The Selflessness of Romance
Romance means different things to different people. Mention the word, and women think of a candlelight dinner with meaningful conversation. Men think of an exciting sexual encounter.
Those are two extremes, but the importance of romance within marriage can't be underestimated. It keeps your relationship going and your passions alive. Without it, I'm convinced, relationships will begin to deteriorate.
Here are three important elements of romance:
First, romance is self-initiated. That means romance must be kindled without nagging or reminders. Or think of it this way: being romantic because you're asked to be romantic isn't really that romantic.
Romance is when you do something unexpected for your spouse. It communicates that he or she is on your heart and that you really care.
Romance could mean planning and preparing a special meal for your husband or wife. It could mean sending flowers or a romantic card. The important thing is to pursue your spouse on your own initiative—without being told to do it.
Second, romance involves communicating value to your spouse. One of the greatest things you can do in marriage is to build each other's self-esteem. Through romantic gestures, you show your spouse how important he or she is in your life.
One of the best ways to do this is through verbal affirmation. Another great way to do it is by displaying good manners. That's something we often forget after many years of marriage, but simple politeness is vitally important.
I've counseled couples who treat strangers better than they treat each other, which is shameful. As Christians, we should be kind and respectful to everyone—but especially to the person whom you've vowed to love and cherish.
In a healthy marriage, both spouses are considerate of each other's feelings and take care to show how much they value each other.
Finally, romance means learning to speak love in your spouse's language. Men and women have very different major needs, and we must understand those needs in order to be romantic on each other's terms.
Men need honor, sex, kindred fellowship, and domestic support. Women need security, open and honest communication, non-sexual affection, and leadership.
When a husband takes the time to have meaningful conversations with his wife on a daily basis, that's romantic. It may not be one of his needs, but it meets one of her deepest needs.
Likewise, when a woman commits to honor her husband and meet his sexual needs—though that may not be an important need of hers—it communicates how much she values him. That's romantic in his eyes.
Romance makes a relationship better because it means both spouses are willing to sacrifice on behalf of each other. "Each of you should look not only to your own interests," Paul challenged the church at Philippi, "but also the interests of others" (Phil. 2:4). That idea is the key to romance within marriage.