how important is romance?

What does it mean to be romantic? I’m not exactly sure. What’s the most romantic thing someone’s ever done for you?

A guy wrote a love song for me once. It started “Dear Kate…” It was a good song.

Once a guy wrote a slam poem for me, and then he performed it in front of a lot of people.

Once a guy wrote a symphony for me. I am not kidding. That really happened. It had three movements. Wait, maybe it had four. It was a while ago.


On our fourth date, Bear took me to Utah, for the weekend. But he forgot our first wedding anniversary. We were supposed to write each other love letters, rather than doing gifts. He was at a conference all day. I was tagging along on his business trip. I was having a great time. I knew he wouldn’t be around much. I knew he hadn’t thought to do it before. I knew he wouldn’t remember to do it later. So when he didn’t do anything for our anniversary, it was fine.

But I was a little worried, too. People might think, “What kind of husband forgets your FIRST anniversary?” (A bad one.)

I thought my friends might ask me what he’d gotten me, and then I’d have to say “nothing,” and then it’d be weird. I’d have to explain. “No, no, Bear is so amazing…I know how much he loves me! He’s the best! We’re just BOTH not into gifts. Seriously. We don’t even care about them.” And then they’d look at me, with this sympathetic look, and they’d be thinking, “She sounds so defensive, poor girl…He’s probably going to leave her.”

It occurred to me that Bear is maybe not very romantic. Can you be married to someone for a year without realizing that they’re not romantic?

When I think of romance, I think of doing something extra– something dramatic. Of putting yourself out there. Singing in the rain, while the guy closing up the pizza place gives you a look that says, “Why do I even live in this stupid friggin’ city full of crazy people?”


“Come on,” said the guy who wrote me the song.“Let’s run along the river!” It was 2 am. We were not drunk. “Come on…”

“Okay, okay,” I said. I followed him outside and we went to Riverside Park. He hopped a fence.

“I have to get over this fence now?” I said.

“Live a little!”

I lived. I got over the fence. It hurt. Damn, did I just sprain my ankle? No, it’d be worse. Maybe it starts like this, and then it gets a lot worse, like, when it swells?

“Come on!”

We ran. I was out of shape. I started out running too fast and then everything was burning. I tried not to pant too loudly. But it was fun. My ankle was fine. The park was empty, the river was sleek in the moonlight. The cars swished by on the highway. This is romantic, I thought. We stopped, finally, breathless, at that veteran’s monument at the top of the hill. He leaned in to kiss me. I leaned away.

(imagine this at night. I think that counts as romantic. source)


Bear does not make big gestures. He is the kind of guy who tells me how much he loves me every single day. Every day, it’s clear how much he loves me. Every day, when he gets home from work, he is so happy to see me.

He says, “You’re the most important thing in my life.” And it’s true.  He says, “You’re my soulmate.” And I am.

But neither of us is very romantic. Love is easy. Romance seems harder. Or am I doing that dichotomy thing I said was a bad idea in the last post?

Somewhere along the line, I learned that romance felt a little fake. I didn’t quite believe it. The guy who wrote the slam poem about me and performed it in front of a crowd, at an open mic– he didn’t get me right. He described a woman, but it didn’t sound like me. I knew it was supposed to be me, but what came through was his idea of what I should be. In my poem, my legs were suddenly long, and very, very smooth. And by then, I had already cheated on him, already almost died of guilt, already repressed it, already wondered and wondered why I didn’t love him the way I should. And by then, he was starting, somehow, in the back of his mind, to know.

Romance is for people who don’t have enough love. (For some reason, I thought that.)

Later, I married a man who can love like Niagara Falls– it pours so naturally out of him.

A week after our forgotten first wedding anniversary, at three in the morning, I told Bear that for our next anniversary, I would like him to do something. To say something. To get me something. At first, he was a little hurt. “I thought you didn’t want anything!”

“I don’t! I mean, I don’t, but you know, the world wants you to get me something.”

“Well, I don’t care about the world. What do you want?

“I mean, I’m a part of the world, y’know? So it impacts me and stuff.”

“So you want me to get you a gift?”

I mean, maybe? I mean, sort of. Like, maybe in five years, you can get me a gift, just so it doesn’t look bad.”

“What should I get you?”

“I don’t know! Figure it out!” I thought about it. “But maybe at some point, you should get me diamond earrings. Like, in five years.” That seemed like a gift a husband might get his wife after five years of marriage. It’s a big gift, because their commitment is also big.

“Diamonds? You want diamonds… Aren’t they gross and wasteful?”

“I know! I know! But you have to show that you care!!”

“But I do care! I show you every day!”

