Ah, romance. It’s something that dances around in many of our dreams, but that’s usually where it stays. Over the years, I’ve seen a resurgence of interest in gender role relationships, and things like chivalry are becoming cool again. But for some reason, I’ve not seen much in the way of romance. Often, the term ‘romance’ conjures images of an artistic type who falls in love with a girl shortly before recklessly puking a load of awkward emotions at her, only to be heartbroken when she runs the other way. It screams ‘needy’ in a way most girls will avoid at all costs. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Over the years of being a deep romantic at heart, I’ve learned that romance can be cultivated into a male character trait that is deliberate, lasting, mature, and capable of taking a relationship to otherwise unattainable heights.
What Romance Is (in my experience)
People often think of romance as acts that are done – things like bringing her flowers or dining with her in candlelight or bathing her in a rose petal bath. But acts can be faked by men just trying to charm a girl, clumsy buffoons trying to ‘be romantic,’ and just about everything in between. Viewing romance as mere acts usually leads to the feelings of suspicion, awkwardness, and embarrassment for both the guy and the girl that have given romance a bad reputation. Over the years, however, I’ve come to realize that romance should be viewed as an attitude, a way of interacting with her, a trait that can be learned and perfected just like any other trait. It isn’t something that a man does on occasion. It’s something he is, something that manifests any time he interacts with her. And as a character trait, each man will develop romance according to his personality and experience, making his romantic aspect a very unique experience for his girl to enjoy.
So what does this trait look like? I’m still learning the answer to that question myself. It should go without saying that it requires a deep, genuine interest in the girl herself as a woman/mate and being open with her about that interest. I can say that it’s an opening of the heart, going that extra distance when fear or propriety say, ‘That’s too far.’ I’m sure everyone has those moments with a crush when they think about something they would like to say or do, but boundaries keep them from following through with it. Part of being romantic is to be a rebel, to be able to cross that boundary and say, ‘Heck with it. I’m going for it.’ Any relationship requires us to open ourselves to our partner and become vulnerable to them. I tend to visualize normal bonding as a man and woman opening their shirts and pressing their bare chests together. Romance is more like opening their shirts, tearing open their ribs, and pressing their hearts together. Should I make myself so vulnerable to her? Romance will always answer ‘yes.’
It Isn’t Just Chivalry
Chivalry is making a comeback, and I’m glad. I practice chivalry, and most girls enjoy it a lot. But there is a sense of formality in chivalry that often leaves personal and intimate relations at the door. I know many chivalrous gentlemen who cannot or will not open up to a girl to the degree romance requires. When interacting with a girl wearing a plunging neckline, chivalry demands, ‘Don’t look at her cleavage.’ Romance gazes with honest and confident curiosity and says, ‘That’s a beautiful freckle on your breast. Does she have a name?’ Chivalry makes a girl feel like a princess. Romance makes her feel like a woman. Combining the two by approaching chivalry with a rebellious, romantic attitude is usually very effective and can leave a girl swooning and trembling.
The Capacity For Romance
Now that I’ve hopefully given a picture of what I believe romance is, I’ll talk about some of the applications of romance in relationships. Most people, especially girls, have spent untold hours fantasizing about the romance they’d like to experience. But when faced with a real offer of romance, few will accept. Romance acts as an amplifier for both the highs and the lows of a normal relationship. It can be unimaginatively wonderful and pleasant, but it can also be cripplingly painful (think about the image I used earlier about tearing open the chest). That frightens many, who ultimately decide romance is better appreciated from a safe distance. Others simply do not feel that deeply and are incapable of romance. I’ve recently come to realize that each person has a capacity for romance that is determined by his/her ability and willingness. Differences in romance capacity can cause problems in a relationship, and while ‘being romantic’ is relatively easy, discerning the who, when, and how much can be much more challenging.
Applying romance to a real relationship is a bit like playing with fire. Too little, and the flame will struggle and go out. Too much, and it’s destructive and hurtful. If I’ve learned anything about applying romance to a relationship, it’s that each romance is unique and must be tailored to the girl in question. That fine line of too little/too much will depend upon her capacity and desire for romance, whether she is introverted or extroverted, and whether she tends toward more risky behavior or prefers to stay safe and comfortable, just to name a few things. Romance in relationships is rare, just as girls who have the capacity for romance in a real relationship are rare. With that in mind, I have a list of things I’ve learned over the years that might be helpful to my readers.
Always be sincere in romance. Men, whatever capacity you have for romance, don’t try to go past it. A sincere compliment to your girl will mean much more to her than trying to impress her with showmanship. Many men struggle with the ‘I don’t have a romantic bone in my body’ syndrome, and that’s perfectly fine. In my observation, though, a man who takes the time to notice something real about his girl so that he can sincerely compliment her will find himself becoming more and more interested in her. He may soon find himself so deeply interested in her and so much in love with her that romance begins to flow from him naturally. So if you struggle to find romantic feelings for your girl, start small and genuine. It could easily cause something to grow inside you that you never knew was there. Also concerning sincerity, never be afraid to express disappointment or hurt at something she has said or done. Being open to her means being open in all things. Hiding her mistakes from her will eventually cause her to have the false sense that she’s got it together, and this will lead to the ‘whipped man’ that often haunts romantic men. Don’t mistreat her, but don’t hold back if she hurts you. Remember, romance is about being intwined in both the highs and the lows.
