February 14, 2010

Build It Right

Part 2: The sizzle of romance



          Happy Valentine’s Day!  Today we’re talking about romance—the perfect subject for Valentine’s Day!  If you want a great marriage, you’ve got to build it right—we’re going to talk about the role of romance in a lasting relationship. 

          I also thought this would be a great time to show pictures of the 2009 Husband of the Year Award winners! 

  • From the United Kingdom: he’s in the tent with the bike—nice touch.
  • From Poland: can you hurry up? It’s starting to rain!
  • From Greece: you carry the wood, honey, I’ve got the fire.
  • From Ireland: what a romantic—he’s even holding her hand!
  • From the US: row, baby, row!

The 2009 Husband of the Year Award winners!  What a bunch of romantics! 

          What is romance, why is it important, and how do you keep it sizzling?  That’s what we’re going to talk about today.


Offering and announcements:

1.  Two classes to highlight:

          A.  Business by the Book (#3)—one day seminar on Saturday, Feb. 27; details at Info Center.

          B.  DivorceCare (#5)—twelve week class begins in March, call Kathi for details or to register.

2.  Adventures in Motherhood (back of tear-off)—pediatric nurse is special speaker on Thursday.  AIM offers practical instruction and encouragement in a welcoming atmosphere for all moms of young children!

3.  “The Intimacy of Sex” (#8)—PG13!



We’re talking about building a lasting marriage—if you want it to last you’ve got to build it right.  There’s a sequence that most successful marriages follow.  You start with friendship, it warms into romance, then grows into a life-long commitment, and you celebrate it with sex.  Friendship, romance, commitment and sex.  That’s the sequence.  Mix up the sequence and you can mess up the relationship.  Sex comes after the friendship and romance and commitment; after the wedding, not before. 

These four things—friendship, romance, commitment and sex—are essential to any great marriage.  In a great marriage, we keep growing and developing each of these elements. The friendship gets deeper, the romance gets warmer, the commitment gets stronger and the sex gets better! 

Last week we talked about the foundation of friendship.  Today we’re going to talk about romance! 

          Let me begin by admitting that the Bible doesn’t speak directly to the subject of romance.  In fact, you won’t find the word “romance” or “romantic” in the Bible.  And very few of the marriages in the Bible began with romance.  In the Biblical cultures, couples didn’t date and fall in love.  Marriages were arranged.  Their parents picked a spouse for them.  Occasionally, a couple would fall in love and ask the parents to arrange the marriage, as Jacob did in Genesis 29—a passage that we’ll look at several times today.  But most couples weren’t “in love” when they got married, nor was it even considered important to be “in love”.  In fact, the whole notion of romantic love as the basis for marriage is a relatively new idea. 

ILL: On June 13, 1998, David Weinlick married Elizabeth Runze in the Mall of America in Minneapolis while 2,000 shoppers watched.  Picture.  What made their wedding unique was that it was an arranged marriage.  They had spoken to each other a total of five minutes before the wedding. 

David, a self-described “tall, thin blond who sports a ponytail”, advertised for a wife.  36 would-be brides from all over the U.S. showed up at the Mall of America at 9 AM on June 13.  Each filled out a lengthy questionnaire and then defended her answers in an interview with a committee consisting of David and 55 friends and relatives.  After several hours of interviews, they selected Elizabeth.  David proposed to her in private, she accepted, bought a dress in Bloomingdales and they were married at 5 PM.

          Ten years after the wedding, they were doing great and have three children.  Picture.

          David said, “This whole concept of marrying because you’re madly, passionately in love is a fairly recent development in the history of the human race.  I don’t mean that being in love isn’t great, but people tend not to realize it isn’t enough to make a marriage work.

          “What you’ve got to be excited about is making it work, going through it.  That’s a lot of the reason we’ve been successful.  We went into the marriage saying, ‘Hey, it’s about commitment-to the other person, to being together.’ Your love grows out of your commitment to another person.”

