Romance for the Clueless Husband Part I - Getting Started

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Introduction

Isn't it true that guys romance the heck out of the women they date and then go into a coma after the vows are spoken? It's also true that married women desperately want to be pursued by their men. They feel unloved and undesired because the men in their lives stopped chasing them and moved on to some other project. If we're looking for a great marriage, the most important thing we can do is continue the pursuit (ie. be thoughtful and romantic long term). But it's not as easy as it sounds. Most men have enough romantic tools in their toolshed to survive for about a year (maybe two). After that, everything is a re-run (like Friends or Seinfeld).

I can honestly say that I have no instinctive or natural prowess related to romance whatsoever. I am in no way a romantic genius. In fact, it's probably true that the one thing that makes me a worthwhile choice to write on this subject is the fact that I've failed so much at it. At the very least, I can serve as an example of what not to do. But I have learned a lot in my efforts to figure out this whole romance thing. Really the most irritating thing about romance is the fact that it is so hard to nail down what the definition is. The word romance seems so nebulous.

Webster's dictionary apparently defines romance the noun in several useless ways (love story, relationship between two lovers, Latin languages). As a verb, Mr. Webster gives the following options:

1. Make amorous advances towards.
2. Have a love affair with.
3. Talk or behave amorously, without serious intentions.

So now, armed with my new understanding of romance, I asked my wife if this is what she has been talking about. Shockingly, it turns out that her definition is nowhere to be found in the various options provided by Webster.

Not to be disuaded, I moved on to greener pastures--the internet. Then I found some books. I even resorted to interviews, which actually worked out because it became clear that the guys I talked to were every bit as clueless as I was. I did not discover the Holy Grail of Romance, but my search did lead me to some very useful nuggets of wisdom. It also led me to some very practical things I could use in my quest to keep the fires burning.

Why Bother?

You might be wondering why we should bother at all. Doesn't every guy know that, once she has said "I do", you're done? That may be true, but apparently someone forgot to inform the women. Married guys, go ask your wives. See if they think it's reasonable for you to have abandoned your romantic proclivities (assuming you had any to speak of) once the wedding was over. I'm confident that you will discover that she needs you to give chase (and quickly).

According to Shaunti and Jeff Feldhahn in their book "For Men Only":

It's common for men to think that pursuing goes with dating, not with marriage. But women don't see things that way. There is never that magic moment of closure, when they feel permanently, fully, deeply loved. They think that's what the rest of married life is for! That's why they need and deserve to be pursued every day.

In fact, several women compared the need to feel pursued by their husbands with the need that a man has to feel sexually desired by his wife! If it's that important, what is a smart married man to do?

Big screen answer: Give chase.

Pixel answer: Ask yourself, "What did I do when I was dating that made me so picken' irresistible?"

The Internet

My first stop on the internet was askmen.com. Ironic I know, and it did in fact occur to me to say "What do men know about romance???". It turns out that their input was certainly reasonable but not necessarily the practical help I was looking for.

"Make a list of the special days on the calendar that you celebrate together." I can recite all of the important dates from memory. I don't need a list. I need a way to not become so distracted by life that the special days sneak up on me.

"Toast each other when you sit down to dinner." Really?

"Use the power of touch to make a lasting impression throughout the day." Wouldn't that be considered self-serving? While we both enjoy it, touch is certainly more my thing than hers.

"Create a photo album." Do people make those anymore? All of our pictures are online.

"Do something thoughtful for her every day." Like what? A unique idea every day??? No pressure there.

"Discuss your day." Now that I can do.

"Tell her about your moods." Yeah, yeah. Talk. I get it.

"Keep up your appearance." I do my best.

"Share significant things from your day with her." Didn't we just cover that one?

I looked back over the list and realized that it was mostly just good every day relational stuff. That's not so bad (except for the thing about coming up with something thoughtful to do every day). If I do these things every day then my wife will feel loved? Romanced? This was great news!! So I asked her about it to confirm that I was understanding the process. It turned out I still wasn't there yet. True enough that these were good things from her perspective. The little things are great. But if that's all there is then apparently her little "gas tank of love" will eventually start to get empty.

The search for answers continued, but I had come to a realization. If you want help with romance, ask a woman (not askmen.com). In fact, don't ask just any woman--ask your woman. "What makes you feel loved and appreciated?" "What do I do that makes you feel unappreciated?" "What is romance to you?" The bottom line is that it doesn't matter what the 1,641,805 readers of Cosmopolitan magazine think romance is. I'm not in a relationship with them!

Finally Something Practical

So, I knew I needed help. I could develop software in my sleep, but that complexity truly is nothing compared to the complexity of a woman. And then we went to a marriage seminar. Tip #1: Do not pass these things up. Go. Listen. Learn. And, don't forget to buy. We found a collection of books published by Family Life (shown below under "Helpful Resources") which had fantastic ideas for us (mostly me). And these ideas weren't high level things like "do something thoughtful every day." This was "nuts and bolts" kind of stuff--the kind of thing you want in your toolbox.

