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Romance for the Clueless Husband Part III - Rubber, Meet Road
I spent years of marriage feeling clueless about romance. In fact, I didn't just feel clueless. I was clueless. There were times when I couldn't bring myself to even attempt anything romantic because I genuinely didn't feel like anything I could think up would be good enough. I had no romantic confidence. The few times I had tried to be creative ended up falling apart for one reason or another. Sometimes it felt better to disappoint her by inactivity than it did to disappoint her by trying and failing. Paradoxically, it almost seemed safer (almost). It's easy to feel that way if your romantic confidence is low. What I needed was a clue--lots of clues. I needed some way to lean on the creativity and brilliance of others when I had nothing to offer on my own.
It's incredibly easy to get in a rut as you just go through the motions of your marriage routine week to week. I'm sure at least some of you have experienced the transition of moving from lovers who can't take your eyes off of each other to feeling like no more than roommates and co-parents. My wife and I weren't there but I certainly wanted to do what I could to keep from going there. I knew I needed ways to break the routine, and I really wanted her to feel special. It wasn't enough for her to just be special. I wanted her to feel it in her bones. Eventually, I found four great resources to help make that happen (all at the same conference, discussed in detail below). I actually consider each of these resources to be nothing short of miraculous. Simply do a Google search for each of these, since I am unable to post links for them without getting poked by HubPages for "soliciting". Let's look at each one.
NOTE: The main focus here is things you can do regularly that make your wife feel loved and let her know that you are thinking of her. As such, I'm not addressing things like exotic getaways or expensive gifts. Those are a little more intuitive anyway. It's generally easier to scale something up in terms of cost than it is to scale it down. Cheap ideas can be done more expensively if you want. So most of the ideas I list here are ones you can do without a lot of cost. The main thing from my perspective is to do something regularly and not have to wait until you've saved up enough money to do something extravagant. The longer she has to wait in between romantic gestures, the more consistently empty her "gas tank of love" will feel.
Simply Romantic Nights
"Simply Romantic Nights" by Family Life is a box with a collection of envelopes (half for the man and half for the woman) so each person can plan and coordinate wonderful nights together. Simply take an envelope, open it, read it, and implement. It's that simple. Here's an example:
The water won't be the only thing heating up the room with this simply romantic adventure. Let soothing bath bubbles take your wife's stress away as you ask her the questions you've always wanted to.
SET THE STAGE
1. Find a night at home on the calendar.
2. The day before, covertly clean the bathroom and change the bedding. Don't forget a mint or chocolate for the pillow!
3. Review the questions below or create your own.
4. Purchase a luxurious bath product from Bath & Body Works (or another store).
5. Assemble a number of candles.
6. Choose soothing and soft music.
7. Prepare your wife's favorite cold beverage.
Wrap your wife's newly purchased gift (bath bubbles, foaming body wash, etc.). Include a tag that says "Bring this gift with you Friday night at 9:30. A soothing surprise awaits you!"
THE MAIN EVENT
Thirty minutes before your "appointment", prepare the bathroom with candles, music, and beverages. Start the bath and make it as hot as possible. It's easier to cool down a tub than to heat it up.
When your wife arrives, present her with a cold drink and ask her if she needs anything. Tell her you'll be back in a few minutes. This will allow her the chance to use the bathroom, undress, and slip into the tub. While she is soaking away her tension put the towels in the dryer.
When you return, it's time for her bath. Don't join her in the tub. Sit on the side or kneel on some towels placed on the floor. As you're soaping up a washcloth or bath pouf, tell her you have some questions for her. If she starts talking about her day or concerns she has, let her. Start by washing her feet and toes. When her agenda slows down, start your questions.
Wash feet. Ask "What's the most romantic thing I've ever done for you?"
Wash arms. Ask "When do you want me to hold your hand? How?"
Wash hair. Ask "How can I improve where and how I kiss you?"
Wash back and torso. Ask "What do you want me to do more of when we make love?"
When the bath is complete, dry her with warm towels fresh from the dryer. Wrap her in her most comfortable robe. If she's willing, dry and brush her hair as you continue talking. Afterward, lead her to the bedroom, remove her robe, and slip her between fresh sheets on your bed. Make love applying all the new information she shared."
Gentlemen, that is how you do it. It's creative and a lot of fun for both of you. She walks away feeling pampered and cared for. It's inexpensive too. I did this recently and the whole experience only costs $5 worth of candles from the dollar store and the $12 I spent on bubble bath. This little box has tons of ideas like that for both of you. If you try this one or any of the others found in the box, my advice to you is to not cut corners (ie. just give her a bubble bath). Don't miss out on the bit about building anticipation. She will love it, and it makes the whole experience last longer!
Also, if you have a dynamic in your relationship where you have been accused of "only wanting sex" from her, it might be good to consider letting sex be her idea. In other words, don't try to make it happen yourself. In fact, don't even walk in with that as the end game mentally. The last thing you want is for her to see everything you're doing as an attempt to get sex out of her. Sizzle becomes fizzle very, very quickly. This night is all about her and making her happy. Your needs are a distant second, fellas. Before you jump up and down about having needs too, please stop and consider a new relational model for a minute. What if you both were completely and totally devoted to meeting each other's needs rather than meeting your own? If one person is waiting to have his needs met before acting to meet the needs of the other, it's a virtual guarantee that both are doing that. It creates a toxic relational culture. Everyone is looking out for themselves. Love is sacrificial; it's not selfish. If both of you are giving sacrificially to each other, both of you will ultimately feel loved. And feeling loved is exactly what this romance thing is about.
