard, and in many ways, the “battle of the sexes” may well be described more as a series of miscommunications.
People often ask, “how can I be romantic with my partner?”
If everyone had a solid, common idea of what romance was, no one would need to ask this!
This Ain't It
But before we get into trying to figure out what romance IS, let's see if we can narrow it down a bit by asking what romance ISN'T.
...Is It Love?
Romance doesn't necessarily mean the same thing as love. After all, people who feel the romance has died in their relationship often love the other person just as much (or even more) as when they were first falling for each other. That's why you get people saying things like, “I still love him, but it just seems like there's no spark any more…”
...Is This The One For Me?
Romance also doesn't necessarily mean compatibility. People might have a tempestuous romance only to part ways after a short time. The high-adrenaline rush of a short term fling might be very romantic, but that doesn't mean that the relationship is meant to last.
...Is It Destiny?
“Falling in love” is something that can change our outlook on reality, because it is such a potent feeling. But just because we feel that way doesn't mean that anything is guaranteed to happen because of it. The other person might not reciprocate our feelings, or might not want the same things that we do.
So that brings us to figuring out what romance is, and that's a bit more difficult.
After all, we can't see it. Only feel it.
We can all agree that a rose is a rose. We can look at it, point to it, and touch it. We have an exact scientific definition. But romance is a feeling that takes place inside a person. It's tough to define because different people feel it in different ways. It changes for each individual.
One of the side effects of this is that people often are surprised when their partner doesn't act as they expected.
Say you're the type of person who gives a lot of compliments and needs a lot of verbal reassurance. Your partner might not care about that so much… and might even consider too much talking to be overly sentimental and NOT romantic.
This might leave you to wonder: does my partner really love me as much as I love them?
Ok, so there's a lot of opportunity for confusion here. But, there are also a few common points that most people seem to agree on, regardless of their backgrounds.
Romance is exciting.
“Romance” has a sort of electric energy to it. It is not necessarily the exact same thing as love, although in a healthy relationship there is usually an overlap. Romance has the capacity to make us feel alive and connected to the world in a very powerful and very present way.
Romance is mysterious.
The exact lack of definition makes it so appealing. Sometimes things that we wouldn't always have round romantic wind up taking on a different significance. So romance also has the capacity to change us.
Romance is unpredictable.
Romance is change. There's a spirit of momentum, of playfulness, and of spontaneity. People who lose it usually complain of “falling into a routine.” So when it's working properly, romance has the capacity to surprise.
We can see some patterns emerge. Romance is a sort of back-and-forth playfulness. What form that takes will depend on the dynamic of each particular couple. It is this characteristic of motion, change that makes it fun.
Is Romance Really That Important?
Maybe you're convinced that romance is mostly just silly gestures. Flower petals, Valentine's Day cards, and random acts of love and affection may strike some people as sentimental and cheesy.
But while romance might not be everything in a relationship (you need love, respect, and usually some common interests), it also has serious positive effects on a relationship's longevity.
It's partly because of what romance is, but also because of the underlying feeling that it suggests.
You want a certain amount of stability in a relationship, but you also want chemistry. When people say that the spark has gone, they often mean more than just “going on dates.” They mean that they don't feel like they're special to the other person anymore.
Even the most unsentimental person will see that's important!
Romance Keeps Us On Our Toes
Romance keeps us on our toes. It is a sort of dance between the two people in the relationship (sometimes physical, sometimes not).
Romance Connects Us to the Roots of The Relationship
Romance keeps us feeling young. When two people keep the romance alive in their relationship, they often feel a connection to who they were when they first met the other person. That initial phase never entirely dies.
Romance Helps You Grow
Of course, that isn't the same as staying stagnant. People change, and couples that understand romance are able to maintain it because they know it arises from the present moment.
Romance Arises From Connectedness
Romance comes from being connected to the other person in the here-and-now. If you're obsessing over the past or the future, you are probably in danger of letting that romantic spark die.
All In The Timing
There's no wrong time for romance!
Of course, this is if we're talking about an established relationship. If you're just getting to know someone, it may be a little overwhelming to come on too strong. You don't ask someone out to coffee and declare your love before the check has arrived. Not if you want to be taken seriously, anyway.
Side note: science has found that people typically make up their minds within the first four minutes as far as whether or not they “like” someone. In addition, people who maintain eye contact for three minutes will find that their heartbeats will start to synchronize.
But just because it can happen as fast as lightning doesn't mean most people will trust it that quickly. And you don't want to chase off a good thing as the result of being too overzealous! While romance is a little bit about “following your instincts”, people do want to feel that these feelings have some substance.
This is where some of our earlier definitions can help us. If romance is about connectedness, a romantic gesture should be mindful of the present situation. It should reflect how you feel while also respecting how they feel.
Just make sure the person you're after is reciprocating. And don't ever insist that someone else feel a certain way just because you want them to. Always pay attention and respect what the other person is feeling.
"Where Did We Go Wrong?"
When people first meet and connect, there can be a very strong bond. They might write poems, or sing songs. They think about their partner all the time.