“But not everyone can see that!”

I don’t know what made me suddenly care about everyone, and what they could or couldn’t see. I definitely don’t care about diamonds. I’m pretty sure people know Bear loves me. Something just came over me. I wanted romance. Or at least, I wanted specialness. The specialness that comes from setting something aside and fussing over it and making it different. Maybe that’s what romance is. Maybe it’s about making something ordinary remarkable. Maybe it’s flipping something inside out and exposing the silver lining.


Our anniversary was four months ago. Tonight, Bear is taking me on a secret date. A month ago, he told me to reserve this evening. I canceled my plans.

My friends are trying to guess. “It’s totally a reservation at Per Se. You need to get those a month in advance.”

“It’s a concert!”

“What’s your favorite band? He’s taking you to see them!”

“Um…I don’t think I have one.”

Rachel’s husband said, “It’s an experience. He’s planning a whole experience.”

“Can you guess?” asks Bear.

I have no idea.

Bear has never done something like this before. He isn’t a planner. We are always late, booking tickets for a flight. We always have to pay more, and we are always angry, and we never learn.

I am so excited! What should I wear?

“You don’t know what you’re going to wear?” says Rachel, who is always wearing something incredible. “How can you not know already?”

Eek! I have to figure it out! I’m meeting him at 5:00! He never gets out of work that early. Never.

I’m surprised at how excited I am. It’s not like this is such a big deal. It’s just that it’s mysterious. It’s just that he didn’t tell me. He tells me everything. But he planned this, without telling me. He’s making it special and different.

It’s romantic.

And maybe, once in a while, everyone needs that.

I feel like I should do something back. Maybe  a symphony? It might take a while to write one. Maybe a poem? I can describe Bear pretty well. I know exactly how his legs look.

(also, Niagara is supposed to be pretty romantic, itself, I hear, so if his love is like that…source)

*  *  *

What do you think romance is all about? What’s the most romantic thing that’s happened to you? If you have a partner, are they romantic?

Unroast: Today I love  the way I look in beige. I can rock it. And that’s saying something.


Kate on January 31st 2012 in marriage, relationships

50 Responses to “how important is romance?”

  1. lik_11 responded on 31 Jan 2012 at 1:10 pm #

    Have fun tonight!!! Yay for Bear.

    Most romantic for me- came home from work on my bday & my boyfriend had put a clue on the door. Inside my apartment was a whole scavenger hunt- leading to several small (& ridiculous) gifts. It was so awesome that he took the time to do it- all without me ever knowing or suspecting a thing.

    I had to marry him. :) (The last romantic thing he did for me? Unloaded the dishwasher!)

  2. Kate responded on 31 Jan 2012 at 1:13 pm #

    Thank you!!
    I love your romantic story! I’m feeling all girly, here. What were the gifts??

  3. Kimmy Sue Ruby Lou responded on 31 Jan 2012 at 1:34 pm #

    romance, the stage show, is just that…a show. when i think of romantic, i always think of this quirky history teacher i dated for a while…he was a total slob, books everywhere…but he very spontaneously asked me over for dinner one night…when i got there, he had cleared the dining table (i didn’t know he had one), lit some candles (mismatched holders) and fed me onion soup (the envelope kind, that you usually cook with something else), canned salmon mixed with mayo and pickles, fruit cocktail (also from a can) and an over-baked potato…he also had the best butt ever, he could’ve been a butt model…so we had dessert elsewhere.

  4. Kimmy Sue Ruby Lou responded on 31 Jan 2012 at 1:38 pm #

    and…have an awesome evening, can’t wait to hear about it!

  5. Kate responded on 31 Jan 2012 at 1:39 pm #

    @Kimmy Sue
    Ha! Funny story. Also, I have always thought that women don’t talk about men’s butts enough.


  6. Melanie responded on 31 Jan 2012 at 1:50 pm #

    Yay secret dates. I am not a fan of people who fake being romantic to win you over, then you find out they were just doing it to get their foot in the door. But in reality, we all kind of put our best foot forward in the beginning of a relationship. My boyfriend isn’t romantic in the expected sense. But he looks at me in a way that lets me know he adores me. He sends texts that just say, “xxxxoooo.” To me, the little things like that are the MOST romantic.

    And as for the thoughts of what your friends would think if Bear forgot your first anniversary, I think any good friend would totally understand and not judge. If you weren’t upset, why should they be?

    Also, I am the planner of our relationship. If it weren’t for me, we’d never get to have dinner out, or see a play. He barely shows up on time, and when he does, he’s usually forgotten to get money out or something like that. It’s the only thing I’ve asked him to please work on. His time management. Other than that, we are easy peezy.