I started reading through idea after idea and quickly realized something about myself. I had gone from wandering through an idea-free desert to drowning in a sea of possibilities. Deep down, I didn't just want an idea. I wanted the best ideas. I was subconsciously looking for the perfect romantic gesture. I was quickly getting overwhelmed and was in danger of doing nothing any time soon. As I thought about it, I wanted to be able to rate the ideas and then sort the most interesting ideas to the top. I didn't want to go hunting through the book over and over. So like the nerd that I am, I created an Excel spreadsheet that contains a priority column (1-100) for each romantic idea from the books. Then I sorted the best ones to the top. I also added a last used date so I could filter out the ones I'd already used.

With that done, I started working down the list of ideas. My new motto: at all costs, remove impediments that would cause you to stand still and do nothing.

Historically, I've always had an issue with timing. Most guys don't think about romantic gestures until they're in trouble (myself included). At that point, the romantic gesture (whatever it is) is clearly being presented under duress and everyone knows it (especially the targets of our affection). Regardless, we still think we're entitled to a ticker tape parade when we finally step up and do something. Men often think of romance and relationships in terms of points. "I forgot to pick up Lucy from daycare so I lose 20 points, but I bought flowers the next day so that's got to be worth at least 10 or 15." "I haven't done anything nice or thoughtful in 3 months so you got mad about it and I lost 15 points. But then I bought you a massage the next day. I bet that's worth a lot of points!" Shockingly, it turns out that it's not worth a lot of points. It's not even worth zero points. You actually lose points (again) because you were a dork and thought you could give a gift under duress and receive credit for it.

Truly, when we're in trouble the smartest thing we can do is sincerely apologize and do nothing else. Any other action at this point insults her intelligence (and she knows it). We should save our great ideas for when they can provide the most bang for the buck. If you're not in the dog house and are completely off the radar, that is the moment--your opportunity. I say seize it! If one of the kids is creating problems for your significant other, be a team player, do your part as a parent, etc. But, then let her calm completely down. Do something wonderful and romantic when she's in a better mood. I would not jump into the fray and paint a target on yourself right then. If it's duck season, let it be duck season. You'll thank yourself for it later.

To Be Continued

In Part II, I'll share anecdotes from my attempts at romancing my wife that went well (as well as those that didn't go well). If you have pearls of wisdom from your own experiences please share! May the women in our lives feel like princesses, and may we be the ones who made them feel that way.

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Comments 9 comments

lambservant profile image

lambservant 4 years ago from Pacific Northwest

This was such a hoot. You have such a way with words. When I read the first paragraph or two I thought it was a woman writing this because you were dead on about men. So, let me just say you get 100% for your efforts and your dear wife is lucky and blessed to have a husband who is working so hard at learning how to love her best.

Askmen.com?

"Discuss your day."

"Tell her about your moods."

"Share significant things from your day with her."

These say "It's all about me." My former husband always talked about himself. And I lived our whole married life trying to evade his moods. I would have given my right breast if he would have asked how my day was and really listened.

Here are a few that would've helped me to feel loved and cherished.

1. Talking about yourself all day, taking out your frustrations on the family, being unsupportive or helpful with kids or other challenges during the day, is not good foreplay for when you want some sugar at bedtime. I like what you said about being a team. Bingo.

2. Touching IS good depending on how you do it. If your wife comes up and hugs you, or you hug her, don't immediately go on with the hand up her blouse. Just give a hug o a kiss without moving on to second base.

3. You are on to this, find out her love language and use it. Usually the husband has a different love language then the wife, so he approaches her with HIS love language and is bewildered when she storms off.

4. If discipline with the kids keeps you on opposing sides, thus you undermine her, or get all over her for doing it wrong, or worse yet "I'm tired, I've worked 60 hours this week, why do I have to settle every little tiff?", then you're going to cause a serious problem. My suggestion would be, "Honey, why don't we sit down and talk about the best strategy about the kids so we can both be on the same page and work together."

5. Help around the house without being asked. Do the dinner dishes once in a while, mow the grass instead of expecting her or the kids to do it. Any household chore. To do nothing says, "I couldn't care less how hard you work all day, and what's the big deal anyway about doing a few dishes. You should try doing what I do?"

6. Pay attention to the little things your wife does around the house, like "Honey, the flower gardens looks so nice. I like what you did."

7. Date nights are definitely a biggie. And take her somewhere she would enjoy. If you think a date at Mickey D's will blow her mind, think again. If finances are a big issue, romantic walks with handholding, laughing, talking with each other instead of at each other.

8. If she is struggling with something, listen to her and take it seriously, even if you are wondering what the big deal is. Don't rush to fix it, just show interest and concern.

