There are two kinds of things we are talking about when we use the word “romance”. And since definitions matter, we need to differentiate between what we mean here.
Most often, we are talking about the warm, fuzzy feeling of newness. You’ll see a lot of blogs about how to keep the romance alive. It fades because it isn’t new forever. And we’ll talk about that more.
The other kind of romance is a truer definition. It is one based on affection. It starts out with the warm, fuzzy newness. But the warm, fuzzy newness does not contain it. And as the relationship grows, so does the romance (or, it can, if we are intentional about it).
It is interesting that this word can mean both “soft” and “unclear” – because those are both good ways to describe the initial spark of being in love. It kind of slaps us upside the head, in the best way possible. Head over heels. It is a dizzying and exciting type of emotion.
We use this idea of romanticism in all kinds of things (not just relationships). Starting a new job or going on an adventure are “romantic” ideas. It is simply that the endeavor is new that elicits these emotions. It is the mystery, the hope, the excitement of what might be. Which, by the way, is not really indicative of what is. It is our expectations floating and twirling.
Your fuzzy feelings are awesome, but not sustainable. You’d never get any work done and make yourself sick. It’s fun in the beginning, but the reality is we cannot keep this kind of romance alive. This kind of romance is temporary. If we try to hold our relationship to it for too long, we will sabotage what otherwise might be a great thing.
People always lament the end of romance within relationships. It is why we bail. Why we break up and fight. It is not that the spark is gone that is the problem; it is that we are fighting to reignite a spark when a flame is already in progress.
Your relationship does not need the old kind of romance. It doesn’t need to be new again. In fact, it can’t be. The only way to “keep romance alive” is to allow it to evolve alongside you.
The Evolution of Romance
Consistency gets a bad wrap in relationships. It’s a bit boring. Yet, isn’t this exactly what we want deep down? The safety and security of commitment. Being known.
We spend most of our lives in “the ordinary”. And we summarily spend a good bit of time trying to escape normality. We want the rush of excitement. We want the miracle of newness. But even adventure gets boring eventually. Imagine if you woke up tomorrow and could walk on water. It would be thrilling and extraordinary tomorrow. But seventy years from now, it wouldn’t hold the same thrill. That’s hard to see today because we are focused on what tomorrow’s thrill would be like. The Israelites saw manna from Heaven. The disciples saw healings. For both, the awe gave way to a kind of normality.
When this happens, we have two choices. Lament or evolve. One of the reasons pursuing truth is so important is because it helps us figure out whether we should continue in a relationship or bail. Was the excitement fun for a time but it is now over? Or is it evolving into a new kind of romance?
When we were in the process of falling in love, the most striking thing about my (future) wife was how normal it felt to be around her. I don’t mean “Boring”. I mean “right”. Familiar. Consistent.
Romance is not meant to end. We are not meant to hold onto its superficial manifestation. Those butterflies at the beginning are a hint at the depths yet to come. When the butterflies have matured and flown the coup, it is something to be celebrated. They make way for choices, commitments, intentional affection. The day-to-day romance.
If our idea of romance doesn’t evolve with our relationship, we are going to hold on to unhealthy expectations. And how silly? To want the level one version when level fifty is in front of us. Anyone who thinks commitment is not as exciting as newness is not really paying attention. We need to awaken to the reality of romance within our relationships. And celebrate what is, rather than try to hold on to an obsolete and relatively immature version of what was.