  7. Kate responded on 31 Jan 2012 at 1:53 pm #

    Do you plan secret dates, ever? Maybe if I want to do something romantic, I should plan it. I think too often, it’s the guy who’s “supposed” to plan things.

    I think you’re right about good friends– and my nervousness about that situation is more about me than about how my friends actually react to things.

  8. Mary responded on 31 Jan 2012 at 2:02 pm #

    My husband can be very romantic. He sends me flowers, he wrote me a poem once, he proposed by candle light, he takes me to nice restaurants, he spouts romantic lines. He was the one who said “I love you” first.

    I, on, the other hand, am not romantic in the least. I enjoy romance in movies and books (especially books) but I prefer the kind that ends tragically or has some element of angst. Obviously, in real life, that would blow.

    So I am very happy with my romantic husband but I think he gets irritated when something silly he says makes me giggle (I can’t help it, honestly, who says these things?) and I’m really hard pressed at birthdays and so on to get him gifts that really mean something to him.

  9. Kate responded on 31 Jan 2012 at 2:06 pm #

    I like that you guys are the reverse of the conventional image.
    I also always had that problem with romantic guys. They cracked me up!

  10. Frankie responded on 31 Jan 2012 at 2:16 pm #

    I consider romance of mediocre importance to a relationship. It’s more like the sprinkles on a cake, you don’t need it/them but it makes life more colorful.

    My boyfriend (of 6 1/2 years) is pretty romantic. He’s an artist so I guess that’s to be expected? The most romantic thing he’s ever done, was drive 7 hours from Rochester to Boston to surprise me on my birthday. (We dated long distance in college). I had no idea he was coming. In fact, the night before my birthday we got in a little spat on the phone because he wasn’t coming. The last thing he said was I hope you get my present tomorrow. Then early, the morning of my birthday (like 10- it was college), I woke up hear knocking. I could hear my roommate/friend walk to get it, as she did she said, “I think your present is here!” I walked into the hallway to see him standing there. It was definitely superb.

    I hope your date with Bear is as enjoyable as that birthday was.

  11. Melissa responded on 31 Jan 2012 at 2:25 pm #

    If the definition of romance is limited to grand gestures and gifts, then no, my husband is not romantic. My definition includes that daily outpouring of love, though–we’ve been married five years, and he tells me every single day that he loves me, that I’m beautiful and sexy and sweet and funny, and a hundred other sweet things. Staying with me all this time and repeating those things until I could actually believe them has been the best gift he could possibly have given me.

  12. Kate responded on 31 Jan 2012 at 2:31 pm #

    Yeah, maybe you’re right to think of those every day things as romantic. But then what are the big gestures? Another type of romantic? Oy, words. Impossible.

  13. Kate responded on 31 Jan 2012 at 2:32 pm #


  14. Kayleigh responded on 31 Jan 2012 at 2:32 pm #

    The whole romance thing in a relationship is something I’ve given a lot of thought to over the years. In my last long-term relationship, we never did anything for Valentine’s, nor did we buy each other anything for our anniversaries. This was at my instigation, and at the time I would NOT have called myself a romantic at all.

    However, people change, and I realise I am quite the romantic, I do like the little (and large) gestures of appreciation – although I think romance, and just pure spontaneity, often converge.

    The most romantic thing ever done for me was similar to the first poster above, a treasure hunt for my birthday. He even managed to make the clues for each present into little rhymes, which I particularly appreciated!

  15. Mandy responded on 31 Jan 2012 at 2:34 pm #

    Kate, it think the next time someone asks you what Bear got you for your anniversary, think about how happy your husband makes you, give the question-asker a big, smug, cat-like grin and say “exactly what I wanted!”
    And don’t elaborate, not matter how much they beg. It will serve them right for being so nosy in the first place.
    And, after all, it’s true–the best anniversary present of all is a wonderful husband who adores you. Speakin’ from experience, here!

  16. Kate responded on 31 Jan 2012 at 2:34 pm #

    I think that’s right– people change. I’m not sure yet how romantic I am. I thought I wasn’t at all. But maybe that’s not true anymore.

    I think it’s good to acknowledge those changes, and I’m glad you’ve done that!

  17. Melanie responded on 31 Jan 2012 at 2:35 pm #

    I hate surprises so I’ve never done a “secret” date. I always tell him to set aside a night but when he asks I tell him why. You just reminded me I need to do more surprise stuff for him. I make far more than he does, so I have to come up with tricky ways to pay for us to go out to nice meals, without making him feel emasculated. Usually I do this by telling him, “I pay the beginning of the month, then you pay the end of the month.” At the end of the month I suddenly am craving cheap Chinese or pizza. :)

  18. Kate responded on 31 Jan 2012 at 2:38 pm #

    I’m not sure how I feel about surprises (what is with me? Why am I not sure about anything??). I can’t wait for this one, though.

