What is Romance?

Through blogging, I’ve been gradually meeting some really great people. My friend Lauren writes an awesome blog and she details her dating life. We were chatting the other day about romance and it made me think…

So what does romance mean?

Merriam-Webster states that romance is

  1. a (1) :  a medieval tale based on legend, chivalric love and adventure, or the supernatural (2) :  a prose narrative treating imaginary characters involved in events remote in time or place and usually heroic, adventurous, or mysterious (3):  a love story especially in the form of a novel b :  a class of such literature
  2. something (such as an extravagant story or account) that lacks basis in fact
  3. an emotional attraction or aura belonging to an especially heroic era, adventure, or activity
  4. love affair
  5. capitalized :  the Romance languages

And in the context about which I’m writing, romance is a feeling of excitement or mystery associated with love. It’s also a quality or feeling of mystery, excitement, and remoteness from everyday life. As an action, it means” to court or to woo.”

I hear people talk about “romance” and “romantic gestures” all the time, but I’ve never solidly understood what they mean. In college and well into my twenties, my concept of romance was skewed and I was a cynic. It seemed like too much work to cook a big meal and light candles and set the table and think of mushy things to say and then clean up and possibly wonder if it was worth it. In retrospect, I was extremely self-conscious and embarrassed to want those things.

Reflecting on my childhood, I never really witnessed anyone in my family do anything romantic, whether clichéd or creative. My parents exchanged gifts and cards for holidays, but they didn’t seem particularly romantic (though maybe they privately did this), and there were never rarely any surprises for each other.  

By the time I was a Senior in college, I was working at a little boutique. A frequent male customer was flirty, and I simply helped him shop for candles for his mom and gifts for his co-workers. It didn’t occur to me that he came in and browsed to visit me. After months of flirting, he finally asked me out and we had a date. He was a few years out of college and seemed very mature. Our first date was the most romantic date I’d been on, to that point: he picked me up from class and took me to a different part of town for lunch at a cool locals diner type spot. He was a regular there and I was impressed that I got to meet the owner. Afterward, we went to a micro park in that same part of town, an area in which I wasn’t familiar. This was so cool, to my young, formidable mind. Our next few dates were equally impressive and included more dinners and walking around different neighborhoods. If this was what romance was, I realized it wasn’t so bad. In fact, I started liking it.

I decided to invite him over for a gourmet dinner. My roommates helped me prepare a fancy meal and we cleaned the house together. When my date came over, he was cozy and sweet, replete with a bouquet of flowers. Doing what I thought was romantic, I lit tea light candles, we drank wine and ate dinner, took a walk for ice cream. He slept over and I remember all the feelings brewing for him. In the morning when he left, we hugged and kissed goodbye, and I was sure our next date would be even better. Well, he never called, and I never heard from him or saw him again.

This turned me off of romance and I associated doing nice things with being misled. This experience helped shape my squirrely and sometimes skittish ways of starting relationships. For years, I was concerned that I was doing the wrong things in dating and that my romantic initiatives were too much or not enough. Thanks, Jake.

When friends told me romantic stories, I secretly belittled the concept of romance. As I got into various relationships, I noticed myself wanting more romance, but worried that those desires made me seem needy. So, I verbally pooh-pooh traditional romantic gestures like flowers (they’ll just die!), despite my love for plants. Instead, I took charge of the romance in my relationships and planned taco tours in East LA or dumpling crawls in the San Gabriel Valley. I got so accustomed to planning the outings that my boyfriends forgot how to be romantic and I forgot that it could be any other way.

Additionally, I was so concerned with doing things perfectly and would make me him happy that I stressed to think of all the right things, thereby taking all romance out of the equation. I think this also made me question romance.

But now I would give anything for someone to cook my favorite dinner for me without expecting any dishes be washed in return. I would love to take a short or long trip with a boyfriend and sightsee and walk around in a way that feels different from everyday life.

The suspension of everyday life is what sounds particularly romantic: doing something together unrelated to work, bills, chores and stress. It seems amazing to be considered and thought about, to have someone plan something just for me. It is wonderful to be known, seen, and loved enough for someone to care and personalize a gesture directly for me. There’s no romantic checklist or one-size-fits-all approach to romance. Romantic gestures are all about the dynamic the couple shares and their inside jokes, desires and interests for each other, and time together. The whimsical aspect to romance is huge, allowing reality to be suspended and letting love win.

Lauren from the blog says, “I see [being]romantic as passionate with a soft, thoughtful side… like flowers, chocolate covered strawberries, champagne, and candlelight. 🙂 …cooking is a HUGE plus to me! I despise cooking. I think [my date] cooking an elaborate, special meal served with nice wine and a dessert by candlelight would be romantic…” Lauren’s ideas of romance appeal to her because the person has put in effort and some preparation to make her happy.

I’ve concluded that romantic gestures are those specific actions meant entirely for someone you care about. They’re about doing little (or big) things that your partner might not do for themselves. Romance doesn’t only have to be soft, but are actions, words, gifts that are super meaningful to someone else.

Romance is a way of thinking about your partner in an intimate and amazingly considerate way that comes from the heart and makes the other person feel absolutely considered, loved, and appreciated.

* * *

As a Life Coach, I work with clients in relationships and wanting to be in relationships. Please contact me for a consultation.

Other Posts: Notes from a Recovering PerfectionistCooking as IntimacyWhy Are You STILL Single?




6 thoughts on “What is Romance?

  1. Hi Nina, nice to see you on the interwebs again; or perhaps I’m the one that’s been missing. As it usually seems to be the case, this post resonated with me in many ways. While my view on romance may not be like yours, I do take a kind of darker tilt to what it means to me. As someone who’s a bit more logical in my thinking, sometimes it’s harder to express my emotions. Interestingly though, I don’t feel as though I lack empathy; on the contrary. I’ve had moments when I felt I should reach out to a friend, only to find out they needed to hear a few positive words. So for me romance plays out in interesting ways. While I do feel emotions, I often go with logic to make decisions.
    Interesting and though provoking topic as usual. Keep up the great work. lol I actually thought about the work you do when talking to a friend a few days ago.


  2. Great blog as usual! You speak from the heart. Romance is showing a person just how much you love them. I didn’t think it was possible until now, I missed out on this feeling for many years and deprived myself of true love which is hard to find. I had to let allot of my hang ups and bad feelings go to find it. When the right person is in front of you they can sometimes be over looked.


  3. Hi Nina!

    It’s been awhile since I was last romantically inclined towards someone, but I still vividly remember how much pleasure I took in doing things (however small) to make their life sweeter. I think I might have gotten more out of, say, composing poems to them than they did! It’s really wonderful when you have someone in your life you care that much about.


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