How “Marriage Romance” Looks Different From “Dating Romance”
Updated March 03, 2020
Reviewer Whitney White, MS. CMHC, NCC., LPC
When we think of the word "romance," it is hard for our minds not to jump straight into the traditional ideas we see on TV or to those we read about in books. Most people's idea of romance includes candlelight dinners, passionate embraces, and bouquets of roses.
While in the dating world, this type of romance is quite common, you do not get a lot of these conventional ways to say, "I love you" once you say, "I do." That does not mean you have to kiss romance goodbye as soon as you get hitched, in fact, there are countless ways that romance is present in a marriage. It just looks a little different from in the dating scene.
It is easy while dating to default to the usual expressions of romance like gift giving and physical intimacy. This is natural, as you may not yet know your partner well enough to meet all their needs on a deeper level. However, a marriage will not survive on date nights and jewelry alone. It is genuine communication which takes the place of all these other things.
It is through what our spouse says (and sometimes what they do not say) that we begin to connect with them. It has been proven time and time again that couples who spend lots of time talking with one another report higher levels of happiness in their marriage. There are many reasons why this is the case, less chance for misunderstanding and trust building being just a few, but in general, simply knowing your spouse is on your team creates an atmosphere of support and acceptance in the marriage.
Yes, you can always make someone feel important by buying them a gift, but that type of acknowledgment exists only on a superficial level. If someone wants to know, they matter to another person, simply being heard and being confident that what they say matters, goes a long way. There is no greater way to show someone you love them than by keeping open, honest, and authentic communication at the core of your relationship and striving to be the best listener to their words you can be.
Spontaneity is something that often happens when we are dating. It is fun to go on unexpected adventures with your partner and learn about them in new and exciting ways. However, just because you feel comfortable enough with someone to marry them, it does not mean you need to settle down into the same routine until "death do you part." Acting on impulse has its place in a marriage too.
You may not be able to escape your everyday responsibilities to go on a long romantic trip together but switching up even the most mundane parts of your schedule can re-energize the relationship in many ways. Small gestures, like surprising your spouse with dinner at home, or initiating an unplanned weekday trip to the local movie theatre is enough to create a little escape from day-to-day obligations.
The biggest reason spontaneity is romantic in a marriage is because it is an outward sign to your partner that you still think about them. It says you prioritize the time you spend together and want to continue making memories with them. You may not be able to pull off the grand gestures from your dating days, but with some creativity, you can get the same sense of adventure and emphasis on bonding that has existed since the day you met one another.
One of the most intense ways you got to know your spouse when you first met was through the physical intimacy you shared early in your relationship. Important milestones like the first kiss fueled the feelings of love you developed for one another, but it is easy to get into a slump when it comes to intimacy in marriage. Hand holding becomes less frequent, the kisses become repetitive, and sometimes even sex winds up scheduled or worse, nonexistent. Do not think that there is nothing left to your spouse to explore, romance in marriage can be even more meaningful than when you were dating if you let it.
It takes some conscious thought, but intimacy can be present every day in a marriage. Choose to grab your spouse's hand while walking in the store or opt to linger in a kiss a few moments longer than you normally would. Go out of your way to physically touch one another and bring cuddling back into the relationship. It may not produce immediate feelings of "butterflies" the way it did when you first met, but it will bring you closer physically and emotionally.
When it comes to the bedroom, there are lots of ways to spice things up. Try redecorating your room, lighting candles, playing music, or even splurging on lingerie. However, intimacy is one of those places in a relationship where communication is king. Both partners should feel confident and capable of speaking up for what they would like to bring into their love life.
While a good relationship should always have some level of equality whether two people are dating or married, many obligations come along with the married life where equality is key. Each partners role in the relationship may look different (perhaps one spouse works, and the other stays home with children or is a student) but the level of influence and authority in the relationship should be the same for both individuals.
There are two ways to make this dynamic romantic. The most basic way is acknowledging and respecting the equality that is part of the relationship. Always ensure you are not loading full responsibility on one spouse to maintain your relationship or your lives, and in areas that primarily fall on their shoulders be their support system.
Another way to make equality romantic is by going above and beyond for your partner from time to time. Take the kids out so your spouse can have a day to rest, do an extra load of laundry without being asked, or develop a creative way to bring some extra income into the home from time to time. While taking on a support role for one another's obligations is a must, a little break from individual responsibilities is always welcome too.
A relationship should not start a dating phase and end in marriage. The relationship should continue to move forward long after the vows and honeymoon. If you can look at your marriage and see the same relationship that was there one year ago, five years ago, or fifty years ago, that is a sure sign that you and your spouse both deserve a romantic overhaul in your marriage.
One of the easiest ways to evolve the romance in your relationship is by taking part in new hobbies or interests together. Not only will you be embarking on an adventure, but you may also find yourself learning new and interesting things to appreciate about your spouse. These new ventures do not have to be time-consuming or costly either. Try cooking a meal together alongside a famous chef on YouTube at home, or spend a few hours hiking to start. Photography, sports, gardening- you never know what might spark the next phase of friendship in your relationship.
Another way to keep that romantic charge you had for one another while dating, is to create new goals for yourselves as a couple constantly. When we date there a lot of milestones to look forward to like meeting each other's parents for the first time, getting engaged, and finally being wed. Sometimes that excitement for the next step intertwines with romantic feelings and makes it seem like every day is going to get better and better together.
Without new things to constantly look forward to, marriage can seem a bit dull or comfortable in comparison, but that does not mean it has to stay that way, or that your relationship lacks romance. Each couple is different when it comes to goals. Some will jump straight into ambitions for children or a house, but if that phase of your marriage has passed, or if that is not a path you plan on taking with your spouse, what kind of goals are left?
Saving up for a vacation, paying off debt, or having health and fitness goals together may be tame compared to other milestones in life. But, having any common goal with your partner can recreate those same feelings of excitement in your partnership that point to something thrilling happening between the two of you. Do not shy away from small goals, or big goals together. The most important (and romantic) aspect of goal setting is working with one another to get what you want.
"Dating romance" and "marriage romance" overlap in some ways, but a marriage cannot survive on cliché ideas of passion alone. Roses, jewelry, and movie movements have their time and place, but to have a love that lasts, couples need to change their idea of what romance can be. As relationships go on, romance becomes less of something that you can see, and more of something you practice and choose to do each day.