    God, I’m always craving cheap pizza…that would work really well for me :-)

    And the whole making more money than your male partner thing is always interesting. There were all of these articles about it recently– basically saying that it didn’t work. I think people want to believe it doesn’t work. But I’ve been with guys who I made more than, and we were fine. Can I ask if it’s a big issue in your relationship? Sorry, being nosy.

  19. Also Kate responded on 31 Jan 2012 at 2:38 pm #

    I think there is a spectrum of romance, and everyone has his/her preferred place on it, and you can (individually or as a couple) sort of slide up and down depending on the moment, or as life experiences impact you.

    Sometimes my girlfriend is incredibly romantic, and plans secret dates that I always find out about anyway because she can’t keep happy secrets well, which is ok, because the biggest, most romantic thing I ever planned to do for her was show up in Chicago to surprise her but she was SO SAD when I lied and said I couldn’t see her before Christmas (we were dating across distance at the time) and then I realized that if I told her about my secret plan, she could pick me up at the airport and we could drive to her parents’ condo on Lake Michigan and watch the snow fall outside and light a fire and have sex on the floor in front of the fireplace. That was a good change of plans.

    Sometimes we write each other little notes and hide them places. Other times we just holler things across our tiny apartment where hollering is totally unnecessary and unsexy. Once, she brought me flowers when she had to work late, but other times she just gets caught up at work and forgets to text me. I’ve asked her if she wants flowers but they’re really not her thing. I am not that romantic. But once I wrote her a sonnet for valentine’s day, which I think gets me some points.

    We’ve never done anniversary gifts, although we aren’t married, so maybe when we’re married we’ll start a tradition. For the first few years, we weren’t in the same country for our anniversary anyway, so the gifts didn’t really matter. It was like, happy anniversary! How much Skype credit do you have left?

    The best valentine’s day present she ever gave me was helping me shave one of my armpits when my arm was in a brace and I wasn’t allowed to get it wet. I’m not huge on shaving things, but somehow not being able to shave one armpit made it imperative that I find a way to shave it, pronto, and, despite the awkwardness of a small bathroom and claw-foot tub and layer of college-living-grime, she managed to find a way to do it. I don’t know if that’s romantic, but it was a really great valentine’s day.

  20. Kate responded on 31 Jan 2012 at 2:42 pm #

    @Also Kate
    Holy shit. Can you please write a memoir so I can read about your life for hours? You write about it so beautifully.

    Once I wrote Bear a poem about his butt (this goes back to Kimmy’s comment)…It was more of a rap, maybe. But it was great :-) I love that you wrote a sonnet. Sounds hard.

    How long were you long distance? That is an awkward sentence. I’m always impressed by people who make that work.

  21. Diana responded on 31 Jan 2012 at 2:45 pm #

    He did nothing for our 20th wedding anniversary. I bought the flowers, booked the restaurant, bought the jewelry, ordered and picked up the cake, and wore a new dress. His contribution was driving us to the restaurant and paying for the meal. Zero romance on his part.

    I guess I shouldn’t have expected anything, since our 11th-19th anniversaries consisted of a “high-five” and a grin. But like you, I wanted “something” and couldn’t put my finger on it. A piece of jewelry? An anniversary cruise? A simple picnic in the park? A “surprise – I took a day off of work to spend it in bed with you” treat? Something romantic would have been great.

    I think romance means he pays attention; he can pick out your style of earrings or he knows what makes you laugh or gets you in the mood. He “gets” you like noone else; and that’s romantic, too.

    My old boyfriends, like yours, did romantic gestures. Warm gooey cinnamon rolls on my window ledge, much to my mom’s chagrin, knowing the neighbors saw someone lurking under my window in the early morning hours. He also wrote poems and sonnets. He even gave me his car (!) so I could get to classes safely while he drove around on his motorcycle in the rain. That was romantic.

    Another boyfriend made me a photo album of our relationship, complete with little words of love under each one. That was romantic.

    Another one liked to buy clothes, jewelry and shoes. That was romantic.

    For our 21st anniversary, he pulled 21 love poems off the internet, glued them to a board and presented it to me. Sigh. Not my idea of romance, but he’s getting warmer. Perhaps by our 30th year, we’ll have perfected it together.

