Friday, June 17, 2011

Good Romance

Years ago, before I started dating the man who would eventually become my husband, I was in a relationship with a different fellow.  Our junior prom was held a few months after we became "official," and we naturally assumed that we would go together.  One of our mutual female friends instructed him -- without any encouragement from me -- that he should still ask me to the prom, and with a rose in hand to boot.  So he did.  I was happy and appreciative, although I secretly felt that the display was unnecessary.

Unfortunately, that relationship proved to be an unhappy one for both of us, and we parted ways right after Christmas of our senior year of high school.  In the days and weeks that followed, I analyzed every painful moment, every offense, every wrong.  One of my strongest objections to his behavior during our time as a couple was that I felt it was all about the show for him.  He had given me good chocolate in a heart-shaped box, he had borrowed his uncle's fancy Cadillac when we went somewhere fancy, and he had given me an expensive gift for Christmas, right before our breakup.  But underneath all the ostentation, he had been hurtful, disrespectful, and unfaithful -- if not in deed, certainly in thought and speech.  I don't want to demonize him: he wasn't the worst guy in the world by any stretch, we were both young and immature at the time, and it's not like I was a perfect girlfriend.  But he didn't treat me with the respect he should have, and the relationship was ultimately damaging to me in many ways.

I started dating the man who would eventually become my husband fairly soon after that relationship ended.  It was certainly early enough to be considered a "rebound," and I doubt many people thought it would last.  In retrospect, I realize that I did struggle with the whirlwind nature of it all, and it probably would have been better to wait a bit longer before agreeing to see someone else.  But after many months of friendship, I found that I had developed feelings for the gallant Mr. Campbell (code crush name: "Soup"), and a mutual friend of ours (who ended up being the best man at our wedding) warned me that another girl was interested in him, and that I'd better give him some indication of my interest lest he be scooped up by someone else.  Something told me I didn't want to let a chance with him slip away.

Which was certainly true. :)

Part of what delighted me most about "Soup" during the early days of our courtship was how different he was from my previous boyfriend.  He was always respectful, always courteous, always faithful, always considerate and thoughtful of my feelings. It was clear from the very beginning that he held me in the utmost regard.  He was gentle and kind and he never belittled my then-highly emotional perspective on life.  He also was not showy.  Yes, he gave me a teddy bear on Valentine's Day, but there were no expensive chocolates or fancy cars, and no flowery formal invitation to prom.  We just went.  (And exchanged our first "I love yous.")

As time went on, I (thankfully) was able to move on from the painful memories of my previous relationship, and my admiration and affection for my now-husband were simply about him, not him in comparison to a less worthy man.  I maintained, however, a bullheaded prejudice toward romantic gestures.  Based on two data points, I concluded that there were two types of men in the world: men who were unfit boyfriends who would occasionally try to make up for their shortcomings with a big show of flowers or candy or glitz, and men who were wonderful boyfriends who didn't need to do such things.  My oversimplified, misguided perspective was only reinforced over the years when I observed other unworthy guys pull out the occasional romantic showstopper.  "I'd rather have a guy who was good to me all the time," I'd always think.

And, of course, I would.  A million times over.  But lately I have come to realize that sweet, romantic, swoon-inducing gestures are not necessarily the hallmarks of bad boys.  Hardly!  And as I look back on my days with Mr. Fancypants, I recognize that maybe the rosy prom invite wasn't so crazy after all.  I think a lot of his other moves were motivated by the wrong reasons, but I'm fairly sure that one was pure-hearted, and I probably should have accepted it as sweet instead of shrugging it off as superfluous.

Now, please don't think that I'm accusing my darling husband of being unromantic.  He is far from it!  Over the years, he has surprised me with flowers time and again (the most recent being just last month for Mother's Day), selected beautiful and elegant pieces of jewelry as gifts, and performed innumerable loving gestures like cleaning up the kitchen so I don't have to, putting on a CD in his car that he doesn't love but he knows I do, and carefully determining whether I prefer CGI or Muppet Yoda so he could surprise me with a poster of my favorite Star Wars character (I prefer Muppet, by the way).  However, I've managed to make it fairly obvious that I'm not into fancy restaurants and would just as soon go to Baja Fresh, that I'm content with my current fine jewelry collection and I don't mind if I never get another new piece, and that I'd rather save money than spend it on romantic stuff.  All of which stands, by and large, but...

Lately I've been longing for romance.  I imagine that having an eleven-and-a-half-month-old daughter, no family nearby, and no babysitters might have something to do with it.  My husband and I rarely get alone time, and when we do, we usually just watch TV.  The other night I wistfully mentioned that I wished we could go on a marriage retreat, even a short one, but that it would be impossible as we have no one to watch our daughter (and as often as she still nurses, it simply couldn't happen).  My sweet husband looked up some retreat exercises online the following day, and we did some, but they felt a little silly.  (Disclaimer: it wasn't that extensive of a search, and I'm sure a more thorough gander around the Interwebs would yield some more fruitful exercises.)

