Ok Folks: It is Valentine’s week. Perhaps the most anticipated and dreaded week of a couple’s year.
Women, are you dropping hints like, “You better remember to make reservations somewhere?” Or, “I saw a beautiful pair of earrings at my favorite store?”
Men, are you walking around with a tight chest this week? Are you sure you will get it wrong? Do you believe that no matter what you do it won’t be enough?
Perhaps you are one of the lucky ones and your romantic life is absolutely in sync and you are always completely satisfied with how Valentine’s Day goes. If you are, we want to interview you!
We had fun looking up the definition of romance. We all know “romance” is a genre of literature. But according to Merriam-Webster, romance is also, and we quote, “something (as an extravagant story or account) that lacks basis in fact.” (Snicker, snicker.) Or the verb, romance, “to talk about something in a way that makes it seem better than it really is.” As in romantic fantasy. Not romantic reality.
I, Amy, want to tell you an embarrassing story about my own romantic fantasies gone awry. Occasionally there would be a Friday when I knew I would get off early. My husband is supposed to get off at 1pm on Fridays. So, I would get this whole idea in my head, (note definitions above) and it went something like this. “Oh, so Nick and I will go to some restaurant and sit outside and have a drink or two. Then we will go home and make love. Then we will go out tonight for a lovely dinner and enjoy my favorite bottle of wine.” Please note, that I NEVER told Nick about my romantic fantasy. So, when Nick would call around 2pm and say he was stuck out of town and wouldn’t be home until 7pm, I would…..well, I will let you imagine what I would do. It wasn’t pretty. You see, my romantic fantasy was a secret that had no basis in fact (see definition above, again). It took me a few years of marriage and a few thousand dollars of therapy to get it into my thick head that I was actually setting up a romantic failure. Now, I at least tell Nick about my fantasies. And I accept the realities of his job and of who he is much more fully. Now our romance is rooted in reality. It is sooo much better.
I, Rhea, am now single and dating (whereas Amy has been married for 36+ years). My own romantic fantasy is that I am waiting for the perfect relationship to fall into my life. I’ve met and dated some fine men but for whatever reasons, this perfect relationship eludes me. Please understand, I am not waiting for the perfect man—I’m actually pretty realistic about people in general. We all have flaws. But what I have been waiting on is that airport moment: You know…The Grand Romantic Gesture: the one in which the relationship had its strong points, we part ways, and then when I am about to leave, he chases me down to confess his terrible mistake at not having appreciated me fully and to declare his undying love….as the scene pans up to the stars. You know, Richard Gere in Pretty Woman, John Cusack in Say Anything, or even the smitten little Sam the drummer in Love Actually. I’m beginning to think this romantic fantasy apparently only exists in the movies. Not in reality. But…I am still wanting it and waiting on it. I would take, very simply, an honest, intimate declaration of feelings.
So how do we navigate romance in a relationship? How do we keep it alive? How do we live in reality and yet get enough of the romantic stuff to feel enlivened and special?
In Gottman language, you have to build your Love Maps and develop fondness and admiration for each other. Rob Becker, creator of and actor in Defending the Caveman, says it this same way at the end of his performance, “You have to be willing to enter each others’ worlds.” I, Amy, needed to let Nick into my world/fantasies and I needed to respect his more. This helped a lot. And, if you want to meet my/Rhea’s romantic fantasy, you have to be willing to be open and vulnerable, not afraid to show your heart, not afraid to let me know that you don’t want to live without me.
So often we don’t want to do this. We want it to be our way. We don’t understand why we should have to do something that doesn’t come naturally to us to please our partner. We think if we love them the way we want to be loved that that should be good enough. But it is not. The Platinum Rule says it this way: Do unto others as they want to be done unto. You have to learn to love your partner in the way that matters to them.
You have to learn to love your partner in the way that matters to them.
And for sure who really wants to be vulnerable? It’s so much easier to guard your heart, play it safe, let the other person take the leap first. It is just scary as hell to put your heart out there. To be emotionally naked and available. You might get really hurt.
C.S. Lewis, theologian and writer, speaks to the absolute necessity of vulnerability and risk in loving relationships.
“There is no safe investment. To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket – safe, dark, motionless, airless – it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love at all is to be vulnerable.
The alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation. The only place outside Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is Hell.” ― C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves
There is no safe investment. To love at all is to be vulnerable. –C.S. Lewis
We couldn’t say it better. As the week unfolds and we head to Valentine’s Day, how do you want to be romanced? Do you know what your partner wants? Have you shared these fantasies? Are you operating from a place of protection and guardedness or can you be open and vulnerable?
Love is messy. And love is marvelous. We wish you fantasies and realities that are fulfilling and rewarding this week.
Amy & Rhea