  22. margosita responded on 31 Jan 2012 at 2:46 pm #

    I think romance should be surprising. That’s what works best for me, especially the longer a relationship gets. Something out of the ordinary, something exciting (like a secret date!) or just something that surprises. Which is why the flowers and chocolates version of romance is just… confusing. I want my SO to say “I love you” the way he says it, not the way someone told him to say it.

  23. Also Kate responded on 31 Jan 2012 at 2:54 pm #

    @Kate Funny, I was just thinking this morning that I will never write a memoir because my life is too damn boring. Sometimes I think I just need a perspective shift. Also, in the spirit of total honesty, we didn’t end up having sex in front of the fireplace because the floor was really hard and I was like “let’s have sex in front of the fireplace!!!” and she was like… “um, I like you a lot, but that was a long drive and I really just want to take a nap.”

    As for the long distance… it was more than two and half years. We met in February of 2007; she graduated in May. She spent the summer on a pilgrimage in Spain and then we saw each other in August for 10 days and then she went to work for an NGO in Guatemala and I went back to school and we saw each other once, around Christmas. Then she went back to Guatemala and I went to Japan for 8 months. Then we saw each other in August (2008) for another 10 days. Then she got a job in Chicago and we saw each other one weekend a month until the next summer (2009) when I graduated and we actually got to live together for a glorious 6 weeks and then I moved to DC. Then we were back to the one-weekend-a-month deal until March (2010) when I finally convinced her to move to DC to be with me, where we have been ever since.

    Holy shit. In writing that out, it sounds extra-absurd. I was having an existential crisis for the first three years or so, which I think kept me from noticing just how absurd we were being. Also, we almost broke up twice, and it was harder than hard, and I’m not sure I’d recommend it. But somehow we’ve made it five years, this month, so if you know anyone who’s struggling with long distance, tell them it can be done.

    Sonnets are not so hard, as long as you like rigidly defined rhyme schemes. I am impressed you wrote a rap about Bear’s butt. Butts go so under-appreciated on men and over-appreciated (to the point of harassment) on women. Also, I find rapping difficult to the point of I-don’t-even-try-it. :)

  24. Kate responded on 31 Jan 2012 at 3:03 pm #

    I have to admit, this made me laugh a little. The contrast between the guy on the motorcycle in the rain and your man gluing internet poems to a board…it was funny. But I imagined your guy being cute, just kinda oblivious. Bear’s like that. He doesn’t know what to get me. He wants me to be happy, but he doesn’t know one pair of earrings from another. And it’s kinda sweet. But hopefully you guys get a romantic anniversary next time! Have you talked to him about it?

  25. Kate responded on 31 Jan 2012 at 3:07 pm #

    @Also Kate
    WOW. My brain collapsed, trying to follow all that. You guys sound like you lead fascinating lives. I’m sort of filling in the movie music to scenes of you writing to each other from various exotic places. A pilgrimage? Can I learn more about that??

    I love that you admitted to not having sex in front of the fire. Some things sound better in theory…

  26. Also Kate responded on 31 Jan 2012 at 3:41 pm #

    @Kate We both wanted to travel, and it can be cheaper and easier to do so when you’re in college, or at least willing to work for almost nothing (her job in Guatemala paid room and board). So for all the convoluted-ness of the first few years, I’m glad we took the time to do what we felt passionate about doing. I wanted to live and study in Japan. She wanted to engineer development solutions. Also, we graduated 2 years apart, which accounts for some of the craziness. She had a really hard time finding a job in the city where we went to college.

    The pilgrimage she took was about six weeks of walking el Camino de Santiago (more on that here: You can start all the way back in France if you want, or just do 100 miles, which is the minimum for the Catholic church to consider it a pilgrimage. (Her family is Catholic, but in a feisty way – one of her aunts is a feminist liberation theologian; they don’t always agree with the Pope, is what I’m saying.) My girlfriend and her aunt, brother and cousin walked 10-15 miles/day, every day, and spent the night in hostels that are set up for pilgrims. She said it was sometimes contemplative and sometimes beautiful and sometimes painful (lots of blisters) and sometimes boring. And that probably isn’t doing it justice, since I wasn’t the one walking it. At the end of the pilgrimage is the city of Santiago de Compostela, and you turn in your stamped pilgrim’s passport for a certificate that says the Catholic church has forgiven all your sins (all of them!), which is kind of nuts.

