Putting back the romance
By Norman Araiza
Something seems to happen to almost all romantic relationships that have survived a decade or three that causes the romance to dwindle. Some may say that this is a normal occurrence and not something to be concerned about. Others may argue that it may be as normal as grey hair, but that doesn’t mean that we’re stuck with it. When I use the word romance in this context, I’m not necessarily talking about candlelit dinners and romantic music, but I am referring to the tenderness in a relationship, the softness of voice, the loving gestures, the warm affection expressed by a gentle touch. For those of you who won’t take the grey lying down or for those of you who can handle the grey, but just want more from your relationship, read on.
Sometimes romance fades with our hormones. For others, romance continues to sizzle long after the last milligram of testosterone or estrogen is secreted. Hormones are about reproduction. They have little to do with romance. In fact, many of us cringe at the thought of reproduction while longing for the intoxication of a little romance.
Romance is a state of mind. It’s about valuing our partners and expressing that value. It’s about risk-taking and not settling for just meat and potatoes. For some of us, it’s about bringing up old memories of happier times and sharing that memory with our partner, while deciding to make new ones. It’s not necessarily about sex. It’s about love, joy and appreciation and the expression of such. It’s about “spirit and intent” which is the desire to do something pleasurable for your partner that is just for them.
The oldest couple I had the pleasure of working with was 84 and 82. They had been married 58 years but were fearful they had lost something the last few years. He talked about his daily responsibility of selecting the right wine and music to go with his wife’s gourmet dinners. She spent the morning reading newspapers looking for something to add to their conversation at dinner. Their desire to be better partners was their strength in the relationship. I’m sure I got more from our sessions than they did.
Ultimately, I believe romance is communicating to your partner your experience, of what you allow yourself to feel, by loving them. It’s truly an attitude that you create inside yourself by cherishing your time with your partner. It’s not what you are doing that makes a situation romantic or not, it’s what you allow yourself to feel that makes something romantic. It’s also a form of energy that you bring into the relationship. It can be conscious like making a plan to share something together or unconscious as in spontaneity of action.
Many of us relate romance to sex, yet romance need not be complicated with sexual matters. When I think about romance I think about intimacy. Intimacy, in the best of couples, is about sharing private thoughts and feelings that may be expressed verbally or sometimes in a private language not meant for others; a language of touch and smiles. High-functioning couples oftentimes communicate nonverbally, perhaps with a hand squeeze, or a sliding foot on a partner’s calf under the table, that means something to each. It’s about staying in contact through a smile or a wink when you find yourselves on opposite sides of a room at a party.
Romance cannot be unilateral, meaning that if only one partner is romantic it will be short-lived or not achieved at all. Putting romance back in a relationship requires a decision by both to experiment with change. It can’t be one-sided. That’s where the risk- taking comes in. Someone must bring up the relationship as a topic of evaluation and discussion. It should be talked about openly, non-accusatory, and from a position of hope and desire. It’s hard to fix things if you don’t admit that something is broken or not functioning as well as you’d like.
Norman Araiza MA is an American-trained family therapist enjoying a limited practice in San Miguel de Allende. He is available for consultation at 152 7842; email: firstname.lastname@example.org.