Romance 101: Helping the Romantically Challenged Guy

Guys, remember when your mother would bring home the box of Valentines for you to sign to take to school and distribute into the decorated paper bags of your classmates? No thinking, no planning, just sign and stuff, sign and stuff. When you finished, no further thought was needed, just off to play.

Well, those days are gone—long gone; that is, if you want to connect with your Valentine. Now, there’s a little bit more to it, especially if you want to do something “special”; especially if your heart yearns to tell her how grateful you are that she puts up with someone like you. You rack your brain, and the only things that come to mind are flowers and candy or dinner and a movie. That seems too trivial; you want to make a bigger splash. Surely there’s more. Wait a second; what’s that word she’s always throwing around? What is it that she is always saying he wants more of? Romance? Was that it? Is there a catalog you can order that from? It’s not at Home Depot or Wal-Mart. What exactly is romance?

If you’re like me romance is often hard to figure out. Either, you can lay down $70.00 for a meal or $35.00 for a movie and snacks and have her say, “I want more romance.” Or you can lock your keys in your car and have to walk together two miles to the restaurant in the pouring rain and she’ll say, “That was so romantic.” How’s a guy to know?

It was my good friend Jon’s 10th Anniversary. He and his wife had just bought a new house, and he had been painting the inside in preparation for their move-in. He knew he had to do something special for “the big ten” but he was clueless.One day, as he was painting on the ladder, an idea came to him (I personally think he fell off the ladder and hit his head to get such a good idea). He picked up his wife that evening to take her out to eat. On their way to the restaurant, he casually said, “Are there sandwich fixin’s (Jon’s from the south) at the new house?” Pam, his wife, said she thought there was. Jon suggested they eat simple in order to spend a little time together at the house. Pam, with a little disappointment in her voice, said okay. He walked her to the door, opened it, and there, spread out on the floor of their empty house, was a tablecloth with a candlelight dinner. Pillows were thrown all around the edges of the tablecloth and soft music was playing on the paint-covered radio in the corner. She cried softly and said it was the most romantic thing he had ever done.

Now I know personally they have been on cruises and taken exotic vacations together, so what made a simple homemade meal in an unfinished house on a stained tablecloth with Michael Buble’ in the background so romantic? Rather than be jealous of Jon, what can we learn from this encounter about romance? Here are four easy tips:


Most guys make a huge tactical error here: they start thinking. They plan or plot according to what they would like to do. They come up with an evening at the tractor pull or a nice, quiet, intimate Jerry Bruckheimer movie. Time to back up and try to get inside your mate’s head. What does she like? This is especially hard for us because we are so used to talking her out of what she likes. But just try it. Try to remember the times she has pointed to a picture and said, “Isn’t this beautiful?” Or turned to you and said, “Wouldn’t it be fun to do that?” This will be difficult because those are usually the times we weren’t paying attention, but give it a shot. Much like how electricity travels better through water than peanut butter, women feel more connected to us when there is romance in the air.


Women possess an uncanny ability to remember details. If you doubt this, just ask your wife when the last stupid thing you did was. Then ask her to tell you what you were wearing when you did it. Trust me, women have the corner on the market of details. So when it comes to planning an evening of romance, it speaks volumes when you demonstrate the details, especially her details (see tip #1, putting on her mind). For example, if the average husband is going to try to cook a surprise dinner for his wife, he thinks he’s doing great if remembers the meat and a vegetable, never mind silverware or anything to drink. But guys, if you want to add a real spark of romance to your relationship, think details: candles, matching napkins, or a single fresh flower will add more than you think.


All of the romance in the world will not mean a thing to your significant other if it is not from you. That may sound arrogant, but for most women, that is the way they feel, strange as it is. She would rather have a rough three-lined poem from you than a beautiful frilly card that says “all the right things.”  Often the greatest romance happens when you seek to give of yourself to her in a personal way. Sometimes a homemade meal with the burnt parts scraped off is more meaningful than a fine catered dinner, because it’s personal. Not that fine catered dinners are a bad idea, just find a way to bring your own touch to the occasion.


This is where all the men out there think I must be joking. “Willing to take a risk? I take risks all the time! Just last week I risked life and limb to take down the outside Christmas lights.” Yeah, we are used to risking, but not when it comes to intimacy. I am talking about the risking of your self to love and be loved deeply. You can be in a relationship by financially providing, or spending one night a week of quality time, or regularly taking your family out for ice cream, yet withholding the giving of yourself emotionally, risking the vulnerability of being known. Many of us are so uncomfortable with our emotions and allowing our spouses to really know us. And that risk is exercised by talking (GASP!). Yes, talking, choosing to reveal, to expose your thoughts, your feelings, your self. For real romance to be present, we must begin to take that risk.

What made my friend Jon’s encounter with his wife so romantic? All the elements were there: he chose something she would like, he paid attention to the details like candles and pillows, he made the evening very personal with dinner and the kind of music she liked, and Jon discussed with his wife his perspective (his thoughts and feelings) of the ten years of their marriage. They shared openly and personally about what they were happy with and where they wanted to go in the future. As they shared their hopes and dreams, their disappointments and joys, the one thing his wife Pam did not say they needed more of, was romance.

—Paul Johnson, M.Ed., LMFT, LPC;


To talk further about your romantic or relational challenges, you may reach Paul at 205-807-6645, or Paul Johnson is a licensed marriage and family therapist and a licensed professional counselor in the state of Alabama.