These things may not sound "romantic" to you, but if I had had those when I was married, things would've turned out much different. I just went back and read your Excel chart and those are great things. They would have certainly charged my romantic batteries. But if you don't do the practical stuff. those things won't pack as much punch.


sonfollowers profile image

sonfollowers 4 years ago from Alpharetta, GA Author

Terrific comments, as usual (and very much appreciated). This is actually exactly the kind of thing I was hoping for when I wrote this article. Great point about "It's all about me." That totally makes sense. And, good call about the 5 love languages thing. I'm totally bought into that. It's very true that we tend to do for our spouses what we want done for ourselves, but that may not even be what makes them feel loved at all.

I also think it's nearly universal that a man who won't engage as a team player at home is going to have a hard time getting his needs met in the bedroom (and justifiably so). While I don't condone using sex as a weapon, this is very different. Sexually, men exist in a state where the engine is constantly running. At any moment we can put it in drive and off we go. Women are just not like that. A normal woman who feels mistreated by her man is not likely to be interested in expending the gas necessary to get her engine started. The best resource I've ever seen on this topic is Mark Gungor. He's hysterical and has fantastic content. He's totally worth checking out.

Thanks for sharing!


lambservant profile image

lambservant 4 years ago from Pacific Northwest

Bless you abundantly Sonfollower. I so appreciate and respect you for trying to be a good husband. I will have to check out Mr. Gungor. Peace.


lambservant profile image

lambservant 4 years ago from Pacific Northwest

Also, taking on the spiritual leadership in your home is going to not only create a stronger bond between you are your wife, but most importantly,it will bring you closer to the Lord. It pleases the Lord when husbands do this. I think praying with your wife daily, and especially when you two are going through any sort of life difficulty, is so incredibly powerful and seals the bond of spiritual and emotional intimacy. If you are not accustomed to this and start, it is going to feel very awkward, but keep going. A daily devotional is very good too. Best wishes.


Mekenzie profile image

Mekenzie 4 years ago from Michigan

Hello Sonfollower, This is my first visit to your hubsite. I found your picture displayed as someone I might like to read. I am so glad to have found your page. Your writing is imaginative, engaging and fun!

I too commend you for your quest in learning how to really love your wife. I see you have read the 5 Love Languages and get the concept that each person has their own unique love language. I liked how after you did all that research on romance you decided to go ask your wife what romance means to her. LOL

I believe every woman wants to feel her husband is vested in her. We need to feel valued by our man. For me that means my husband is engaged in listening when I talk. It means that he is encouraging me to be all that I can be in concrete ways .. i.e. paying for me to take a painting class because he believes in me. It means he is leading me spiritually and loving me unconditionally.

Great article and topic! I loved reading it.

Thanks - voted up, beautiful, useful, funny and interesting. Sharing on FB.

God Bless you!

Mekenzie


sonfollowers profile image

sonfollowers 4 years ago from Alpharetta, GA Author

Mekenzie,

Thank you very much for the encouragement. And, thank you for sharing your thoughts. Yeah, I love the 5 Love Languages. I learned a lot from that study about relationships. It's a pretty old study but it still holds a special place in my heart. I enjoyed your comments. I look forward to reading some of your writing as well.

Thanks for sharing with your friends. :)


Brad2001 profile image

Brad2001 3 years ago from Lewiston, New York

Wow, this is quite the tall order! I appreciated this hub, and it gave me some ideas to implement in my own marriage. Definitely reminds me of one time my wife and I were chatting and she said she wanted me to pursue her. I just looked and said, 'We're married, the game is over babe' she kinda glared at me. I guess maybe I had become a bit lazy...you have inspired me to up my game again! Valentine's Day is this Thursday...hopefully there is still some magic left in the tank! Anyway, I just posted a story about finding the love of my life, what I think goes into making it work, but (to be frank) its not as well written as this was....hope you'll take a look at it, give me comments. All the best!


sonfollowers profile image

sonfollowers 3 years ago from Alpharetta, GA Author

Brad2001,

That's awesome! Thanks for the "glare" story. You are not alone, my friend. I believe that we all do it. Putting effort into pursuit doesn't come naturally. We have to choose to chase, and be intentional somehow about remembering to do it long term. I think that's really the tough part. Life gets distracting. Hurdle #1 is admitting realizing that pursuit is needed. Hurdle #2 is actually doing it as the years go by. Thanks!

BTW, I did read your story. Nice job. I noticed that you have no comments area for some reason (at least it didn't show up for me). Was that intentional? The part I liked the most is how you have learned what your wife needs from you. You pay attention and you make her a priority. Thanks for sharing! See you around!


shofarcall profile image

shofarcall 3 years ago

Hi Sonfollower,

I don't know if this is supposed to be humourous or serious! But it smacked of both to me. I am sitting here with a huge grin on my face as I type this comment! Why....it gives me insight into how confusing this must be for you guys! And I know it is not funny when it is taking place, but reading about your research, it is funny! I am going to read on and not comment on anything else yet, because somehow, I feel you have discovered the answer for yourself and your loved one! God Bless.

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