          He added that he soon fell in love with his wife—a falling that has repeated itself continually and “enhances” the mature, committed love of their marriage.

Now there’s a novel approach.  Actually, falling in love after the wedding is the way most people in human history have done it!  I’m not advocating David’s approach.  But I am saying that our approach to romance and marriage hasn’t yielded great results, and maybe it’s worth taking a closer look at romance, how it works and the role in plays in marriage. 

          Let’s begin with a definition.  Webster says that romance (noun) is “an emotional attraction between two people.”  When we talk about “falling in love”, we’re talking about romance.  We see something in that other person that we like…a lot!  There’s chemistry.  There’s a spark.  There’s feelings.  An emotional attraction.  And in our culture, this is what usually draws us to the marriage altar.  We marry because we’re in love—we marry largely because of romance.

          The problem of course is that romance seems pretty fickle; feelings change.  The biggest reason for getting married is because we’re “in love”.  And the biggest reason for getting divorced is because “we’re not in love any more.”  You hear it all the time.

“The spark is gone.”

“I just don’t love him anymore.”

“I don’t have any feelings for her anymore.”

“I’ve tried, but I’m not attracted to him at all now.”

The problem is that our feelings change.  In fact they change easily and often, which is why some people change spouses easily and often.  Dr. Neil Clark Warren, in his book, The Triumphant Marriage, says,

Chemistry alone is not enough to hold a marriage together over the long run.  But most marriages can benefit substantially by maximizing chemistry.

Chemistry or romance alone isn’t enough…but…it can sure help!  Your marriage is sure going to be happier and more fulfilling if you like each other, if there is an emotional attraction to each other, if you’re “in love”.  Dr. Warren goes on to say,

Chemistry between two people is responsive to mental and emotional processes over which we have tremendous control.  You can make chemistry happen.  (P. 72)

Romantic feelings are the result of things we do and say and think.  When we do and say and think those things, the feelings follow.  You can make romance happen!  We usually think of “falling in love”, as though these feelings were totally beyond our control.  But romance is not only a noun; it’s also a verb: to romance. 

Romance (v.): to try to influence or win favor with by lavishing personal attention, gifts or flattery. 

Romance isn’t just something that happens to us; it’s something we do.  When you romance someone, you are saying and doing things to win their favor.  You are wooing and winning them.  And this is why romance often seems to die after the wedding.  You’ve won, so you stop wooing.  Romance dies because you stop romancing!  You stop trying to win their favor by lavishing personal attention, gifts or flattery!  So if the romance is dead in your marriage, what should you do?  Romance each other!  Woo and win the other person’s affection.  Listen to what Jesus said to the church in Ephesus.

Revelation 2:4–5 Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love. 5 Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first.

In the verses preceding this, Jesus praises this church for their orthodoxy and good works.  But something was missing.  They had lost their first love.  How could they get it back?  Jesus told them to remember, repent and re-do.  Remember the height from which you have fallen—remember what it used to be like.  Repent—change your mind and behavior.  Re-do—do again the things you did at first.

That same three-fold prescription can be used to rekindle the romance in your marriage.  Remember—repent—re-do.  Remember: remember how you used to feel about your spouse.  Repent: honestly evaluate why you’ve lost those feelings and make the determined decision to change.  Re-do: start doing the things you used to do when you had those feelings.  Married couples: what did each of you do that caused you to fall in love with each other?  Keep doing those things! The question I posed last week fits here: “My partner married me because he or she thought the pleasing things I was doing during our courtship would continue for the rest of our lives.  Am I holding up my end of this bargain?” 

          If you want romance the noun, then do romance the verb.  If you want the feelings, do the things that produce the feelings.  The more you do romance the verb, the more you’ll feel romance the noun.  I know this sounds strange, but great marriages work on being “in love”.  They work on being romantic.  They work on the emotional attraction, keeping the chemistry alive.  Romance is a verb.  You don’t just feel it; you do it and then you feel it. 

So if romance is an emotional attraction, what attracts us?  What do we find romantic?  What can we do to romance another person, and what can do to keep romance alive and thriving after we’re married?  Here are four attractions that are part of romance and something practical to do with each.


