Perhaps that’s not the declaration you expect from a woman dedicated to happily ever afters. But please don’t take it to mean I’ve grown jaded because real life isn’t like romance books, or even that I believe guys can’t be romantic.
I simply think many women are disappointed when we don’t score the “romantic” goods and services because few of us identify, let alone articulate and ask for our real emotional needs to be fulfilled. It might be a little humiliating to admit, but maybe, just maybe, guys can’t get it right because we secretly, stubbornly maintain the “If he loved me, he’d prove it by just knowing what pleases me” fantasy benchmark of relational success.
Family therapist and relationships expert Terry Real says what lots of contemporary women don’t realize is guys today want to be better partners, husbands, dads and lovers – even more romantic. But they were brought up by “keep it all inside and be manly” dads who ruled their home/castles. Contemporary men can be confounded when interacting with today’s women, who’ve learned well in the last 25 years or so how to “find” and use their voices.
In “The New Rules of Marriage ,” Real’s extraordinary book for couples in any phase of commitment and intimacy, he advises women and men not to simply tell partners why they’re not getting things right, i.e. not being romantic or sexy, etc. Rather, Real says we need to learn to make statements about what we want, leaving out anything to do with past or future.
So instead of “You never surprise me with anything romantic on Valentine’s Day and I told you a decade ago when you bought me those flowers I was allergic to that…” why not try, “I love Valentine’s Day, and it makes me so happy when you take me to dinner and buy me a little piece of jewelry. It makes me feel romantic, and makes me want to make you feel that way later. I’d like you to do those things for me this year.”
Please allow me to change your life by disabusing you of that notion. Even the best guys who are organized enough to hold down jobs, pay the bills and care for families admit they’re boneheads at retaining real-life details, even when it comes to the women they adore. So if your goal is to be pleased by the man you love, your choices in how to make it so are limited. Keep doing it the way you have and be disappointed. Or start spelling out exactly what you want and how he can give it to you.*
But that’s not romance! you murmur, pouting, trying to keep that sad ol’ sinking ship afloat. You’re right, it’s not. It’s respect. And it’s consideration for our partners’ needs in trying to please us. Those build way more intimacy in the short term than love lessons learned painfully and by rote. And in the long run, they may even get us more of the flowery, sparkly, champagne-and-chocolaty stuff of romance we covet.
How do you define romance or romantic? How do you get what you want from your partner? How’s that working for you?
*If you really want to make sure you get what you want, ask a mutually beloved friend to gently remind your guy of upcoming romantic occasions. Several times if necessary. And help him hit it out of the ballpark: Tell him the name of a woman you know whom he always can go to to find out what you’d love for a gift – and keep her up to date!
Michelle Buonfiglio writes daily about romance fiction at BN’s Heart to Heart and RomanceBuytheBook.com and Tuesdays at BN’s Unabashedly Bookish. Buonfiglio also authors the popular RBTB NEWs romance e-newsletter.