Ladies, was your Valentine’s Day a little… disappointing? Not quite up to the Hallmark movie scene you might have imagined? You know, that scene where the female lead shows up at a prearranged location for an unknown reason and finds herself following an elaborate scavenger hunt trail to arrive at a candlelit table set up for a romantic dinner for two, the male lead standing there with roses in hand and an adoring look in his eyes?
Maybe you got the same card and candy combination you get every year, which you suspect your husband picked up in a quick drugstore stop on his way home from work. Has whatever your man did—or didn’t do—left you wondering how much effort he put into romancing you that day (or any other day, for that matter), or if he even really cares?
Well, you might be surprised to learn that he does care—and he deeply wants to please you. During my research for For Women Only, I asked men if they desired romance in their relationship for themselves and I was shocked that 84% said yes!
So what’s holding him back? Maybe he actually is trying, but you don’t interpret his attempts as romantic. Men and women sometimes define romance differently, so the signals between sender and receiver can get crossed.
Or—even more likely—maybe he’s concerned that he won’t please you. My research shows that a huge majority of men think they can put together a romantic event, but almost half aren’t confident that you’ll like it. And also, for the huge majority of men, the prospect of failure is their most painful feeling. In other words, your man is probably worried that if he tries something, he’ll see signals that he didn’t get it right . . . and he knows that will hurt.
So how can you move forward from your Valentine’s Day disappointment and take steps that can inspire positive change in your man in the romance department? Here are four ways to give him the encouragement and confidence he needs to up his romantic game.
Recognize his romantic intentions.
The first step is fine-tuning your awareness. What you interpret and define as romantic might be different than your husband. For a man, enjoying “play time” with his partner—just spending time together, whether watching TV, sharing an activity, or going somewhere together, is truly romantic. So, don’t always be looking for flowers and candlelight. Expand your definition of romance, and key into his.
Give him a chance to practice.
Though he may feel tentative and uncertain, your appreciation will foster boldness on his part to continue his efforts. Translation: don’t tease him for not quite getting the right amount of cheese on the pizza he tried to make from scratch for dinner, or for picking a sports bar when he planned a date night out. As you show only appreciation and withhold criticism, he’ll be more confident. And at that point, you’ll have the foundation to give feedback that won’t be seen as criticism. (“I love this sports bar—so fun! Since we’ve come here three times in a row, you know what I’d love at some point? A seafood place on the lake or something. That would be cool, too.”) As he sees what you like, you’ll enjoy more experiences that are tailored to your likes & dislikes, and he’ll develop confidence that he’s pleasing you. That’s a win-win!
Appreciate romantic gestures of all sizes.
Make sure your man knows that every experience doesn’t have to top the last one! Guys can get paralyzed by that idea. Make sure he knows that a spontaneous outing to get ice cream (“just because!”) can have as much impact as an over-the-top effort planned months in advance. Remember, even your man’s smallest act of kindness demonstrates how much he loves and cares for you.
The icing on the cake to encourage your man’s romance will be flirtatious interactions with you—the kind that both inspire and reflect romance. If you’ve been together for a while, it’s possible that you’ve settled into a kind of friendly companionship. Be the sultry soulmate again. Make yourself the kind of friend—both outside the bedroom and in it—that your man constantly wants to pursue. For most men, sex is a big part of romance and it means being close to you on all levels. And what’s more romantic than that?
Wherever your husband falls on the romance scale, it’s a pretty sure bet that he wants to please you. Recognize that about him and appreciate his desire and efforts toward romance—and you’ll see more romance in your relationship . . . on Valentine’s Day, and every other day of the year.
This article was also published at Patheos.
Check out the online courses of Shaunti’s research and teachings at SurprisingHope.com.
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