1. Physical attraction. 

          Usually one of the first things that attracts us to another person is the way they look.  He thinks she is beautiful.  She thinks he is a hunk.  We see something attractive in the other person’s physical appearance. 

Genesis 29:14-20 After Jacob had stayed with him for a whole month, 15 Laban said to him, “Just because you are a relative of mine, should you work for me for nothing? Tell me what your wages should be.”

16 Now Laban had two daughters; the name of the older was Leah, and the name of the younger was Rachel. 17 Leah had weak eyes, but Rachel was lovely in form, and beautiful. 18 Jacob was in love with Rachel and said, “I’ll work for you seven years in return for your younger daughter Rachel.”

19 Laban said, “It’s better that I give her to you than to some other man. Stay here with me.” 20 So Jacob served seven years to get Rachel, but they seemed like only a few days to him because of his love for her.

Notice what seems to be Jacob’s initial attraction to Rachel in verse 17.  Rachel was “lovely in form and beautiful.”  The NLT says she had “a beautiful figure and a lovely face.”  Rachel was a hotty!  Jacob was attracted to Rachel because of her looks. 

          Now you can criticize Jacob all you want.  “Men!  They’re so shallow!  It’s all about appearance.”  But for many men—and women—the initial attraction is often physical. 

ILL: There were lots of things that attracted me to Laina, but I’ve got to tell you that this was one of them.  She is beautiful.  I can remember an experience shortly after Laina had first “caught my eye”.  I was with Mark Meuser; we were college basketball teammates along with Laina’s brother.  Mark said to me, “Have you seen Mark Campbell’s little sister, Laina.  She’s gorgeous.  Those eyes—wow!  I’ve never seen such beautiful eyes.”  I remember thinking, “Yeah, I’ve seen her.  Now back off, bozo!”

Physical attraction—it’s part of romance.  So what can you do to keep romance alive?

Take care of yourself.  It’s amazing how many people let themselves go physically after they get married.  That attractive man you married turns into a slob.  The beautiful girl you married let’s herself go to seed.  Yikes!  It’s no wonder romance dies.

Think of it in microcosm for a moment.  Envision a romantic evening.  Don’t you picture the other person looking good, smelling good?  If he hasn’t taken a shower or shaved and still stinks from work; if her breath reeks of garlic and onions, and she dressed in a sack—it’s not a pretty picture!  Part of romance is physical attraction, so look and smell your best!

I’m not saying every guy needs to look like a Greek god, and every woman like a super-model.  Very few of us would qualify!  And I’m aware of the effects of aging!  But you should take care of yourself and look your best for your spouse.

ILL: I mentioned that Laina and I jog and go to the gym together.  We do it for lots of reasons: physical health, mental well-being, time to talk.  But another reason we do it is for each other.  I want to be attractive to her, and she wants to be attractive to me…and she is!  Call us shallow if you want; I call us happily married.

ILL: Many years I ago, I was in the locker-room at the Y after playing some hoops, and some of the guys started talking about their sexual conquests.  Finally, one of them turned to me and said, “How about you, Joe?”  (He obviously didn’t know what I do!)  I said that I’ve had sex with only one woman, my wife, and was happy with that.  Some of them looked at me in disbelief.  So I said, “There’s not much temptation to steal a Chevy on the street when you’ve got a Mercedes at home.”

She is my Mercedes and she looks good!  And I appreciate that! If you want to keep romance alive, take care of yourself.  So do what you can: exercise, eat a healthy diet, dress up, look nice for your spouse—I guarantee you that they will appreciate it.  Take care of yourself…for the sake of your marriage.


2. Personality attraction. 

          A second romantic attraction is personality.  You find some people’s personalities very attractive and others not so much.  There are people with whom you feel an immediate affinity; the chemistry is there with those folks.  And it isn’t with others.  That’s personality attraction.  And when a couple falls in love, there’s a lot of personality attraction.  They find the other person fascinating!