Never make her feel compelled to respond at all or in a certain way. This was a huge challenge for me in my early years. I felt that if I went to the effort and risk to express romance to a girl, she needed to respond to me in like manner. It wasn’t until much later in life and many heartbreaks that I realized that romance is my own expression and that it doesn’t have to be validated by a particular response from the girl. It’s simply something that I want to do, and if or how she responds is up to her. Only after I came to that understanding was I able to see and appreciate how different girls respond to romance in their own way. Some will be flattered and will gush on and on about it. Some will silently internalize it without so much as a ‘thank you,’ but will be deeply touched by it. Some will be curious about it and engage it. They’re all different. Beautifully different. That’s part of what makes romance so wonderful. But that wonder can be destroyed by the man who makes her feel compelled to respond. Therefore, it is imperative for him to communicate to her that she is free to respond in her own way and in her own time. Remember that deep, genuine interest you have in her as a person? You want to see how she chooses to respond to you rather than how you want her to respond. Don’t give her a gift then say, ‘Well, aren’t you going to open it?’ Don’t treat her to a candlelight dinner then ask, ‘So what do you think?’ or ‘Aren’t you going to thank me?’ Those sorts of compulsions can take a level 100 romance to -10 in the blink of an eye.
Know who, when, how, and how much. As I said earlier, every girl is different, and building a lasting romance with her will be a unique experience for both. Some girls are very open to romance, while others aren’t. Some like candy and flowers. Some like walks on the beach. Some like cuddling in front of the fireplace. And timing is just as important. Sitting her on your lap and gushing about how beautiful she is would probably be most welcome in private, but in front of a room full of friends and family, it’s likely to embarrass her, which is a huge turn-off. Sliding a hand under her skirt and pinching her bottom is cute when it’s sneaky and kept between the two of you, but when done indiscriminately in front of someone else, she’ll feel cheap and used. The ‘how much’ part requires special attention because in my experience, that’s usually the part that sends the ’needy’ message that sends girls running. Romance is a slow fuse. I’ve described it several times as growing and developing, and that was for a reason. It takes time, and when rushed, it will become unstable. Unfortunately, I’m still learning this myself, so the only advice I can offer is to monitor her responses. If she starts feeling uneasy or stressed, back off. If she wants more, slowly ramp it up. Intuition can be a very helpful friend in this process. However it proceeds, remember you’re building the romance with her – not dumping it on her.
View romance as character development, a skill that needs to be practiced and perfected. We’re going to fail. That’s a given. We’re going to over-do it, under-do it, or something, and she’s going to give us the ‘I just want to be friends’ speech or walk out of our life. And yes, it’s going to hurt, probably a lot. But when the hurt wanes, we can look back to see what we did wrong, and we can learn from it. And the next time, we’ll be more mature and experienced in our skill. Viewing romance as a part of our nature makes it very personal when it’s rejected, and many men will resist modifying it because doing so would be showing weakness. ‘I just keep opening my heart (the same way) to woman after woman, only to be rejected. I’ll never find love!’ But viewing it as a trait or a skill gives it an aspect of mutability that will enable it to grow and change for the better, and ultimately to grow around our girl.
Be patient with your girl. As I’ve already mentioned, romance is rare. Furthermore, it’s usually a red flag. While nearly all girls fantasize about romance, few will accept it in real life. If not, we have to accept that and move on. Even for the girl who will accept it, it’s most likely that she has never experienced it anywhere but in her dreams and fantasies, so it’s going to seem very different to her. And frightening. Be patient. She’s learning, too. She needs to get comfortable with having romance in her life, and depending upon the girl, it could take a while to pull her out of her shell. Be open with her, and be clear to her that, like chivalry, it’s just something you do. If she’s open to romance, she’ll likely take to it very naturally. Then hold on! haha
Be responsible. Sometimes, we men can get caught up in the chase. I know I have. Using romance to woo a girl should be reserved only for the girls we view as potential mates. Sweeping a girl off her feet only to drop her on the hard ground can kill her or break her for life. It’s that amplification effect. We, as the pursuers, are responsible to not let that happen. Even if your girl wants to ramp it up, don’t do it unless you know you’re seriously interested in her. Never let the flame of romance grow beyond the point where you can see it.
I hope this has provided some useful information for both my guy and girl readers. I certainly don’t have all the answers, but it’s a learning process. I welcome any comments that will further this discussion, and as always, thanks for reading!
I leave you with this clip from the movie ‘Willow.’ I always thought this was a cute – though unrealistic – depiction of romance. (For those who don’t know the story, Madmartigan and Sorsha have a love/hate relationship. Just prior to this scene, Madmartigan was charmed with fairy dust, which brought out his hidden love for her.)