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They walk hand in hand. Their eyes meet briefly. Wistful smiles touch their lips. They sigh as one. When the couple reaches the park bench they sit and talk a moment. He grins. She giggles. Then he goes down on one knee, an unmistakable little box in one hand. With hope in his eyes, he pops the question and opens the box, extending it forward, waiting, holding his breath with his heart racing for her single word reply.

Romantic, isn’t it? Most people would think so, but how does one get from that first meeting, to this moment and beyond it to a long and happy fifty plus year marriage? What keeps the romance beating in the hearts of these two love birds?

I read an article recently about why women cheat. Based on the article, which seemed quite well researched, the main reason seems to be a lack of interest from their spouse or significant other. He pays more attention to work or sports or on one hobby or another than to his wife. The woman feels neglected and taken advantage of. She feels she doesn’t matter anymore. He’s no longer romantic.

Romance, we ladies need it. No matter how much we may protest that we don’t, we do, in one form or another. Why would you deny the need to feel special to the person you have decided to spend the rest of your life with? Isn’t feeling special and loved a huge part of being in a relationship in the first place?

Gentlemen, with Valentine’s Day fast approaching, I am here to tell you what women want when it comes to romance. Don’t be afraid. It’s not going to hurt and it’s not going to cost you a dime, unless you want it to. Trust me.

I gathered separately ten lady friends and ten gentlemen friends and posed to each group the same questions. What is romance? What are romantic gestures? What are those things you find most romantic to do with your partner and why? What do we woman want when it comes to romance? In both groups the ages ranged from the mid-30 to the mid-60s. Some had been married only a few months, others for over 40 years, some not at all. None of them were married to each other. Most didn’t know each other.

That there would be a difference in the comments I got was not a question. What surprised me most was how the women gave very brief, specific replies while the men tended to get into long-winded descriptions. Clearly, this is a subject these men have spent time thinking about before my inquiring mind came along.

In general, the men felt they needed to impress us ladies somehow, mainly with gifts; flowers, chocolates, jewelry, trinkets, and the like. Several even mentioned their lack of making romantic gestures stemmed more from a lack of money than anything else. “I see something that I think she’d like, so I buy it and hope she doesn’t yell at me for wasting money.” Another added, “God, romance is such a pain in the ass. I wish she’d just say, ‘Hey, let’s get some pizza and beer and watch something on Netflix.’.

No matter what is was, from a fancy dinner out or buying their love a book they showed interest in, tickets to a concert, dressing up nice and being totally uncomfortable doing so not just because the tie is too tight, but they are worried constantly if she’s doing to like any of these efforts. They feel forced to be on their best behavior instead of just being themselves. As one man put it so clearly, “This is the opening volley of romance. The ‘musts’ are impress, impress, impress.” Another pointed out, “It takes a lot of work, and therefore is not always sustainable.”

But this wasn’t all the men had to say about being romantic. Others went a different route all together.

These men felt that romance differed from woman to woman and you have to be in tune with her specific language of love. Physical touch and affirmations are far more important than gifts. Romantic gestures in some of the relationships leaned towards doing odd tasks that he knows she hates or an unexpected kiss on the back of the head while she’s distracted doing something else.

In general, these men felt that the concept was simple; the man makes the woman the center of his attention. As one put it, “In spite of all the distractions of life, he is deciding that you are the priority and he is actively seeing ways to show that.” Another opined, “I think there needs to be a degree of something you wouldn’t do for anyone else or would feel weird doing it for them which implies a certain degree of intimacy.”

So, what is it that we woman want? Is it gifts and flowers? Is it fancy dinners and bling? Or, are our ideas of romance more along the lines of that little kiss in public and making us the center of your attention, even if just for a few moments? Let’s find out.

The ladies agreed right out of the gate. Romance is not about things.

“Cooking together, for me, is very romantic. Fun in the kitchen turns me on,” one woman said. Another added, “At an outdoor football game snuggling together in a blanket is romantic.” Passion was mentioned, but not in the way you might think. Great interest was expressed at the idea of a man sharing something he is passionate about with his lady or having her share something she is passionate about with him. “I think taking the time to learn about your partner’s interests is a big deal, even if it’s not what you are into.”

We need to be reassured we’re special, but those reminders don’t need to cost anything nor do they need to take a lot of planning. We’re happy with a wink from across a crowded room or a goofy face made at us that no one else sees, and knowing you are one hundred percent focuses on us in that moment. We love what one woman calls “The Hallmark Effect”, those subtle things like bringing us a cup of coffee, leaving us little Love Notes, a phone call in the middle of the day just to say I love you, or reaching out while standing in line and kissing our hand.

We want someone who genuinely enjoys being around us. We want someone who is content to hold our hand, touch our feet together under the covers, or hear us tell the same story for the tenth time without complaint. Show us that we are interesting and worthwhile, and, most of all, that we are valued. Some of the women were sweet on what was dubbed, “Man Chest Puffery”. They liked when their man got protective even when they didn’t need him to be.

Bottom line, romance shouldn’t be hard or a pain in the ass. It’s nothing to be afraid of and it shouldn’t break the bank. It doesn’t require a suit and tie, a rose petal strewn walkway or bed, or shiny bobbles and rich gooey chocolates. It’s about giving; giving of yourself, your real self not the one stuffed into an uncomfortable suite and tie, and your full attention to us in that moment. It’s a random act of selfless love with no reward expected.

The secret is out, gentlemen. Most of us ladies truly would be very, very happy to order that pizza, better yet, let’s make that pizza together while wearing comfortable clothes in our sock feet. Put a swipe of tomato sauce on our nose and kiss it off. Make us laugh. Grab that bottle of beer and start up the Netflix.



  1. Hunter Shea

    Romance doesn’t have to cost a dime. Sometimes it’s just a look, or a touch, or even taking the time to watch a movie you saw early in your relationship. Lasting relationships take a lot of work. Sure, there are times when love seems stale. You get comfortable, and you forget to go that little bit extra from time to time. They say you have to work at it, but when you love the person you’re worth, it’s not work at all. This Valentine’s Day will mark my 24th wedding anniversary. The romance engines are already revving!

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