          Now, what attracts us to another person’s personality?  You know the old saying: opposites attract.  It’s those mysterious differences.  It’s like magnetism.  Identically charged ends of magnets repel, while opposite charged ends of magnets attract.  While it’s not an ironclad rule, it’s generally true among people as well.

ILL: Laina and I are opposites on almost every personality inventory we’ve ever taken.  On the Meyers-Briggs, I’m an ENFP and she’s an ISTJ—opposites on every scoring axis.  On the DISC assessment, I’m high D and I, she’s high S and C—opposites on every scoring axis.  We’re opposites.

          I’m an extrovert, she’s an introvert.  I’m big picture, she’s details.  I’m a talker, she’s a listener.  I’m a goer, she’s a stayer.  I’m a spender, she’s a saver.  I’m spontaneous, she’s planned.  We’re opposites!  We’re perfect for each other! 

It was those very different traits that attracted us.  Why do opposites attract?  Because we’re looking for someone who completes us.  Instinctively I realize that I don’t need another me; I need someone different than me to complete me.  When you are first falling in love those differences seem mysterious, intriguing, fascinating.  This is romance—the emotional attraction of personality.  The other person is fascinating!

          What happens after a few years of marriage?  You get used to each other, take each other for granted, and instead of being fascinating, those personality traits become irritating!  Opposites attract, then they irritate each other.  What once charmed us now drives us crazy!  So what should you do to keep romance alive?

Celebrate the differences.  Go back and do what you did at first.  See each personality trait as a wonderful thing, different from you and therefore needed by you. 

ILL: What happens when two spenders marry?  Financial disaster!  What happens when two savers marry?  Nothing at all!  No fun!  What happens when a saver marries a spender (which is usually the case)?  Tension!  But it’s a good tension, good for both of them.  So instead of being irritated (“He/she never lets me buy anything!”), be grateful (“He/she saves so we can afford the things we need…and some fun things too.”). 

What about your spouse irritates you?  Look more closely and I’ll bet you’ll find that it’s something that attracted you to him or her.  If you’ll celebrate the differences, consciously think about why you appreciate that trait, you’ll find your feelings changing and romance will grow.


3. Pursuit attraction. 

A third romantic attraction is what I’m calling the pursuit attraction.  Everyone wants to be wanted.  Everyone wants to be pursued.  And when someone pursues you, it’s very romantic.  I know people—and you do too—who weren’t smitten with their spouse when they first met.  At first, they might not have found them physically attractive, or even liked them much.  But they were won over because they were pursued.  Much of romance is feeling wanted and pursued.

ILL: A charming elderly lady was telling of her joy the day she became engaged. 

          “Can you remember,” she was asked, “any particular thought that accounted for your joy that day?”

          She paused reflectively, and then said, “I think it was the feeling that somebody really wanted me!”  (Married for Good, by R. Paul Stevens, p. 62)

Somebody wants me.  That’s a great feeling.  That’s romance. 

Think back to the Jacob and Rachel story.  Jacob served Laban seven years to win Rachel’s hand.  Seven years of hard work—that’s some serious pursuit!  Rachel knew what was going on.  She knew that Jacob was working seven years to win her.  For seven years she was being pursued and wooed by this man.  For seven years, every time he passed her on his way to the fields they exchanged a glance that said, “I’m doing this for you.”  That does something to you!

          By the way, this is what God does to us.  God pursues us relentlessly, and woos us.  It’s why Jesus came.  He came looking for you, seeking you.  He wants you.  He wants you so much that He went to ridiculous extremes to woo and win you—He went all the way to a cross to woo and win you—this far!  This is the divine romance.  This is how much God wants you.  You are wanted!

          So romance, this emotional attraction, often grows out of pursuit.  What happens after a few years of marriage?  We have what we sought, so we stop seeking.  We stop pursuing.  We stop wooing.  And romance dies.  So what should we do to keep romance alive?

