Rekindling Romance in the Busy Season of Life
by Rhonda Stoppe
When my husband Steve and I were dating, he would drive 30 minutes across town during his lunch break just to drop off a bouquet of flowers. Because he had to get back to work before his lunch hour was over, he only had time to knock on the door, hand me the flowers, give me a kiss and then jump back in his car.
As I watched Steve drive away, I would bury my face in the flowers and say, “Oh, how romantic!”
After we were married, Steve often stopped by the flower shop on his way home from work to bring me lovely bouquets. When I became a stay-at-home mom, Steve continued the romantic practice of bringing me flowers. Only this time I did not say, “Oh, how romantic!” Rather, I said, “Oh, how expensive!”
I made a big mistake when I said that. When my husband’s romantic gesture was met with my practical “this doesn’t fit our stay-at-home-mom” budget, I did not realize how my words discouraged him. He was attempting to keep the romance alive in our marriage by doing the one thing I had told him was romantic since our days of courtship. In one fell swoop I had made him feel like he had failed in his attempt to be romantic and made him feel bad we were on a tight budget. As life got busier, it seemed like taking time for romantic actions took a back seat. Maybe you can relate?
Even though the busy seasons of life tend to quench romance in marriage, don’t mistakenly assume husbands don’t care about making romantic gestures. A 2004 survey conducted by social researcher Shaunti Feldhahn showed that 84 percent of men say they do want to be romantic, but most say they just don’t know what romance looks like to their wives. So even though you’re super busy, take time to help your husband understand what is romantic to you.
While writing our new book, The Marriage Mentor: Becoming the Couple You Long to Be, Steve and I had a discussion about romance. He explained, “Most men really do want to be romantic, but we tend to compartmentalize our lives, so for example, when we are in work mode, we can easily forget to kindle the romantic fires at home.”
Steve went on, “And for most of us men, finding ways to be romantic means getting out of our comfort zone. When we are afraid we won’t measure up to our wife’s expectations, it’s tempting to just not try at all. I know that giving gifts is romantic, but I always put so much pressure on myself to think of romantic gifts to the point I end up at a loss.”
How Do You Define Romance?
Figure out what speaks romance to you. Since life is busy and most husbands need a little help knowing how to romance their wives, you would be wise to ponder what speaks romance to you. You cannot very well expect your husband to know if you’re not even sure of the answer yourself.
Coach your husband. Take some time to consider some of your husband’s romantic gestures in the past. And then tell him how you found those actions romantic. While you were young and with less responsibility, romance might have looked like long walks along the beach or candlelight dinners.
Cultivate romance. With kids or busy careers, when time alone is scarce, you’ll need to be creative in romancing your spouse. And while romance might have been more spontaneous when your love was young, talking with each other about how you will be purposeful in cultivating romance amidst the busyness of life is no less romantic––maybe it’s even more so.
Couples who kindly coach one another how to fill their emotional tank tend to enjoy romance no matter how busy life becomes.
When our children were young, I made sure Steve knew the most romantic thing he could do for me was to clean up the dinner dishes and get the kids bathed and into bed—while I took a hot bath. This romantic act was most certainly met with a grateful wife and some sweet lovemaking that evening.
Appreciate his efforts. When your husband makes an effort to be romantic, help him know when he is on the right track. Remember, he is likely putting himself in a situation where he feels inadequate. This means your husband might think he is risking humiliation if he gets it wrong. He may even believe he will lose your respect if his attempt at romance fails. So if he ruins the dinner he was making or—as in my case—he pays too much for flowers you can’t afford, don’t humiliate him.
One man said, “If I make the effort to be romantic and she laughs at me, you can be sure I won’t put myself in that vulnerable position again for a very long time.” (For more on this, you can listen to my interview with Dr. James Dobson on FamilyTalk.)
How Does Your Husband Define Romance?
You would do well to know that when your husband desires romance, he is not simply looking for a physical release. He likely longs for romantic interaction as well. Remember when you were dating? How did you spend your time together as a couple? Did your husband sit across from you, reading poetry or singing songs he wrote just for you as he gazed into your eyes? Probably not. (Or maybe he did, if you’re married to an artsy kind of guy.) At any rate, I imagine your courtship hours were spent talking and playing together as a couple.
If you are like most women, the talking and listening you experienced from your husband-to-be filled your romance tank. By contrast, the times of playing together would likely have ranked number one on your husband’s romance chart.
Which brings me to the activity most men find romantic:
Play with your husband. What does he like to do? What activities did you enjoy doing together when you were dating? Did you hike, play golf or go fishing? If joining your husband in such activities filled up your husband’s romance tank, then most likely it will do the same today. (As long as you go along to enjoy his company, and not to invade his solace with nagging or complaints about everyday-life issues he may be trying to escape through his playtime.)
The Day I Became a Biker Chick
The year our oldest daughter, Meredith, turned 18, my husband came home with a motorcycle. He wanted me to ride on the back with him, while leaving our two younger kids at home with Meredith. Up to this point, I had been hesitant to ride with Steve. I thought, Who will take care of our kids if something happens to us?
But now that Meredith was 18, Steve thought it was a great time to buy a motorcycle. His logic was: If something happens to us, Meredith can take care of the kids.
