So I have been challenged to write a very specific article. I am supposed to separate fictional romance from legitimate romance. Ok. I am on it. Brace yourself. This is probably not what you are expecting.
As men, we rarely read romance novels or voluntarily watch the romantic chick flicks. That kind of stuff doesn’t really appeal to us. Unless you can squeeze in some explosions or insane car chases, we won’t even consider them. However, if you mix in enough sex, most of us will pay attention. If you use the film or book to convince us that romance leads to sex, we stay tuned longer. I think that’s where the paths separate.
Hollywood has done an amazing job of teaching us about love and sex. The two seem to be inseparable. Whether you are forty somethings on the rebound from failed marriages or teens playing out the Romeo and Juliet tragedy. Either scenario always ends with sex. They always seem to skip the important stuff. The stuff that makes sex more than just an animal instinct. Dogs do it. Cats do it. I even caught a pair of toads doing it in my laundry room once. Sex is not romance.
At this point, we need to pause for station identification. Since this is written as a guest post, most of you guys don’t know me, yet. This is Erik. The guy who has had to learn everything the hard way. The guy who almost wrecked a twenty year marriage. The guy who had the perfect wife, and almost lost her, by losing his focus and becoming angry and abusive. All because I didn’t understand marriage or what it meant to make my life count. Hang with me, I promise this is going to be good.
Here’s the point. Sex is a vital part of a healthy marriage. But not the Hollywood or animal planet versions. Their concepts works great for selling tickets and advertising, not for sustaining a solid marriage. If you have an audience, maybe theirs works for you. If not, let’s find a better way.
The fictional romance scenario seems to teach that romance leads to passion, and passion leads to sex. Two people meet, there’s a connection. Maybe some trauma or turmoil that forces them together. They get connected. Passion develops. Opportunity arises. Then there a lot of messy thrusting and grinding. Then it’s over. Whew! That’s their life. Wow. Like I said, even dogs do that.
The romance novels never have Legos in the carpet. The electric bill is never late. The cars don’t break down before payday. Their houses don’t get foreclosed. They never fart in bed. Nobody has morning breath. Their cats never crap on the floor. They live a perfect life. All their problems have happy endings. The sail off onto the sunset every perfect day. Who lives like that?
My idea of romance is one of defiance. Mostly defiance of my own nature.
As a man, I fully understand carnal nature and selfish desires. Most of us, given the opportunity, would have sex three times a day with every available woman. Our mind and body craves sex. We have vivid imaginations of sex in all kinds of situations. The promise or even suggestion of sex is a powerful motivator for us. Most men go into marriage thinking they just found an “all you can eat” buffet of sex. They think it’s going to happen every day for the rest of their life.
And once reality sets in, we get disappointed. Once we understand that our wife doesn’t exist for the sole purpose of satisfying our every whim, we lose interest. Maybe not completely, but some. Women get sorely disappointed, too. They were baited in by a man who went out of his way to prove himself. He made her the center of his world, just long enough to get that ring on her. The shining armor tarnishes really quick.
I want men to understand romance. Women need romance. Not the movie type, the real stuff. Not just flowers and candy and the occasional date. The lifestyle adjustment that completely changes the way you think.
During the dating days, you had a basic understanding of true romance. Even if you didn’t know it. If you didn’t, she probably wouldn’t have married you. Without some simple form of romance, you would have lost her attention. The romance I am talking about is the real stuff. The stuff where you rearrange your world and place her in the center.
You have to put her in her place. She isn’t an accessory to your life, she is your life. Everything good about your life should involve her. True romance is in making the effort to reaffirm her value in every decisions you make. Legitimate romance involves defying our own selfishness and making her the most important person in the world.
Real romance is undeniable. She knows. She understands when you are being nice just to get sex. Sometimes she will play along. Maybe she actually wants sex. Maybe she is just being nice and trying to avoid hurting your feelings. Maybe she thinks she is doing the right thing. Maybe she thinks that this really is how it works. Maybe she has just given up hope for it being any better. That’s a bad place to be.
Then there’s the guy who won’t have sex. He lives his life, demanding everything happen on his terms. He wants is when he wants it and exactly how he wants it. He wants her to be just like the women in his imagination. Or the ones on tv. Whatever. He is purely selfish. That guy doesn’t have a clue about how good this can be.
My marriage was pretty good, right up until it wasn’t. From my perspective, things were fine. The reason it looked so good was because she was trying to hard. She tolerated my attitude. She endured my abusive actions. She did everything in her power to hold our home together. Until she finally broke, I thought things were fine. Once she quit giving, it all fell on me. If the marriage was to be saved, I had to do it. Which is where it was supposed to be from the beginning. I started off as her hero, I had to do it again.
After I reassumed my place, as the man who loved her, things gradually changed. Three years later, we were reconnected. At the four year mark, she told me she loved me and was never going to leave again. We were stronger than ever, but only after I had proven to her that she was what mattered most to me.
That’s when I understood romance. It’s not selfish. It’s about her. It’s all about, making it, all about her. It’s about proving yourself, constantly. About taking every opportunity to be the man she needs. We don’t go to movies I like, but she doesn’t. We don’t eat at restaurants I like, but she hates. We don’t have to compromise. She never gets dragged along through something she doesn’t want to do. I don’t ask her to endure things. I find things she enjoys and we do that. I have found myself in her. In being her hero again.
Flowers and candy are nice. Don’t stop doing that. But don’t do one thing, expecting to get another. That’s not romance. That’s just selfishness. Prove your self to her. Be the man. Learn to love. Be the romantic.
M. Erik Matlock lives in Palm Coast, Florida with his unbelievably amazing wife, Geri and two of their four awesome kids. Erik and Geri were married in 1989 and became parents in 1990. Erik is a self professed recovering knucklehead with a knack for learning things the hard way. After a twenty year spiral into becoming a dark, angry and abusive husband; he was confronted with the impending loss of his family and divorce papers. Four years later, they are best friends again and very much in love. Erik openly shares his mistakes and failures in hopes of saving other families from the same pain they experienced. Follow Erik at erikmatlock.com. Pinterest.com/erikmatlock. twitter as @erik_matlock