I'm not sure I really understand what romance is and how it all works. But I understand a few things about it, and I'm fairly certain what it is not.
It all started with Rome.
Rome, akin to Romance, is a city in the central, western region of Latium in Italy. Romance, in capitalized form, can refer to languages, as in the Romance languages French, Italian and Spanish, which all came from Latin.
A romance is also a medieval tale of chivalric love, with elements of legend, adventure and the supernatural. In fact, the German word for novel is Roman (pronounced roh-mahn). Chivalry comes from cheval, the French word for horse, and refers to a chevalier, a mounted man-at-arms in medieval times—a knight in shining armor!—known for bravery, gallantry, and nobility in battle and, on the homefront, self-sacrificing gallantry towards women. The modern and usually trashier version of the chivalric tale is the romance novel, which in its more explicit form is the kind of pornography that more often appeals to women than men.
The Romantic Era, which lasted from the late 1700s to about 1900, was a reaction to the Age of Enlightenment (1700s). The Romantic Era was a period that expressed through music, literature and visual art that strong emotion was valued as the authority through which we experience our world, above rational, orderly thought.
That's the academic version of romance. Most of it does not apply to my wife. She does not know French or Italian, nor has she studied medeival literature in depth nor has she to my knowledge ever read a romance novel. But she knows what romance is and she likes how it makes her feel.
I have collected over several decades some nonscientific, anecdotal evidence of what romance is, at least to my wife. I have arrived at three simple conclusions. Let's see if those conclusions match yours.
My wife loves to be swept away by a romantic moment, be it real or imaginary, and she loves it when I express genuine, heartfelt emotion towards her, especially when it requires some thought and preparation by me—thinking about her when I don't have to think about her, so to speak. She also loves it when I pursue her, when she has clear evidence that she matters to me more than anyone or anything in the world.
Here is a personal story. My wife loves long-stemmed, red roses. I am not sure I understand all the reasons why, but do I need to? Anyway, I have to leave for work usually at 5:30 AM, sometimes without seeing her before I leave. On Valentines Day last month (a Monday), I went to a store before I left for work and bought her a fresh bouquet of long-stemmed red roses, put them in a vase and left them on the kitchen counter along with a card full of lovey-dovey words that I really meant. She had to admit that in her morning fog she walked by those roses several times without noticing them, but when she finally did, she was thrilled to find them.
Well, it was a romantic moment and a surprise wrapped into one. She knew that I hadn't forgotten her love of red roses and she knew I had to plan and make an extra effort to accomplish the feat. As a consequence, she felt pursued and fully assured of my love for her, once again. It made her quite happy.
Why does my wife need romance? She could be happy without it. She could be happy without me. But nothing fulfills a woman more than knowing that she is truly special to someone else and that someone is devoted to her. Fulfillment can come in a lot of ways. Romance is not the key to happiness but it sure helps a relationship.
The world would be a much happier place if all men understood this and lived it. That's the ideal. That's heaven.
That's what I know about romance. I bet your wife feels close to the way my wife feels. It's tied up with the need to feel special, loved and assured. Often. It's tied up with knowing that I understand how she wants to be loved and that I willingly comply. I am thrilled to comply.
I'm in the game and I play to win.
And I don't do it to "win points." I do it because I adore my wife. To me, she is the most beautiful creature I have ever laid eyes on. I admire and appreciate her so much. I want her to know that I respect her and that her feeling loved is about as important as anything to me.
And how does all this make her feel? Towards me? Does she wonder if I love her or if she is number 1 in my life? Do I need to tell you how happy my life and marriage are?
Ladies first, except in romance. Men must, must, must lead out in romance. If you do, you won't be sorry. Neither of course will your wife.
(It takes two. If showing love to your wife in this way does not work in your marriage, you are not alone and I am very sorry. Please read my disclaimer—see the tab at the top of this blog.)