In recent months, my wife and I traveled in celebration of our marriage anniversary and a certain birthday pinnacle for my wife (I dare not expose my wife’s youth!).
Through these separate, memorable experiences we were intentional about being present — present with each other, present with our surroundings, and present with ourselves.
We laughed. We played. We went to new places and tried new things. We watched beautiful sunsets. We met remarkably kind people that took us to tranquil places we never imagined. We allowed for brief moments in which we were intentional about sharing how appreciative we are of the unique qualities we each bring to our relationship and how special she and I are to each other. Sounds romantic, doesn’t it?
However, the truth is these events were not without challenges that sometimes had us questioning the cause or purpose of such adversities. Flooding rains. A tornado with a power outage. Passport problems. Delayed flights and nearly missed connections. No A/C in a hot, humid climate.
Food poisoning and a sleepless night kneeling over the toilet. Mountainous terrain with frightening infrastructure getting to our destination. A nearly flooded boat and a stalled engine. Isolation. Getting ripped off. The list could go on. Sound romantic, now?
Romance is defined as “a quality or feeling of mystery, excitement, and remoteness from everyday life.”
One of the constantly affirming qualities sought after in what is suggested to be a healthy, thriving relationship is romance. We see it on the movie screens. We read about it in romance novels. We see it among couples we know and those we don’t.
The result is we long for it from a lens shaped not always by an understanding of our partner’s needs and wants but sometimes by the conditioning of stories told and played out through another person’s experiences or imagination.
Thank you Hollywood and New York Times best-selling authors but the experience of entering our homes already hot and steamy, stripping off each other’s clothes throughout the house, making love for hours knowing exactly what erogenous zones to trigger and when, and waking up to making love all over again, well, I’ll say few have actually experienced it.
Sounds romantic, though, right?
But what about the dog mess your canine furball left you while you were gone, and toys scattered around the home that you didn’t expect to be in the hallway as you entered? And what about the pile of laundry you remember you need to finish before that dreaded Monday?
Oh, and Monday. Did you remember to send that email before you left the office? There’s that upset employee or customer also that thinks his/her issue is the most important priority on your list. What if the kids hear you? And what about morning breath? I’ll say no more.
Romance, in its purest experience, exists in between the moments of distraction and chaos by being intentional about studying, learning, be present with, taking into consideration, and anticipating your partner’s individual needs and wants.
It’s created by laying a foundation of seeking, flirting, and learning brick by brick.
Romance exists within displays of affection, indeed, but also through careful consideration of and attention to our partner’s needs through which you show just how well you know, or are getting to know, your partner. It develops over time by carefully sharing and receiving in a way that you become emotionally intelligent about our partner.
Romance is neither a destination nor a utopia. It interweaves within an organic nature of how a relationship surges forward despite the ever-evolving demands and challenges in life and through each stage a couple experiences together until “death do us part.”
It’s a choice you make every morning and night intentionally and in brief, intentional, moments between life’s chaotic experiences. Sometimes these moments are spontaneous. Sometimes they are carefully planned.
It’s a simple gesture. It’s that small note left behind. It’s pouring the coffee. It’s doing that chore you typically don’t do to help. It’s that kind act of service. It’s getting away. It’s that card game or food challenge. It’s singing in the car and dancing. It’s in the routine and the spontaneous. It’s in holding hands and prolonging hugs. It’s a flirt with no expectations. It’s being available above all else when your partner needs a hand or an ear.
It’s a decision you make to be curious about your partner’s experiences through this lifetime so you may learn what truly matters to your partner.
It’s a decision to cherish your partner.
It’s a decision to study, to learn, and to pursue your partner when the days of courtship have come and gone. When bodies have changed, and age begins to show. It’s a decision to try new things. It’s even a decision to accept that sometimes things don’t go as planned. But with an “above all else” attitude, it’s a decision that when things fall apart you maintain a commitment to “we” instead of “me.”
It’s about having conversations and embracing the silence.
Men, it’s about putting in the work beyond going to work. Women, it’s about fostering vulnerability.
Together it’s about re-visiting special moments or places and celebrating even the smallest successes.
It’s about knowing what your partner is looking forward to.
It’s about being friends.
Romance is, indeed, mysterious, exciting, and remote but more importantly it’s what results when you are intentional about being curious, willing to be supportive, and have courage to take risks like a fool in love with the desire to come alive.
Ken Caselden, M.Ed., LPCC, LCADC, BIP is a professional counselor in private practice at Freedom Wellness Center, PLLC. He may be reached by visiting www.freedomwellness.org.