  27. lik_11 responded on 31 Jan 2012 at 4:02 pm #

    (Sorry for the delay in response.)
    For the scavenger hunt, my honey gave me things ranging from a set of spatulas (he also rhymed like the other treasure hunter’s guy- and all I remember is that the rhyme told me it was in the kitchen and rhymed with “catula”), to flowers, to a matching ammonite jewelry set he placed on my cat’s collar. One of the best parts was the “birthday mum” he MADE me. (I’m from Texas and we wear these huge obnoxious homecoming mums- look them up if you’re unfamiliar- they’ll blow your mind!) Anyways- I now live in Ohio, where my guy is from- so he looked up how to make a mum and made one for me. The hunt ended with a clue to go to my email, where he had sent me a poem telling me how “awesometacular” I am and how he had fallen in love with me. (*disclaimer* we’d been dating for over 2 years and had never said the “L” word to one another!)

  28. dustwindbun responded on 31 Jan 2012 at 4:09 pm #

    I am not at all a traditional romantic. I’ve always said that I find it most romantic when my partner does things that show he really knows me and pays attention. (Like when it comes to flowers, my high school sweetheart stopped getting me roses when I lived at home because he figured out that my mom was allergic, and my sort-of-fiance now always gets me flowers for my birthday, but he gets things with heavy stems like tulips or irises or bird-of-paradise flowers because he figured out within weeks of starting to date me that watching roses go overblown and wilting makes me sad and heavy-stems last longer.)
    But! I really wanted to come here and comment on long-distance relationships! My sort-of-fiance (nominally engaged to help the grandparents understand, but that was 6 years ago and we just don’t care about getting actually married) and I have been together 8 years, and the last 3 have been a 10-hour drive apart, with no change in sight for at least 2 more years. We only see each other every few months as we both work a lot (well, he works a lot, and I work full time and go to grad school). I haven’t seen him since Thanksgiving, and most likely won’t see him again until April.
    The most important things are communication and knowing/being honest about what you need to be happy.
    We’re both intellectual live in your head types so it’s not as bothersome for us to be apart – it was weird for the first 6 months, but after that it just became the way things are. I know a lot of people would find this just awful, but we’re ok with it. In fact, a year ago I attempted to move to where he is, and it just didn’t feel right. I love him just as much as ever, but I didn’t like the area, and struggled to adjust to sharing a place with him again.
    At least for now, I think our relationship is actually stronger this way. He doesn’t disrupt my homework time, and I don’t get annoyed that he stays at work until 10PM 7 days a week (gotta love working in politics). And I finally got my turn at custody of our cats, so I have the fuzzballs to keep me company, and that helps a lot too. Like I said, it’s all about knowing what you need vs. what people think you should want.

  29. Lynellekw responded on 31 Jan 2012 at 4:38 pm #

    I think that romance is about making someone feel special.

    The year before last my husband booked a surprise trip to Gdansk, Poland. That might not sound particularly romantic, but he takes SO LONG planning anything that I usually book trips & hotels, because otherwise we’d never go on any. And we went to Gdansk because his brother went there and told us it was lovely and you could walk on the beach & pick up amber washed up by the waves, and I got very excited about that. So my husband booked a long weekend trip to Poland. To coincide with when our Polish neighbours would be visiting their parents, in a town nearby to Gdansk, so we could meet them for lunch. And he contacted my manager to arrange a couple of days off work for me, and found a hotel, and and flights, and arranged money… and we had a great time. I was shocked and surprised but caught a hold of myself before I could shout, ARE YOU MAD? I HAVE WORK! YOU CAN’T JUST BOOK HOLIDAYS WITHOUT ME KNOWING!! And instead I said thank you and we went to Gdansk and picked up amber on the beach (it was over 40 degrees Celsius in Gdansk that weekend. I never knew Poland got hot) and ate Polish food and generally enjoyed ourselves. As an extra bonus, it turns out that when you’re travelling from the UK, Poland is REALLY CHEAP. So I was happy because of amber on the beach, and my husband was happy because we had a good time and it wasn’t expensive. Plus, my workmates were jealous because even though Gdansk doesn’t sound romantic, it’s still a surprise holiday. Everyone wins.

  30. Emily H. responded on 31 Jan 2012 at 4:50 pm #

    I do think that romance is a bit cheezy and fake. My husband and I much prefer mellow, low-key ways of showing each other love, like, “Honey, I love you. Here’s a pack of socks.”

  31. Diana responded on 31 Jan 2012 at 5:24 pm #

    Yes, he’s a touch clueless, but he has a great ass, even after all these years. And he still grabs mine, so all is good.

    I’ve talked with him extensively about this lack of romance. His idea of romance is putting fresh batteries in the smoke alarms (to keep me safe), cooking dinner (to feed me), folding clothes (to keep me warm), and placing a clean washcloth on the towel rod in the morning for me (to make me smile). Little things. And I know little things matter.

