Whether a man is single or married, nearly all of us have tried on some occasion to be romantic, failed miserably, and scratched our heads wondering, "What is it that she wants?" It is a bit risky to presume to answer this--but someone has to make the attempt!
First, why is romance important for Christian husbands to think about? Although it is natural for the blaze of passion early in marriage to cool a bit over time, I want to suggest that it is vital that the fire be regularly stoked so it does not go out. Research shows that strong marriage satisfaction is statistically correlated to a strong romantic connection and that the lack of romantic love is a significant cause of depression among wives. God, himself stresses the importance of romance for the married: "Rejoice in the wife of your youth....may her breasts satisfy you always, may you ever be intoxicated with her love" (Prov 5:18-19).
But what is romance to a woman? Romance is 1) pursuing a woman for the purpose of 2) delighting in her, 3) making her feel special as your beloved, and 4) connecting with her.
1. It begins with a man's willingness to pursue her, even though his very fragile self-esteem is at risk if she rejects his advances. Sometimes, even inside marriage, a wife's repeated busy signals can begin to shut down a husband and make it hard for him to pursue romance with her. Furthermore, our fallen nature tempts both unmarried and married men to retreat to our fantasy world or to pornographic images to find sexual pleasure without the risks and messiness of real emotional engagement with a real woman who can hurt us. But a real man (unless he has the gift of singleness) is one who pursues a real woman, whether it is pursuing a woman to marry him or pursuing the woman who has married him. Our job is to initiate; her job is to respond.
2. Romance means pursuing a woman for the purpose of delighting in her. She needs to know that you enjoy her--that you love being with her, getting to know her heart, discovering more and more of her, and feasting your eyes on her inner and outer beauty. Since she needs to know this, it must first be true. (If it is not true, you need to settle this issue with the God who brought her to you, asking him to make you appreciate, value, and cherish her more.) Second, you must tell her she is a delight to you. Words reach her heart. "I love the way you laugh." "I love your smile." "You look beautiful tonight." "I love being with you." "I love the way you explain things so well to the kids." "I love the feel of your smooth skin. "You still have what it takes to light my fire." Etc. etc.
3. Romance means making her feel special as your sweetheart. She IS special because you have chosen her from among all women on planet earth to be YOUR sweetheart. Romance is making her FEEL special, pampered, like the princess that she is! Sanna and Miller, in their book, How to Romance the Woman You Love, write, "From our survey we learned that every woman needs to feel appreciated, wanted, and loved....As long as he shows me that I'm special--no matter where we are or what we're doing--that's romance." Cards, foot-rubs, affection, love notes, a relaxing bubble bath to candle light while you put the kids to bed--anything you do to pamper her and make her feel special is romance to her.
4. Romance means connecting with her. (This is the part I like most!!) We need to realize, however, that women are hard-wired to crave emotional connection before they want sexual connection. Barbara Rossberg writes, "Men your sex drive is connected to your eyes. You become aroused visually. Your wife's sex drive is connected to her heart; she is aroused only after she feels emotional closeness and harmony." (The Five Love Needs of Men and Women.) Romance for her is being in love with her best friend--and best friends laugh, do fun things together, and have long, heart-to-heart talks. When it comes to understanding his wife's romantic desires, a wise husband follows the rule: Always touch her heart before touching her body.