Valentine’s Day… a time of love and romance. But what is romance, really? The dictionary describes romance as:
a) a love affair, especially a brief and intense one
b) sexual love, especially when the other person or the relationship is idealized
c) a spirit or feeling of adventure, excitement, the potential for heroic achievement
Looking at the first two definitions, wouldn’t you rather have a love affair that isn’t just brief or to have a sexual love that is genuine and not just an idealized fantasy? Personally, I’m intrigued by the third definition—romance as an exciting adventure with the potential for heroic achievement.
What is romance?
Too often we think of romance in a superficial, idealistic way—being wooed or wooing with flowers, cards and gifts, candlelight dinners, longing looks, murmurs of sweet nothings, etc. But, let’s not miss the “romance” of true intimacy—the courage it takes to be real, present, and authentic, the heroic step of presenting yourself as a gift to another with all of yourself, including your tears, fears, joys, gifts, and weaknesses.
Superficial “Wants” vs. Deeper Yearning
I have nothing against flowers and presents, but too often Valentine’s Day and “romantic” efforts showcase the surface of things, the superficial “wants” rather than the deeper yearning we all have to love and be loved. We confuse getting a gift with being loved. It’s easy to sign a card, but harder to really show up and tell your beloved you love him or her from the depths of your spirit—being present, revealed, open, and sharing. It’s easy to woo, say the right lines, and make a dinner reservation. It’s another to share your reservations about yourself, your partner, and your relationship with the intent of clearing out any withheld communications, resentments, and doubts. It’s easy to ask someone out to see a movie; it’s another to ask someone to see you fully for who you are, or to allow yourself to be seen.
Love towards heroic achievement
Creating love in our lives that taps our potential for heroic achievement is what transformational relationships are all about. Everyday heroes in relationships engage in real, truthful interactions and share their deeper yearnings to love and be loved; to be seen, heard, and touched; to be genuine; to matter; to make a difference. A good fight, a kick in the butt to help you or your partner move toward your goals, the tough work of revealing each other’s blind spots, strong encouragement for your partner to follow his or her dreams and stop procrastinating, sharing hurts, fears, vulnerabilities, and deep truths—can bring us closer than the dinner date, singing in the rain, or seeing a good movie. And when you do have that candlelit dinner or that great date, it is a celebration of that deep bond, not a substitute for it.
Celebrating True Romance vs. Valentine’s Day
My husband Bob and I don’t really celebrate Valentine’s Day in the traditional ways. Yet we do celebrate true romance—a spirit or feeling of adventure and excitement, the potential for heroic achievement. There is not a day that goes by that we don’t express our love and appreciation for each other or the honor it is to be together. It’s not that we aren’t stereotypically “romantic.” Ask the people around us how we are together. We hold hands, run up and greet each other with a hug, go on dates, gaze longingly into each other’s eyes, tell each other frequently what we mean to the other. But these same utterances and expressions are spiced with hard truths, straight talk, confrontation, and resolving deep issues with the other’s support. To this day, people still ask us if we are newlyweds—and we’ve been married 31 years!
This Valentine’s Day may you see yourself as a true romantic—a real hero creating an exciting adventure of more intimacy, truth, and transformation in your life and the lives of others.