This is a natural process that is linked to neuroscience; chemicals like oxytocin and dopamine link us to the other person.
If a couple remains together, their love may grow, but this initial intoxication effect may fade. As a result, the partners may forget to show one another those little signs of affection. And as a result of that, each partner may begin to worry that the other is losing interest.
They might become resentful. Or they might blame themselves, wondering if it's something they did.
This is why people often say “I don't know when we lost it…” because it usually happens so gradually. The phrase that is so often used “we just grew apart.”
What it comes down to is that the partners feel that the other person has come to take them for granted. They no longer feel that they are special in the eyes of the other person.
Baby, Hold On
The best way to prevent a relationship from losing the romantic spark is to give it regular attention.
A gardener knows that tending the flowers is not something that can be ignored for too long. Likewise, a relationship suffers and wilts from inattention.
KEEP THE SPARK ALIVE
Make sure the romance never dies
Is Romance About Gifts?
Sadly, many people equate romance with buying their partner lots of stuff. It's partly a product of how commercial our society is.
Gifts can be a great choice in creating romance, but only if thoughtfulness went into their selection.
If these things have no emotional meaning, they won't have much of the desired effect. That's why choosing the gift is often more important than how much you spend or how many you buy.
For instance, dance lessons might be a romantic gift. Especially if your partner has been feeling cooped up in the house and needs to get out and have a fun time away from home.
But if your partner has been super busy, feeling overwhelmed at work and tired all the time, dance lessons might not be something that really fit the bill. A couples massage or time at a spa might be a much more welcome gift in that case.
The point is, you want to choose something that lets your partner not only see that you thought of them, but that you've been thinking of them the entire time. You have never stopped paying attention. This is something that is especially lost on many men. Men are taught to think that they need to impress a woman if they want to win her affection. But women, when surveyed about gifts, answered that they wanted connection and attention more than physical things. A good rule when getting gifts is, “does this strengthen the connection between us?”
Mars & Venus: Romance For Men And Women
Certain things are different for men and women. Psychological studies show that many men feel emotionally closest to their spouses when they are positioned side by side, working together as partners.
Women, on the other hand, are more likely to feel the strongest bond when standing face to face, connecting by being close and focused on each other.
You can never assume anything about a single person. But you can be sure that there are trends.
What Does Romance Mean To A Guy?
It's no secret that men like physical intimacy. A lack or drop-off in this department is often a quick recipe for anxiety in a relationship.
If you are in a relationship with a guy, and there are intimacy issues, then it's important to make an honest attempt to understand and address them. This is a difficult topic to discuss, but ignoring problems of physical intimacy will almost certainly lead to negative repercussions in the long run.
In addition to the obvious, men also typically crave someone who will stand by them in tough times. That's why partnership is another key component in what men consider romantic. The idea that a woman will have your back no matter what is a big deal
Of course, this is something most women feel is important as well.
What Does Romance Mean to a Woman?
Society is changing rapidly when it comes to gender-based expectations, but there are a fe things that are holding fast. Most women still like and expect a certain degree of chivalry from men.
The key here is that it shows that a man respects women. A chivalrous man will treat a woman well regardless of whether she reciprocates his feelings.
“Fake chivalry” can show a guy's character pretty quickly.
If a man gets angry at a woman for not paying back a kind gesture with some form of affection, then it's a good indication that the guy isn't chivalrous at all. He's giving to get; only “playing nice” in the hopes of receiving something in return.
Many women want their partners to be able to share their softer side with them (but not necessarily with just anybody). Acts of private tenderness go a long way toward strengthening a woman's connection with a man.
Above all, both men and women need to feel that their partner actually wants them around, more than just as a convenience or out of habit.
Am I Doing This Right?
Maybe being romantic was never your thing. You were always that awkward or shy kid (it's okay, we won't judge!) Maybe you do feel romantic, but you never developed a lot of confidence in that department. It makes you self-conscious.
If this is how you feel, here are three super-basic things to remember.
Romance is Grounded in the Present Moment
Have you ever seen a person who gives a sense of being totally present in the here and now? It's an attractive quality, right? This is one of the big truths of romance. It's less about doing certain abstract things than when and how you do them.
Being present is the first step in creating the proper atmosphere for romance, because that way if a romantic connection takes place, it won't feel forced or fake.
Romance Requires Full Attention on Your Partner
If your mind is wandering some place else, that is NOT romantic. Nothing kills the mood in a person as quickly as when they are being ignored.
“Romance is thinking about your significant other when you are supposed to be thinking about something else.” -Nicholas Sparks
Romance is Connection
If you both partners are present and paying attention, that provides the proper basis for romance. If your partner doesn't give you this in return, maybe talk to them about it. In order for a strong connection to occur, both parties have to be invested!
Great Dates For Any Relationship
Okay, so you are on board with wanting to create a connection. This is a challenge if you don't know the person. But whether you know them well or not at all, these are some ideas that might spark your imagination…
Remember how we stressed the importance of adventure and the unexpected? Going somewhere new is a great way to create a shared experience. Traveling and exploring new places also heightens a person's attention to their surroundings, increasing the need to be in the “here and now.”