    But just once, I’d like a Big Thing. I don’t know what that would be, or if it is a societal expectation I’ve absorbed that it has to be a Big Thing to make it count.

    A short story for you. In high school, I cleaned the house of an elderly couple, married 60+ years. I asked what kept them together all these years. She said he did little things for her; he said she told him she loved him every day.

    When he died, I went to the funeral and she pulled me aside and said, “You know what I miss the most? His empty coffee cup in the bathroom on the counter. It wasn’t there these past few mornings. I miss that.”

    So, maybe it is the little things that matter the most, and the Big Things don’t matter as much as we think they should.

  32. claire responded on 31 Jan 2012 at 5:51 pm #

    Bear gives you a present every day, and that is his unconditional love and respect. Now my sweet you know this is an unbiased comment. Love you both CRF

  33. Another Melanie responded on 31 Jan 2012 at 6:00 pm #

    My husband isn’t very romantic. Sometimes I kind of wish he were, but when I really think about it, I’m not very romantic either.

    When we were dating, he would tell me sweet and mushy things (though I honestly can’t remember any of them exactly anymore). If I ask him for mush now, he whines, “I don’t knowwwww.” :P

    We never went the song/poem/sonnet route when dating, either one of us. He proposed to me on a typical weekend, in my college apartment, with no candlelight or rose petals, but he did drop to one knee (and, though I knew he was working on getting the ring I wanted, I had no idea he was going to do it that night!). We’ve been married nearly four years now, and I only get flowers on my birthday/our anniversary or as an apology.

    But we have our own everyday gestures that are sweet and meaningful for us, if not exactly romantic. We tell each other, “I loves joooo” (we’re dorks…) and if I ask him how much he loves me, he just spreads his arms wide, like a little kid, to signify “THIS MUCH!”

    And those things are enough for me…although I wouldn’t say no to a secret date here or there!

  34. Lili @ Relatable Style responded on 31 Jan 2012 at 6:05 pm #

    “Romance is for people who don’t have enough love.” That is an amazing thought! I don’t know if it’s entirely true, or what I think about it, but it made me stop in my tracks. I need some time to ponder over it :-)

    Have fun tonight, I hope you’ll be able to tell us what it was! :-D

  35. San D responded on 31 Jan 2012 at 6:17 pm #

    Definition of Romantic. Notice #2 and then notice #5.

    1.of, pertaining to, or of the nature of romance; characteristic or suggestive of the world of romance: a romantic adventure.

    fanciful; impractical; unrealistic: romantic ideas.

    imbued with or dominated by idealism, a desire for adventure, chivalry, etc.

    characterized by a preoccupation with love or by the idealizing of love or one’s beloved.

    displaying or expressing love or strong affection.

  36. Mara responded on 31 Jan 2012 at 6:49 pm #

    So I read a bit about riding motorcycles in the rain.
    Lemme tell you now, that is NOT romantic. I like motorcycles. I like rain. But the two DO NOT MIX.
    It feels like driving into sheets of sharp metal pins…

  37. Sooz responded on 31 Jan 2012 at 7:47 pm #

    I used to think grand gestures and sweeping statements were what romance was all about and then as I got older I reevaluated. My husband is kind and sweet. He tells me “I love you” every day. But he does not gush. He does not swoon. He does not say “you are my everything”. We do not go out on dates. He has to ask me to write very specific lists of presents I would like to receive. This used to anger me. A lot. But then I did a little soul searching b/c I realized I cannot change him but I can change me. I now focus on what he DOES do. He coaches all our children’s sports teams. He works at a job he heavily dislikes to help provide for our family. He convinced me to go back to college and get my bachelor’s degree. He cooks on the weekends. He lets me sleep in on weekends. He tells others how proud of me he is. Would I like him to take me on a date? Would I enjoy a “love letter”? Would it be nice to hear him say he still lusts after me after all these years? Sure. Hell yeah. Sometimes I still wish he would be “romantic” in a traditional way. But when I really think about who my husband is and what he does for me and my family….I’ll take what he does over romance any day. Thanks for such a great post Kate. You’re the best. :)

  38. Mallory responded on 31 Jan 2012 at 10:00 pm #

    i love every word of this!

  39. Kayla responded on 31 Jan 2012 at 11:29 pm #

    …good lord this was adorable.

    I think romance is not as universal as people think it is. most everyone is romantic in their own way.

    also this – “Later, I married a man who can love like Niagara Falls– it pours so naturally out of him.” – was amazing.

  40. Lynellekw responded on 01 Feb 2012 at 4:22 am #

    @Sooz – about the present thing, mine does that too! It drove me nuts, especially when he’d MADE me pick out things I wanted and tell him, and then he got something else entirely. Now we have a compromise – I keep an Amazon wish list, and he doesn’t ask me what I want.

