365 days of Valentines – The Secret to Keeping Romance Alive
Valentines Day certainly arrives with a lot of emotional expectation! I remember the excitement in first grade about our class party and getting little candies and hearts from everybody. Not too many grades later hoping that the candy from that really cute boy would say, “Will you be mine?” And wow, the stakes got higher as we got older: will he ask me out, will he give me a card, will he ask me to go steady, will he tell me he loves me, give me my first kiss, or the mother lode of all—will he propose?
We love to be “in love!” But unfortunately, “being in love” lasts, on average, only about two years. If you plan to have a romance or a relationship that lasts longer than two years, it is necessary to take active steps to transition from “in love” to “real love.” Otherwise you place yourself at risk for relationship disaster in the long run.
The active agent that transitions you from one to the other is the practice of what we call “romantic acts.”
Romantic acts are easily defined, “Acts performed by one person to help another person feel loved:” a dozen red roses, a slurpy card, a gentle kiss, a diamond ring, taking out the garbage, a snuggle by the fire, saying “I love you”. Yes, there are 1001 different actions one might do to help your partner feel loved. But, how does that help you transition from in love to real love?
During the in-love phase romantic acts happen so often, so easily, so automatically that little effort is required. Thoughts about our beloved consume our thoughts and stimulate us to express love many times a day. But after many years of marriage thousands of other demands consume our thoughts and the wellspring of loving emotion runs a little dry.
Take a look at a typical progression. Early in the relationship she went to the basketball game because she loved her sweetie. Now she’s happy for him to go and enjoy some time with the guys while she stays home and watches a romantic comedy. For many people, they continue disengage from activity after activity until they are living parallel lives: she does her thing, he does his thing. Relationship has largely disappeared.
How then do we keep the romance alive, how do we keep the flame burning? Well, once the in-love phase has run its course, keeping the flame alive is determined by continuing to choose to do the romantic acts you did while the two of you were in love—even if you don’t feel like doing them! Personality psychology tells us that emotion is a response to action. If we continue to do the actions, the emotions will remain vivid. Glen Yarborough (in the song If You Could Read My Mind) laments “but the feeling’s gone and I just can’t get it back.” Glen has got it quite backward. If the feeling is gone, you need to begin to do the things you used to do (romantic acts) and watch the feelings return. The popular Parent Trap films, whether the Haley Mills (1962) or the Lindsey Lohan (1997) version, are psychologically sound because the children get the parents together by re-creating romantic settings and reminding them of the reasons they loved each other.
If you continue a pattern of exploring the 1001 ways of saying “I love you” to your sweetheart, if you choose to express your love several times each day, the flame will be kept burning brightly and romance will be an ever present warmth in your relationship.