At last...there's hope! In the form of two teenagers - 16 year olds Simon and Jeff. We were having an in depth discussion about relationships and romance as seen from the perspective of someone their age. My eyeballs were out on stalks as I discovered what sixteen year olds know these days!
What impressed me the most was their approach to romance. Now, lets face it folks, the Aussie bloke has had a bashing in the past when it comes to romance. Remember Paul Hogan demonstrating Australian male foreplay? He kicks the side of the deck chair and mutters 'brace yourself Sheila'! And some of it is justified, because where do men learn about romance?
Women are raised on images of love and intimacy and we read endless love novels full of passion, romance, fantasy, lust and some actual 'hot sex'. Where do men learn about intimacy and romance if their fathers do not model it? Playboy or the internet is not full of text!
It seems to me, based on double blind cross over trials conducted under the rigorous scientific conditions of the conferences at which I speak (150 a year) that men are desperate to be educated in this area of intimacy and romance. They want more of it but where can they find guidance? And often when they do try (eg the bunch of flowers for no reason) the response ensures they will never try again ('what have you done?' or 'who is she?'). Beware the responses - people are vulnerable when they try this for the first few years!
Simon and Jeff gave me hope because these boys not only had romantic ideas but actually put them into practice! And were thinking ahead to Valentine's Day and what they would do for their respective girlfriends. Their ideas ranged from roses when their girlfriends were sick to just roses for no reason to attaching a banner declaring their feelings to a wall somewhere! Lucky girls.
The piece de resistance was an idea for the Dad - what could Dad do for Mum on Valentine's Day? The answer: dress up as a giant love heart and sing a poem to her! What a spectacular way to win bonking points. When I asked how this idea had emerged I was told The Simpsons. Oh well, I knew that one day I would find something worthwhile about that programme!
After all, what is romance? It could be defined as thoughtfulness - thinking about exciting, intimate or caring scenarios and planning to make them happen , enjoying the anticipation of the event and revelling in the actual romantic interlude. We need to think about our partners idea of what is romantic - men have vastly different mental images from women in this area!
Intimacy and romance are often linked. Romance can be the prelude to intimacy - which is a feeling of closeness, sharing secrets, caring and love; the two of you against the world (before you puke fellas - remember it's a woman writing this - some of us really think like this!). Women love intimacy. Men do too - it's just some of them don't realise how much they do.
Most men think romance has to be big and expensive. No fellas, small and cheap is good! (Small and expensive is better! Just joking.) We don't need weekends away in fabulous five star hotels - although every so often , if you must, I guess we could accept it! Or expensive jewellery hidden in a huge bunch of flowers or an easter egg. Or a secret rendezvous as in Pretty Woman where he flies her to the opera in his private jet.
A phone call out of the blue, for no other reason than to say "I love you" is a big winner. And cheap. Or a card for no special occasion that tells your partner why you love them. Or a special picnic in the park to relive a courting moment. This is just the start of the ideas! I wonder if you brought the topic up at the dinner table if you could come up with a million (or six) more ideas?
What about setting aside five minutes each week (the engineers will love this planned approach!) and devoting it to thinking about romantic ideas with which you could surprise your partner? Try starting with a candlelit dinner and asking her about her ideas on romance. Then read Men are From Mars, Women are From Venus'. I am concentrating on men here and I'm not trying to be sexist - it's just that men are less likely to ask for advice in this area - and I just can't stop myself from giving instructions and improving things when I wasn't asked!
As Ellen Kriedman wrote in her books 'Light His Fire' and Light Her Fire' 'romance is a decision'. It doesn't just happen - a beautiful night might be surrounding you, but noticing it and deciding to walk on the beach to create romance is the difference between a beautiful night and a memory to treasure. Making a special effort to stop on the walk , hug your partner and tell them how important they are to you is a decision. What about spontaneity I hear you cry? Initially these are conscious decisions but done often enough they become second nature,unconscious and spontaneous.
Romance is really good fun - it can add spice and excitement to a deep love - and the anticipation and rewards are great. So no 'bah humbug' to Valentine's Day - you have a couple of weeks to plan and prepare. If two sixteen year old boys can do it, so can you!