Tips to Romance Your Wife
"Tips to Romance Your Wife" is a small 106 page book from Family Life that is chock full of romantic messages, gifts, touches, moves, advice, and other special moments for the two of you to share. Here are a few examples:
Present her with a special piece of jewelry. Make it even more personal by having a message engraved.
Jewelry is always a tricky thing for me to pull off on my own. She's very picky about jewelry, and it's very easy for me to lunge into something low quality, gaudy, or just generally unbecoming. So this Christmas I cheated. I decided to buy her a jewelry box and had it engraved with the message "Treasured things for a treasured woman." She loved it.
Using Post-It notes all around the house, list the reasons why you love your wife. Hide some of them in places where it might take days for her to find.
This seems so simple and cheap, but the power of it is in the messages she receives. I modified this one a bit for Mother's Day this year. I came up with 38 reasons why my wife is a great mother and wrote them on Post-It notes. Then I hid each note with an associated Hershey's Kiss around the house in places that I know she frequents. When she woke up that morning, I gave her breakfast in bed with a note that read "Today you will receive a kiss for every reason you're a great mother! ...But, you might have to work for it." She found the first one in the medicine cabinet while she was getting ready for church. It was great because, rather than searching for them through the house, she just went about her business and bumped into them naturally. She had so much fun finding them throughout the day. And, it gave her plenty of time to process each message one by one.
Make a stop on your way home from work and pick up that special treat your wife just loves.
For my wife, it's something very particular at Starbucks. In fact, it sounds a little like an NFL quarterback calling a play. She's after a grande vanilla rooibos tea latte (sweetened) with skim milk. I now have it memorized so I can swing by and order it whenever I want. It's actually a pretty nice alternative to roses when I just want to do something different.
Dates on a Dime
This book is very similar to the previous one but it's all about fun, cheap dates. With the economy the way it is right now, saving money is a high priority for many of us. This book helps you have fun with your wife without destroying your wallet. Here are some examples:
Test drive your fantasy car together.
This one is very much worth doing! My wife loves the Lexus SC 430 convertible and she had a blast driving it around town for a little while with the top down. We actually got to drive two different cars that night (a new one and an older one), and she was loving it. The only downside to this is that the salesperson will obviously be trying to make a sale. It's really best to let them know when you call that you aren't looking to make a purchase right now but will happily tip them for the tour if they'll play along. Otherwise you have to deal with the sales pitch the entire time, which adds a stressful element and detracts from the date experience.
There's no charge on window-shopping! Visit the mall and model a stunning evening gown for him or a dashing suit for her. Admire the look, then kindly place it back on the rack.
You don't have to make a purchase to have a good time, especially if you're a woman. Gentlemen, I understand that this is counterintuitive and that the whole point of shopping from our perspective is to buy something and then leave. For women, this isn't the case. Just go with it. It really is fun once you get over the feeling of pointlessness. Quality time with our wives is never pointless, no matter what we're doing.
State and national parks are affordable. Pack a lunch and enjoy the great outdoors.
My wife and I went to Tallulah Gorge for the day here in Georgia (US). The view was spectacular from above along the overlook trails, but what's really fun is taking the several-hundred-step stairway down to the bottom, crossing the river on foot carefully stepping from large boulder to large boulder, and hiking the gorge floor. The lower hike is a bit strenuous but a lot of fun, as you follow the stream navigating obstacle after obstacle. We love hiking and this one did not disappoint. And, it was cheap. We only had to pay for parking!
Two Hearts Are Better Than One
My wife and I love this journal from Dennis and Barbara Rainey. The book asks questions for you and your wife to each answer in journal format.
- Of all the gifts you've received, which do you cherish most? Of all the gifts you've given, which did you enjoy giving the most?
- What two or three problems, if solved, would make the most difference in our marriage and family?
- Describe your most embarrassing moment. Also describe your most touching experience.
This journal is fantastic for sharing our thoughts and feelings with each other. For guys, it can be difficult to get us to open up. Writing in a journal is a great way to kick start that for a guy. Most women crave our words to them. They want to know us and to be known. It's time to open up and let them in to see who we are on the inside. You could walk away actually understanding each other. What a novel concept in a marriage!
Obviously no amount of resources will help if they just sit there and collect dust. And no amount of ideas were going to help my marriage if they just sat in my head endlessly. I didn't want to have a "black flag" implementation of romance (ideas check in but they don't check out). You have to give it a shot and do your best with it. What I've found is that the more ideas I find from outside sources the more creative ideas I come up with myself. Something I read will spawn some other idea I can use that is specific to my relationship with her.
The most important thing for me has been to build my confidence by doing something regularly for her. I can honestly say that goal has been accomplished. Romance isn't something I stress about. It's something I enjoy, because I am confident about my ability to use creative ideas to make marriage fun. Through the process, we've grown closer together and have begun to understand each other more and more. While we may not see this as urgent, it certainly is. Consider the ramifications of neglecting your marriage. We see it in other people but we are unable to predict it in our own lives. I hope this encourages you to step up and give your marriage top billing on your priority list. It's definitely worth it.