Keep pursuing!  Never stop pursuing your spouse.  Keep wooing and pursuing.  Don’t know what to do?  What did you do at first? 

  • You would do anything to be together.  You would finish your last class on Friday afternoon and drive all night across the state to be with her, stay all weekend and drive home late Sunday night, and be wiped out Monday morning.  But it was worth it, because you were with her!  And you told her that and she knew that you loved her.  Pursue!
  • You loved to talk.  In fact, if you couldn’t be together, you would call, even if it meant staying up late or getting up early, or missing something that your friends were doing.  That call was pursuit.
  • You did things to impress that special person: giving an extravagant gift, cooking a special meal, opening the door for her, helping him with his homework.  You went out of your way to pursue. 

To romance is to try to influence or win favor with by lavishing personal attention, gifts or flattery.  Want to fan the flame of romance in your marriage?  Pursue your spouse.


4. Positive attraction. 

          The fourth romantic attraction I’m calling positive attraction.  By that, I mean that we put our best foot forward; we’re kind and thoughtful.  While people may be attracted by looks at first, that doesn’t last long if you’re a jerk.  Romance is sustained by kindness.  We are attracted to positive people, kind people, thoughtful people.  When someone consistently treats us well, we feel good about that person.

Back to our Jacob and Rachel story.  When Jacob first arrived in Haran, he met some shepherds and asked if they knew his uncle Laban.  They pointed out that his daughter Rachel was coming to water the sheep.

Genesis 29:9-10 While he was still talking with them, Rachel came with her father’s sheep, for she was a shepherdess. 10 When Jacob saw Rachel daughter of Laban, his mother’s brother, and Laban’s sheep, he went over and rolled the stone away from the mouth of the well and watered his uncle’s sheep.

Do you think Jacob made a good first impression?  This is how romance works—you woo with kindness. 

ILL: Have any of you see the Hallmark Hall of Fame movie, “The Magic of Ordinary Days”?  The time is World War 2.  Livy, a pastor’s daughter who is pregnant, is shipped off by her father to rural Colorado for an arranged marriage, so that her baby will not be born out of wedlock.  She marries Ray, a young farmer who is a complete stranger to her.  But they are from different worlds.  She is from the city and was working on a post-graduate degree in archaeology.  He is from the farm, where his nearest neighbor is 8 miles away.  They have no phone, and the nearest library is in town an hour’s drive away.  She feels trapped, yearns to get away, and dreams of the father of her baby, a naval flight instructor.  It looks like a marriage doomed from the get-go. 

          But Ray is the most kind and gentle and thoughtful man she’s ever met.  When she tells him about her education, he goes to the library and checks out books on archaeology so they can talk about her interests.  When she mentions that she likes to swim, he and his brother dig a hole behind the barn to fill with water for swimming.  When he sees she’s lonely, he has a phone installed even though it means paying for miles of phone line.  When she tries to cook and almost kills him with too many jalapenos in the omelet, he chokes it down without complaining.  He’s always a perfect gentleman.  When he says, “Livy, I would do anything for you,” she says, “I know.”  And she does. 

          And you know what happens, don’t you?  Livy falls in love with Ray…after she married him.  Slowly, surely, Ray won her heart with kindness.  It’s “The Magic of Ordinary Days.” 

And it’s the power of positive attraction, of romancing someone with kindness.

We do that when we’re dating—we put our best foot forward.  We’re consistently kind and thoughtful because we’re trying to win this person’s affection.  What happens when we get married?  Often, we get careless and selfish.  We stop doing the little things that keep the feelings alive.  So what should you do to keep romance alive?

          Be nice I know this sounds corny or simple, but it’s true.  It’s the Golden Rule and it works.  Treat others the way you want to be treated.  Be kind and thoughtful and people will love you. 

          Here’s an assignment for all the married couples.  There are two unfinished sentences at the bottom of your outline:

  • In our courtship I felt loved romantically when…
  • I think my spouse would like me to be more romantic by…

Go on a date this week, and finish these sentences with each other.  Talk about it, and about how you are going to romance each other.