A TV talk show host was interviewing one of Hollywood's biggest male stars, a man known for his prowess with the opposite sex. At one point, the host asked him, "What makes a great lover?"
"Two things," the actor replied. "First of all, it is a man who can satisfy one woman over a lifetime. And it is a man who can be satisfied with one woman for a lifetime."
What a great answer! To build a lasting marriage of oneness and intimacy, you and your mate must be committed to meeting each other's physical and emotional needs. The problem is that, sometime within the first year or two after the wedding ceremony, something happens in most marriages. Those romantic fires that burned so brightly during engagement seem to crumble into faint, glowing embers.
What is it about marriage that seems to dull our romantic creativity? At some point in almost every marriage, a couple realizes that they just don't experience the same romantic feelings they once enjoyed. As one cynical person once said, "The period of engagement is like an exciting introduction to a dull book."
The foundation of a marriage is a solid commitment of unconditional love. Romance is an outward expression of that love. It is the fire in the fireplace—the warm response of one spouse to another that says, "We may have struggles, but I love you, and everything is okay."
We ought to make romance a part of our everyday diet in our marriage relationship. Look at what the Bible speaks of in Proverbs 5:18-19:
... and rejoice in the wife of your youth, as a loving hind and a graceful doe, let her breasts satisfy you at all times. Be exhilarated always with her love.
That's a powerful image—to be literally exhilarated by your mate. This type of romance is part of what sets a marriage apart from just a friendship. My wife, Barbara, is my friend, but there is a side of our friendship that goes way beyond that. We share a marriage bed together, and we dream thoughts and share intimacies that are shared with nobody else on this planet. That's what God intended, I believe, in the marriage relationship.
Romance and Excitement
I find it interesting that God found romance and sex so important that He dedicated an entire book in the Bible, Song of Solomon, to encourage us to experience it. Although the Song of Solomon has spiritual meaning and application, it is considered by a large number of scholars as primarily God's description of what a romantic, sexual relationship between man and wife should be like. Just look at how the book begins:
"May he kiss me with the kisses of his mouth, for your love is better than wine, your oils have a pleasing fragrance...Draw me after you and let us run together!"
(Song of Solomon 1:2,4a)
Throughout the book, the lover (Solomon) and his beloved (Shulamith) talk enthusiastically about romantic and sexual love. They obviously enjoy each other's bodies. Note, for example, what Solomon says about Shulamith:
"How beautiful your feet in sandals, O prince's daughter! The curves of your hips are like jewels, the work of the hands of an artist…Your two breasts are like two fawns, twins of a gazelle....Your stature is like a palm tree, and your breasts are like its clusters. I said, `I will climb the palm tree, I will take hold of its fruit stalks.' Oh, may your breasts be like clusters of the vine, and the fragrance of your breath like apples, and your mouth like the best wine!"
(Song of Solomon 7:1-3, 7-9)
Romantic love is part of God's character. He made us in His image, and He gave us emotions. Just as He woos us to follow after Him and express our love for Him, so a husband and wife attempt to win each other's affections. I think in many regards husbands and wives are modeling what God is up to as He pursues individuals.
While we cannot base marriage solely on romantic feelings, we also can't deny our need for the closeness and intimacy. Without those qualities in a relationship, a couple will drift into isolation.
Rekindling the Fire
If you are experiencing severe physical, emotional or verbal abuse in your marriage, you probably need to focus on other needs in your marriage besides improving your romance. But chances are that most of you, no matter how good your marriage relationship is, could use some more romance in your marriage.
You can't expect the intense feelings of engagement and early marriage to last. But one thing should not change, and that is your commitment to each other based on the covenant you made before God. As you actively choose to love, based on this commitment, those romantic feelings will return.
If you want to put some spark back into your relationship, I have a few tips:
First, seek to meet your spouse's romantic needs. This means becoming a student of your spouse and learning what pleases him or her.
Did you know that men and women view romance through different lenses? To confirm this, the next time you are in Bible study or Sunday school class, divide the men and women into separate groups and ask them to answer the same question: "What is something romantic that you would like your mate to do for you?"
I'll guarantee you that, if they are honest, the men will focus on physical intimacy: "Dress up in a sexy negligee," or, "Meet me at the front door without any clothes." The women, however, will say things like , "Take me to a romantic, candle-lit restaurant," "Spend time talking with me," or "Sit in front of a fire and cuddle." Men are motivated by sight and touch, while women want to develop a relationship.
(Note: Read additional information on how men and women view romance and sex differently.)
Meeting your spouse's romantic needs involves more than understanding male/females differences. It also means remembering what pleases him or her. And it means sacrificing your own needs to meet those of your spouse. Selfishness and romance do not mix well.
Second, make romance a priority in your relationship. Everything of value or that requires a time commitment finds a place on your schedule. Romance should, too. Sit down tonight with your spouse and your calendars. Find a time in the next two weeks for you two to go out. Make sure both of you write the date down—if you use a day planner or a personal digital assistant, put in the information! This exercise will cause both of you to anticipate your time together out.
This also means making time in your schedule for sex. One reason so many marriage beds are frozen over or boring is that couples "just don't have time" for sex. Let's face it, today our jobs and businesses seem to get our best. Our children usually get our best. Even church work can get our best. But adding romance and adventure to our marriages seldom gets our best.
Third, make your home—and especially your bedroom—a creative setting for sex. Your bedroom needs to be a private, secure, romantic hideaway, not a place where the husbands rebuilds his motorcycle or the kids gather to play games.
I know of one stockbroker husband who had a ticker tape machine installed in his bedroom and kept it running 24 hours a day. He may have been able to watch the Dow Jones go up, but my guess is that the market for romance hit an all-time low.
Fourth, look for creative ways to communicate love and commitment to your spouse. When two people are dating and considering marriage, they often come up with a variety of creative ways to woo and attract each other. They talk on the phone, they send notes and flowers, they plan special outings. Isn't it a shame that this courtship fizzles within a few months of the wedding ceremony? We should court our spouses with the same enthusiasm.
Finally, plan out some special dates or weekends together. You may be thinking, "How can you plan romance? It's supposed to be spontaneous!" Sometimes that is true. But we're amazed at the number of couples we meet who rarely spend meaningful time together. Many couples attending our FamilyLife Weekend to Remember conferences say they haven't been on a date in over a year. Even more shocking is the fact that some haven't been away alone together overnight since their honeymoon! How long has it been for you?
I know a man who planned a "scavenger hunt" for his wife. About two weeks before they were to leave on a romantic get-away, he began to scatter little hints around the house. Using clues he gave her, she would find these hints and collect them.
Finally, she took all the clues and pieced together a map of New England. Then the husband told her what was happening and all she had time for was to pack and kiss the kids goodbye. They took off and spent their tenth wedding anniversary in New England. His wife still talks about that trip—and is ready for another one!
Men, will you take initiative to pursue your wife romantically? Wives, will you truly love your men? Rekindling the romance in your marriage doesn't require a lot of money, and it often doesn't even take much time. What you do need is the commitment to do it. Like any good fire in the fireplace, it needs attention and fuel. The warmth is worth it!
Copyright ©2002 by FamilyLife. All rights reserved. Portions of this article were adapted from Staying Close, by Dennis and Barbara Rainey, 1989, Word Publishing.
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