Have you ever read a story about how a couple got engaged? We’ve come across some real winners! One man proposed to his girlfriend, a kindergarten teacher, by making an announcement over the school’s public address system during class. Another pre-recorded his proposal and arranged for it to be aired on a local radio station in the middle of his girlfriend’s favorite song. It seems there is no end to our innovation when we’re trying to win the one we love.
So what is it about marriage that seems to dull our romantic creativity? At some point in almost every marriage, a couple realizes their engagement was like an exciting introduction to a dull book.
Romance is not the foundation of a marriage. It is the fire in the fireplace—the warmth and security of a relationship 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 graceful doe, let her breast satisfy you at all times. Be exhilarated always with her love.”
That’s a powerful image—to be literally exhilarated by your spouse. 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 also a side of our friendship that goes way beyond that—we share a marriage bed together, and we have dreams and exchange intimacies that are shared with nobody else on this planet. That’s what God intended, we believe, in the marriage relationship.
God created romance
We 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. This poetic book provides a rich 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! … Draw me after you and let us run together!” (Song of Solomon 1:2,4).
Throughout the book, Solomon and his beloved, Shulamith, talk enthusiastically about romance, sexual love, and each other’s bodies. Note what Solomon says about Shulamith:
“How beautiful are 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 navel is like a round goblet which never lacks mixed wine; your belly is like a heap of wheat fenced about with lilies. 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 fragrances of your breath like apples, and your mouth like the best wine!” (Song of Solomon 7:1-3, 7-9)
And Shulamith does not mince words either: “My beloved is dazzling and ruddy, outstanding among ten thousand … and he is wholly desirable” (Song of Solomon 5:10, 16a).
Romantic love is a 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. We believe husbands and wives are modeling what God is up to as He pursues individuals.
In his classic book, My Utmost for His Highest, Oswald Chambers writes, “Human nature if it is healthy demands excitement. And if it does not obtain its thrilling excitement in the right way it will seek it in the wrong. God never made bloodless stoics, He made passionate saints.”
We love that quote because that’s the picture of how God loves His people. He wired us to have excitement and thrill and adventure. Romantic love was meant to sweep us along in a steady current all the way through married life. 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 those issues before you worry about romance. But most of us could use some more romance, no matter how good our marriage relationship is. You can’t expect the intense feelings of engagement and early marriage to last. You’ll need a game plan so that you can fall back on your commitment to one another during those times when your feelings waver. You’ll need to spend the rest of your life learning how to romance your spouse.
Christian marriage was meant to be an exciting adventure. So if you want to put some spark back into your relationship, we have two tips.
First, become a student of your spouse. You probably know that men and women view romance through different lenses. Men focus on the physical: A sexy piece of lingerie or adventurous sexual encounter is hard to beat for them! But it’s difficult for a man to remember to cultivate the intimate relationship his wife needs. Women, however, are motivated by relationship. They might prefer sitting by the fire or spending time talking, and they end up resenting their husbands’ sex drive. You can imagine the potential for unmet expectations. It’s a lesson I (Dennis) learned the hard way.
Early in our marriage, some friends surprised Barbara and me by sending us to Mexico for a much-needed vacation. We had a suite with a balcony, and one evening enjoyed a spectacular dinner on the beach with the balmy breezes blowing ever so gently over our table. Then we went back to our room where the candles were lit, the windows were open, and romantic music drifted up from below, with the muffled crash of the surf in the background.
There had been a brief thundershower and the moon was peeking through the clouds over the ocean. It was a perfect evening. Barbara was spectacularly beautiful. It was the perfect moment for love and romance, but there was one problem—an imperfect man. I tried to rush things physically while Barbara was focused on the relational. She wanted to be held tenderly and enjoy the beauty of the moment, while I was in a hurry.
When she didn’t respond, I got so angry I threw a bottle of hand lotion through a window! The romance was shattered, and the evening ruined. We both shed tears, and I confessed my selfishness and lack of sensitivity to her need. I vowed that in the future I would learn to do a better job of denying myself, quit making demands on her, and be more patient. As we both look back, it was a pivotal point in the development of our relationship.
Second, take time to plan creative romance. Do something different, out of the ordinary, something that will capture your spouse’s attention. Now, I want you to know that for many years I’ve thought of myself as a pretty creative, romantic man. Then I heard of the “Men of the Titanic.”
This group of men resolved to demonstrate that they love their wives sacrificially. They named themselves after the men who sacrificed their lives so their wives and children could board lifeboats as that infamous ocean liner sank back in 1912.
For six months they planned the most incredible evening a woman could imagine. Every detail was carefully shaped around what would mean the most to their wives. First, the wives received handwritten invitations, and limousines arrived to pick them up to take them to a banquet hall the men had rented. As the harpist played in the background, gentlemen greeted ladies with a courtly bow.
Each wife was escorted to her place where a beautiful embroidered napkin and corsage awaited her. The husbands had been trained on how to serve the meal, and they presented an impeccable six-course dinner to their wives—an exact replica of the meal served in the first-class dining on the night the Titanic sank. They even sang love songs between courses!
After the meal, one of the men read a letter that he said was written by a man as he watched his wife float away in a lifeboat. All eyes were on him as he read the letter, full of love and praise and affection for his wife. As he finished the letter, he revealed that he had actually written the letter himself for his wife. Each man in turn presented a similar letter to his own wife, written on parchment and tied with a ribbon. The beautiful evening concluded with a song thought to have been sung as the Titanic sank—in perfect harmony the men sang “Nearer My God to Thee.”
When I interviewed one of the men on FamilyLife Today, he said, “There was something sacred about the entire evening. It was a celebration of our wives as gifts from God to us!”
The Men of the Titanic went on to plan other special adventures for their wives. One event had a medieval theme, complete with a knight’s quest, an enchanted forest, ballroom dancing, and a coronation ceremony. Afterward, one wife said of her husband: “He tells me he loves me in words and by the things he does, but this was such a big thing … It isn’t that Frank isn’t a romantic, but this definitely fanned the flame!”
Men, how do you feel after reading that? Under the pile, like I did? The question, however, is not whether you want to create your own local chapter of the Men of the Titanic, but whether you will make the effort to find creative ways to express how much you appreciate and value your wife. And, I could give the same challenge to wives as well!
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!