  41. Sarah Rooftops responded on 01 Feb 2012 at 5:41 am #

    No, my boyfriend is not naturally romantic at all… but he’s getting better because he knows sometimes I need to feel special! For me, it’s romantic just that he’s trying that little bit harder because I matter to him.

    But, oh, we don’t bother with Valentine’s Day and I have that same “It doesn’t matter to me but WHAT WILL MY WORKMATES SAY?!” anxiety sometimes.

  42. Reckless Housewife responded on 01 Feb 2012 at 10:39 am #

    Wow… the most romantic thing my husband ever did was to give me TWO surprise parties for my 40th birthday. One was on the actual day–my closest friends woke me up with all my favorite breakfast foods, and one was on New Year’s Eve about ten days later. He even flew my sister in from California.

    In general, I would not describe him as “romantic”. He doesn’t bring me flowers or plan candlelit dinners. But, honestly, that’s not us and never has been. That kind of romance seems false to me though.

    I think the most “romantic” thing a man does is actually listen to a woman, hear her words, and then act on them.

    When we were very early in our dating relationship, we were in Walmart picking up a few things. When we walked through the health/beauty department, I stopped and picked up a hair diffuser (it was the early 90′s, I have curly hair, and my hair was Texas-HUGE from the Alabama humidity). I was a poor college student, so I put it back on the shelf and said something like, “I need to buy one of these next time I get paid.”

    He went back later, bought it, and had it waiting for me on my bed when I got home from classes the next day. I knew he was a keeper. I knew he heard everything I said and considered it–even inane things. So, keep all your flowers and poems, I want to be heard.

    We don’t do all cutesy cards and gifts of pressure either. We do buy gifts from time to time, but we don’t buy something just to have a present on that day.

    P.S. I loved your rabbit dress. I’d like to have something similarly unique like that.

  43. melissa responded on 01 Feb 2012 at 12:32 pm #

    My S.O isn’t romantic either. I’m not sure what to think about it. Sometimes it feels more like we’re friends than lovers, but I think I’m okay with that. We never really go out, there aren’t any surprises, we don’t really do gifts either!

    I do have memories of romantic things though! And I catch myself thinking about them from time to time. Like hiding outdoors in an ampitheatre out of the rain, quietly, until 3am… zooming down the road, singing to the radio.

    But nothing is ever totally perfect, otherwise we wouldn’t have parted ways!

  44. kimberly responded on 03 Feb 2012 at 2:47 pm #

    Is romance important?…how would I know. But, if it is…I would be even less likely to experience it…

  45. tirzahrene responded on 11 Feb 2012 at 4:08 pm #

    Also Kate, I really <3 you right now. I met my boyfriend last spring. We see each other about once a month for a weekend (plus three weeks over Christmas that just rocked my socks) and he's getting posted to Japan for three years come June. I like him a lot and it's great to hear that it CAN work over that much time, that much distance.

    As far as romance goes…I was married for almost a decade to a guy who did the big amazing giant romantic gestures. I'll spend the next several years digging out of debt from all that. What I find romantic? that my boyfriend encourages me to stay in school, to work hard, to take care of myself, to make smart strategic choices that aren't the most fun thing to do. That when he showed me the 18,000-volt equipment he worked with, the second thing he said was, "I'm really careful with this stuff." And also the footie PJs with teddy bears and hearts that he got me for my birthday! ;-)

  46. Valentine’s Day on the Internets « Rhetoric of Love responded on 14 Feb 2012 at 12:44 pm #

  47. Eat the Damn Cake » a wife, a husband, and a roommate responded on 31 May 2012 at 1:03 pm #

    [...] I got the idea that this was maybe bad. Maybe Bear should be enough, all the time. Maybe I should somehow want to spend all of my free time alone with him. [...]

  48. Eat the Damn Cake » stop judging my diamond ring, I already know I’m a bad rebel responded on 25 Oct 2012 at 12:59 pm #

    [...] and I chose my ring together, online. We are not known for our flair for the romantic. It’s the standard one: a round solitaire diamond with a gold [...]

  49. Eat the Damn Cake » religion and burgers responded on 09 Sep 2013 at 7:08 pm #

    [...] “Are you going to come to resent me for not making things more special?” [...]

  50. Shanna responded on 03 Oct 2013 at 12:29 am #

    I just stumbled across your blog and I absolutely love it! I was just talking to my boyfriend today about romance. I’m curious what was Bear’s surprise? I know this was from 1 year and 9 months ago but if you would love to share that would be great.