So my question is, how can we add some romance into our lives?  And yes, of course, I realize it's not a one-sided issue!  I want to perform more romantic gestures, too (even though my husband is perfectly content with the amount of romance in our marriage).  One way I've been trying to do that is through dressing in a prettier, more feminine fashion.  I've hit some snags along this road, as I've mentioned here before.  But it still strikes me as a worthy endeavor that I'm happy to continue.

Is there anyone else experiencing a similar yearning?  Can anyone offer some sweet romantic suggestions for a young married couple with limited funds and even more limited time when our darling daughter is asleep?


  1. First of all, I must say thank you for this wonderful post! I usually enjoy reading your posts, but this one hit close to home. I used to reject most romance from past beaus as super cheesy and was generally unappreciative and suspicious of the motives.

    It is wild, though, dating my current boyfriend, a very poor med student, and loving every gesture he makes! Usually small, but we definitely have fun thinking of things to do.

    We live about two hours apart, so I take advantage of the distance to write him little letters. I have these small colored note cards, and I tell him my thoughts on things, what I'm doing, things I'd like to do, etc. Relationships are constantly progressing, so telling him more without being over-detailed can be very sweet. Another thing that I did for him that he really liked: I took a deck of cards and wrote something character-related that I liked about him. (You can write "love" - we hadn't said that yet, though.) I'm not married, but I still live with my parents, if that counts for anything :) I find just the simple stuff can really be the most romantic- not stuff, just spending time together, taking walks, dancing in the living room, and even washing dishes together. I think dressing more feminine is also a major plus. :)

    I think romance comes with deliberate action to do something sweet particularly for the other person. The opportunities are endless!!

  2. Thank you for posting this. I've been through 2 serious relationships, one was painful like the one you talked about here, and just reading this lets me know that there is someone MUCH better out there that will love me for me! It's been a long, long time since that break up, but the effects of it still linger in mind a lot. So thank you for instilling that hope in me once again :)

    And I'm sorry but I don't have any good tips for keeping romance alive! Maybe you could designate one night out of the week as date night? I know that's probably hard with a baby, but it could be possible and could give you both time to reconnect. You could also make it surprise date nights and each of you have to plan the dates every other time you go, that might be fun! It might spark some more romance. Just some thoughts :)

  3. Well obviously I didn't read hard enough and realized that you can't really do date nights a lot lol. Maybe turn it into date nights at home?! Or try to make a new meal together, or go to a new park or museum or something that you can enjoy with your daughter, too. Sorry...I'm probably not helping much at all! :-\

  4. Huh - your failed relationship sounds an awful like like a past one of mine. Showy extravagance in place of honest respect most especially.

    I have to say that 'soup' makes it awfully obvious. :P

    I also have no suggestions, sadly, being in quite a similar position. I consider our 'date night' to be a night like tonight where we have our 2 year old at my mom's and only the almost 4 month old to entertain while we clean. :P

  5. Ladies, thank you for all of the kind and insightful comments!
    Julie, thank you for sharing your experiences with the little notes and cards! How wonderful that your relationship is filled with such loving gestures. I agree with you, the simple things are the best and the sweetest.
    Holly, I'm glad that this post reminded you of that hope! You are a beautiful, amazing woman, and you deserve nothing less than a gentleman who loves you for who you are. Thank you for your ideas, too. I think we probably could incorporate some "date nights" at home. I like the idea of making a new meal together.
    Lindsy, yeahhhh...I'm glad those relationships are over. :) Yes, even at the time I realized "Soup" was VERY obvious, even though none of my previous code names were at all...somehow I just didn't mind. And your "date night" really cracked me up.

  6. It is hard with a little nursing one isn't it? Dominic is 15m and we don't go "out" often, granted we are homebodies anyway. I have been thinking about this for a few days as i too am working on upping the romance factor. I have been dressing more feminine, especially skirts and dresses and the husband certainly likes that. In addition to that I try to affirm geoff in his masculinity:I thank him for working so hard and for doing the "manly" things around the house. I try to let him know how much I need him as a man. :)

    This might sound weird but I find that praying together makes us both feel in a more romantic mood, I guess that makes sense as it is very intimate. Also we love to go for walks, dominic is in the stroller and he is calm and quiet (which is a rarity) so it is almost like alone time.

    One thing I have really been working on is gestures of romance like being gentle, sweet, and happy all the time. impossible yes, but it is a worthy goal! I find when my attitude is good and I am all around more lovable, the romance just happens.

    Hope this helps! Your post inspired me to up my game. Thanks!

  7. Look what I read! For you:

  8. Dacia, thank you for sharing your experiences! They're all very helpful!
    Julie, thanks so much for linking to that post! What fun ideas!