Seriously, Steve thought this made perfect sense. So I had a choice to make: I could succumb to my fear, or I could jump on the back of that bike, wrap my arms around my man, and ride off into the sunset. I chose the latter.
And over the past decade, what adventures we have had on our motorcycle! Recently we rode the bike from northern California to Seattle and back—1,900 miles round trip! This experience was pure romance for my husband. And I completely enjoyed the scenery as we rode the coastal highway. As for my romantic tank? Once we made it to Seattle, we caught a cruise ship to Alaska and had a delightful time of romance!
Just like you enjoy time with your girlfriends, there are times your husband would prefer to do activities with his guy friends. But you may be surprised to learn that your husband might not always be looking for guys to do guy stuff with him. Rather, he might be hoping you will do guy stuff with him. And when you do, he is romanced.
Here are a few more activities that may fill your husband’s need for romance:
Let him pursue you. When you were dating your husband, part of the romance for him was in pursuing you. So devise ways to flirt with and entice him into pursuing you from time to time. Wink at him from across a crowded room or send him a flirtatious text while he is at work. When it comes to filling your husband’s need for romance, you’ll be surprised how far a little flirtation goes.
He just wants you to want him. When your husband puts forth the effort to pursue you, he is likely hoping the evening will end with him enjoying you in the marriage bed. In the same way God made you to desire romantic connection with your husband through kindness and conversation, God made him with a longing to be satisfied by you through sexual intimacy, so don’t make him apologize for it.
One author shares this insight:
“As much as men want sex, most of them would rather go out and clip the hedges in the freezing rain than make love with a wife who appears to be responding out of duty…If she’s just responding because she has to, he’s being rejected by his wife…Consider the painful words of this truly deprived husband: ‘We’ve been married for a long time. I deeply regret and resent the lack of intimacy of nearly any kind for the duration of our marriage. I feel rejected, ineligible, insignificant, lonely, isolated and abandoned as a result. Not having the interaction I anticipated prior to marriage is like a treasure lost and irretrievable. It causes deep resentment and hurt within me. This in turn fosters anger and feelings of alienation.’”
When you mistakenly view your husband’s need for sex as some sort of primal urge to be satisfied from time to time, you are missing the true ministry God has given you to affirm your husband’s deepest emotional needs through sex.
Did you know that when you pursue your husband sexually, you have a profound influence on him in all areas of his life? Men tend to struggle with feelings of inadequacy and loneliness. When you find your husband sexually desirable, and he feels loved for who he is, then you fill him with a sense of strength, well-being and confidence.
Men are more confident and alive when they are enjoying a healthy sex life with their wives. When your husband says he feels better after you have sex with him, you would be wise to understand he is not simply talking about the physical pleasure he experiences through lovemaking. He may never be able to put into words the effect making love to you has on his emotional well-being. But it really does impact him in a big way. You just watch and see if the results aren’t reflected in your husband’s confidence and overall satisfaction with life.
Take him to bed. When you joyfully take time out of your busy life to take your husband to bed, you not only satisfy his physical, God-given need for sex, you become the salve for his soul as well. When you make the effort to deeply engage with your husband through sex, you are saying to him, “I love you. I want you. I am here for you. I believe in you.” Is it any wonder why most men put sex as number one in their romance category?
My husband, Steve makes this observation, “In my opinion as a pastor and biblical marriage counselor, men whose wives pursue them sexually are deeply in love with their wives.”
So What’s the Bottom Line?
Great romance doesn’t happen by accident. Life is busy, so being purposefully romantic can easily become a less-than-pressing issue for you––something you’ll put off until tomorrow. But sadly, for many couples tomorrow never comes. It is critical to the health of your marriage that you playfully romance each other. Let it begin with you.
When you romance your husband, cultivate passionate sexual experiences, and help your spouse know how to fill up your romance tank, I believe your marriage will be fundamentally changed. You hold the key to building a romantic marriage. Take time to apply the principles in this article, and just see if you begin to enjoy a passionate marriage that is deeply satisfying for both of you. I am pretty sure you won’t regret it!
For more ways to grow your romance, you can read Rhonda’s book Real Life Romance and listen to Steve and Rhonda Stoppe’s interview with Focus on the Family on August 13, 2018.
Portions of this article are excerpts from Steve and Rhonda’s book The Marriage Mentor: Becoming the Couple You Long to Be, Harvest House Publishers, August 2018.
*Feldhahn, Shaunti, For Women Only, Multnomah Books 2013
Rhonda Stoppe is the NO REGRETS WOMAN, with more than 20 years of experience of helping women build a no regrets life. She’s committed to fulfill the Titus 2:4 commission by mentoring, teaching and writing books that are inspiring, grounded in Scripture and easy to read—like you’re visiting with a friend over coffee. Rhonda is the author of 6 books and appears on numerous radio programs, including FamilyTalk, Focus on the Family, Family Life Today and hosts The No Regrets Hour. To learn more about Rhonda’s speaking topics, watch her teaching or to book Rhonda for your next event, visit: NoRegretsWoman.com. You can also visit her online on Twitter and Instagram @RhondaStoppe and Facebook https://www.facebook.com/NoRegretsWoman
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