I remember seeing two women one night in tears. Their faces looked like had just come from a funeral as they held each other by the arm. I asked them if everything was all right, and they answered me, “We just got done watching The Notebook.”
Yes, The Notebook. Possibly the first movie to truly show us what love, romance and commitment look like. Allow me to anger all the girls in one statement—I think it is a horrible movie. Horrible for many reasons, but for now I will just say that it is horrible because of what it does to its viewers’ minds in regard to what romance should look like.
I know I haven’t been married for 20 years or anything, and you might think, “What does he know about romance?” And I get it. I’m not planning on counseling any married couples any time soon. I’ve just been thinking about what being romantic really means.
When I was younger, around Valentine’s Day I’d have girlfriends who would make me cute crafts and cards that took time and creativity; I just was never any good at making that kind of stuff. You know why? Because it’s girly. It’s not romantic; it’s girly. I don’t mean to go all Mark Driscoll on the men right now, and if you’re good at arts and crafts I don’t mean any offense. I just don’t like thinking that I’m not romantic because I can’t cut out red paper hearts and glitter the heck out of a shoebox full of love. And I shouldn’t have to.
What is real romance? We hear people all the time talking about how the romance in their relationship is dead. And I have to wonder, what romance are we talking about here? Your spicy sex life? Your dinners at expensive restaurants? Not enough moonlight serenades? Is that what romance is?
Look, I’m all about getting flowers for my lady for no reason at all. I write songs. I love nice restaurants. I like all of that stuff, but to me, it is not what a relationship should thrive on. That is not romantic. It’s romantic in the Hollywood sense, but it’s not love.
I hate being the guy that quotes the dictionary, but here goes—a definition of Romantic is: “fanciful; impractical; unrealistic.” I think we have a so many marriages and relationships built on movie romance disguising itself as love. It’s fanciful. Impractical. Unrealistic. And it’s not made to last.
You know what romance is to me? Let me share a story from my personal relationship. Get your tissues ready.
The other night Brittany and I were at my apartment and I was hungry so I cut up some potatoes to fry them on the stove. I also needed to take a shower so I asked her if she would watch them so that the potatoes didn’t burn down my apartment. She smiled and said, “Of course!” I couldn’t stop thinking about how wonderful it was to know that she would stand there and watch them for me, just because I was hungry and I asked her to. That’s romantic to me. Romance is frying your boyfriend’s potatoes for him.
Nicholas Sparks will never write a novel called, “Potatoes on a Stove” because that kind of romance won’t sell to our market. We want red-hot romance. Fireworks. Passionate breathing. A million rose petals falling from the sky. Anything to distract us from what our relationships are actually made up of.
A friend of mine is currently going through a painful divorce right now. He said to me, “You know what I think the key to a healthy marriage is? It’s not communication. It’s forgiveness. Being willing to forgive and being willing to accept forgiveness.” As I said, I haven’t been married 20 years, but I’m learning that some of the most romantic parts of a relationship are forgiveness, faithfulness and gratefulness.
Love is not about what your pictures look like on Facebook. I’d argue that the greatest acts of love cannot be captured in a picture. Love is about sacrifice, not pageantry. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You want romance in your love life? Start laying down your life.
Do I want to go on long walks on the beach? Of course. Guys, buy more flowers than your lady knows what to do with. Write her songs and poems. Women, wear that dress he likes. Light some candles. Go all out. But the sexiest you could ever be is simply to be faithful, giving and forgiving. It might not sell tickets, but it’ll preach.