It's a classic for a reason. Watch a sunset as the night gets dark, gaze at the stars, and give thanks that you get to spend time with this amazing person that you love. This reminds us to be grateful for what we have and who is here to share it with us.
This is especially great for couples who are overworked. If you've been together long enough that you're balancing kids and jobs, the cumulative stress can make it difficult to relax and find moments to be romantic. A day at the spa can help bring those barriers down a little, allowing both partners to enjoy the moment.
This is a popular choice for couples that have been hoping to find more time to be festive. Pick a local winery, take a tour of the premises (and sample their creations, of course!)
Dance can be a powerful tool for increasing connectedness in couples. Maintaining eye contact, physical proximity, and partnership in working together? These are all romantic elements that bring people closer together. If you want to really turn up the heat, Argentine Tango is both sensual and stylish.
Sometimes the simplest dates are the best, especially if you are on a budget. Cooking dinner for your partner is an act of love, and a little ingenuity can turn it romantic.
Don't have money to hop on a jet and fly to Italy this week? Cook some Italian food and decorate the dining room with posters and pictures of Italy to turn your evening meal into a vacation. Silly, but also charming and effective if your partner is willing to play along.
Let Your Inner Kid Loose
Sometimes the best dates are ones where you and your partner get to experience things you loved as kids. This might mean water balloon fights, a trip to Disneyland, scavenger hunts, painting a picture together or going on an outdoor food-and-art festival.
Whatever the case, seeing your partner's “inner child” come to life is a great way to fall even further in love with them.
Whatever you do, the point is to create shared experiences where both partners are present and emotionally invested. It's about connection! Sometimes it takes a little effort, but if you keep that in mind, you'll be on the right path.
Just A Little Affection
Romantic dates are a great way to add a healthy jolt to a relationship, especially one that's become overwhelmed by routine or obligations.
But romance isn't just about these larger excursions. On a day-to-day level, it is kept alive by the tiniest gestures, even ones that might only take a second or two.
A good rule here is something that has been referred to as “the Platinum Rule.”
Most of us have probably heard the “Golden Rule.” That's the one that reads, “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Treat others how you'd like to be treated.
Makes sense, right?
But not everyone likes to be treated the same way. For instance, some people might love it if you threw a huge surprise party on their birthday… while others would never forgive you for it.
With that in mind, consider: The Platinum Rule.
The Platinum Rule is like the Golden Rule, but it goes one step further. It reads:
“Treat others the way THEY want to be treated.”
Rather than assuming that they will like what you do, learn what their preferences are. Pay attention. Make them feel loved.
In the 5 Love Languages, Gary Chapman identifies five ways that people like receiving love and affection.
Most people like getting attention in all of these ways. But some will usually strike a chord more than others. Here are some ideas for how to put that into action:
Quality Time: Spend a Rainy Day Together
Although it hasn't been mentioned before, sometimes “doing nothing” together can actually be a wonderful experience for a couple. Reading, cuddling, being on the couch together.
It's wonderful because it simply says “I want you around, regardless of what's happening.”
Physical Touch: Try Something New
Make sure you respect your partner's comfort at all times, but sometimes a little spontaneous physical surprise can liven up the entire week.
Gift-Giving: Secret Surprises
Leaving notes or flowers is an effective way to put a smile on a partner's face. One thing you can do, if you're the type to plan ahead, is to buy a gift you know will keep. Wrap it, and then hide it in a corner of the house that you know they won't find it.
The next time your partner is having an especially tough day, you can lift their mood. “Check the back of the pantry, second shelf…” They will appreciate the gift and it will turn their bad day around in a hurry.
Acts of Service: Ninja Chore Assistance
Unexpectedly help out with something that's on your partner's to-do list. Don't make a big deal out of it, just show up, be there, and help.
Of course, you want to make sure that your help will actually be helpful and not get in the way, so pick something where you know that's the case. It might seem ordinary, but to some people, this is about the most romantic thing a person can do.
Words of Affirmation
You could remind them that you're attracted by flirting, or if they're the more direct type, just come out and say it.
The Romance Of A Lifetime
Relationships, connection. That's what matters.
A life-long study of Harvard sophomores tracked the students' happiness and health as they moved into adulthood, middle age, and beyond.
The study started collecting data when the students were sophomores… in 1938.
Over time, what they found runs contrary to many of the myths our culture tries to sell us.
Ultimately the key finding was this: the happiest people were not those with a lot of money or fame: they were the ones who had the best relationships.
When we put our relationships first, our lives become infinitely fuller, richer, and more meaningful. When it comes to keeping the spark alive in your relationship, let your motto be to connect.
That is your "one thing."
Whether planning a date, giving a gift, experiencing intimacy, or traveling on a spontaneous adventure. Always seek to be closer to your partner.
The result will be a romance that never ends.
“True love stories never have endings."