Have you ever come home to a hot bath strewn with rose petals and filled with bubbles, in a bathroom bedecked with scented candles and an ice cold glass of champagne fizzing invitingly on the side. If not you might be thinking poor me but you might want to think again!
For whilst this seems the most romantic of gestures, it doesn’t really take more effort than looking up ‘romantic things to do for your partner’ on the internet, and a trip to the shops.
Not that we’re decrying romantic gestures. Thoughtfulness and a desire to please your partner are definitely up there on the tick list! But true romance?-that is another thing all together. And the romantic fiction authors who scale the very top of the Romantic Fiction charts know it with the best of them have really done their homework!
Unfortunately it is quite complicated. It seems that some of the romantic qualities which attract us to a partner in the first place also seem to repel us later on. A 1995 study by Diane Felmlee found, for instance, that partners who are initially romantically caring can be seen as clingy and possessive over time. Those who take pains to show their physical attractiveness may appear egotistical and selfish, and those who are exiting and fun may be perceived as immature and even unfaithful as time passes. We’re betting a host of bestsellers spring to mind after reading this!
Even the Wikipedia definition of romance describes ‘a feeling of excitement and mystery’. Perhaps, in this world of failed relationships and skyrocketing divorce, this is where we are going wrong. Perhaps we should be challenging this perception of the true romantic, and instead, begin to focus on the qualities which nurture and grow love, rather than spreading a veneer of sickly sweet counterfeit infatuation over our relationships because that’s what the best romantic fiction authors are doing.
So what should we be looking for, and indeed cultivating in ourselves, to achieve a truly romantic partnership?
The journal of personality and social psychology (2011) maintains that qualities such as ‘conscientiousness’ and ‘self-control’ are important in maintaining a romantic relationship. A conscientious individual maintains the motivation to correct relationship mistakes and be constructive in problem-solving, thus promoting greater relationship satisfaction (Baker & McNulty, 2011). Likewise, a self-controlled person can resist temptation—even the temptation to stray when someone cute is flirting with them. So next time your lover delivers two dozen red roses or turns up to serenade you outside your bedroom window, think twice. It seems that principles of integrity, loyalty and devotion are actually what make someone a great romantic.
And if your lover fails to impress reach for a book!