It comes down to one simple principle—love your neighbor as you would want to be loved.

by Barbara Rainey

I’ve noticed that most romantic novels and movies contain a common theme. It
goes like this: A handsome, intelligent, adventurous, single man on a mission
unexpectedly meets a beautiful, equally intelligent single woman under
improbable circumstances—often in an exotic foreign location or in a lavish
historical setting. Though their personalities may clash at first, and though
they may even be on opposing “teams,” eventually they fall madly in love. And
while this love is often impulsive and always new—never mature—in most
cases the story ends with the unspoken assumption that they will live happily
ever after.

How many romance novels or all-star chick flicks feature a faithful husband
and wife with two, four, six, or eight children, living a normal life (whatever
that is!) going to work and school and church, and enjoying passionate romance
on a regular basis? Not many that I know of.

How many couples really live like people in the movies and novels? Who can
maintain that level of intensity? Or adventure, intrigue, and surprise? Does
that sound like your marriage relationship? I’m guessing it doesn’t.

Everyone must come down from the high of new love and make the transition to
everyday romance. But it’s also important to work at renewing some elements of
that “first love.” That’s why a good book or movie with a romantic theme, as
shallow as they may be, can also be instructive; they can cause us to reflect on
and remember the flavor of new love. They show us how couples in love act with
each other, and they remind us of the effort that many of us once put into our
marriage relationship.

Imagination and creativity

Couples in the new love season of romance are often so focused on pleasing
each other that they devise ingenious means of capturing each other’s attention
and create endless ways to say “I love you.” Their courtship is marked with
creative notes and gifts, interesting dates, surprise parties, and much more.
But at some point complacency sets in to a relationship, and creativity often
goes out the window—or is refocused toward the children.

The ability to imagine and create sets humans apart from the animal world.
It’s a connection to God Himself—using your mind to think of something that is
different or unique or distinct and then expressing that idea in some kind of
action.

In an article titled “God Is Not Boring,” John Piper suggests that using our
God-given imagination is a Christian duty. He writes, “Jesus said, ‘Whatever you
wish that others would do to you do also to them’ (Matthew 7:12). We must
imagine ourselves in their place and imagine what we would like done to us.
Compassionate, sympathetic, helpful love hangs much on the imagination of the
lover.”

The application for rekindling romance in marriage
is this:  Express your love to your husband in the same way you want him to
express it to you.
  Small actions of creativity can include phone calls,
e-mails, and little notes that express your gratitude and praise for who he is
and what he does. Whisper in his ear, telling him you enjoyed your most recent
lovemaking; that will make him proud to be your man. Thank him verbally for his
manly qualities that you love—his strength, his work, his leadership, his
faithfulness, his way of serving you and your children.

Then, there are those medium-level creative touches that contribute more
directly to a romantic rendezvous. Buy candles and romantic music for your
bedroom. Replace your worn-out panties and bras with something new and more
interesting. Demonstrate greater affection by giving him a back rub or more
passionate kisses or some other affectionate means of extra attention. My
husband always appreciates a new nightgown because he knows it’s not important
to me what I wear to bed as long as I’m warm. The truth is, I’d wear the same
thing for years until it wore out if it weren’t for my husband!

Ultimately the best creativity is your imaginative new ways to give yourself
to your husband sexually. Depending on your background and your husband’s level
of interest in trying new things, this could require a great amount of risk for
you. The only guidelines for your creativity are that it be pleasing to your
husband, not offensive to either of you, and within the boundaries of Scripture.
Plan a special love feast for his birthday; find different places to enjoy love;
dream up different things to wear … or not wear.

Baking a cake

One last thought as you sift through these elements for creating your own
romantic marriage. In some ways, renewing romance is like baking a cake. Many
common ingredients, such as flour and sugar and eggs, go into every cake recipe,
but there are also many variables that affect the baking. Oven temperature,
altitude, humidity, and the inevitable mistakes of inaccurate measuring,
incorrect ingredients, or inadequate equipment have an effect on the final
product.

Each partner brings to the marriage a host of romantic variables. Each of us
brings a way of thinking from the past. Each of us has experienced
disappointment and failure and rejection in life unrelated to romance and sex
that influence the ability to take further risks. Many marriages deal with
repeated health issues for one or both spouses.

Your individual personalities will also be factors. Some are very expressive
verbally and physically. Others enjoy new experiences, are somewhat impulsive,
and think fun is more important than frugality. Still others are extremely
practical and evaluate the actual monetary cost and the emotional cost of each
decision. More cautious, not impulsive, and less expressive would better
describe them. Be careful not to ignore or minimize these variables in
rekindling your own romance.

In the end, renewing romance in your marriage means taking the time to work
on your relationship by gathering the right ingredients and being willing to
“love your neighbor as yourself”—and your nearest neighbor in this case just
happens to be your husband.

Excerpted from Rekindling the Romance. Copyright © 2004 by Dennis and
Barbara Rainey. Used by permission of Thomas Nelson Publishers. All rights
reserved.