By Corinne Farago
News Flash! Studies now show that long-term couples who may feel they’ve lost that ‘lovin’ feelin’ can reactivate their brain’s reward centers by ushering Romance back into their lives. (more on this below)
You already know a lot about Romance. You’ve been raised on the imagery and sentiment of Romance your whole life. We all have. Even those who don’t consider themselves romantic, could easily describe romantic stereotypes that we’ve all been fed from a young age.
Cupid shooting his little arrow, love letters, Valentine cards, candlelit dinners, small gifts with big bows, bouquets of flowers, confessions of undying love and adoration, lovers running into each other’s arms, tender caresses and gentle lovemaking.
Romance is universally understood in every culture and every language. We’re wired to want it when we don’t have it. We fear the loss of it when we do have it, and we mourn it when it’s gone.
Some of my earliest Romance memories were on the silver screen in darkened theaters. I wasn’t even a teenager yet when I went to see Franco Zeffirelli’s 1968 version of Romeo and Juliet. I returned each Saturday to see it 5 more times.
Watching Juliet finally plunge the knife into her chest at the thought of living without her beloved Romeo, said it all.
Romance was bigger than life itself. My young brain wondered, what could be more transcendent, more beautiful, even spiritual, than loving someone that much?
Just the thought of that kind of love was pumping dopamine into my brain.
Teenage girls were lined around the block to watch the tragic story of love found and love lost.
We were hooked on the drug called Romance, and all future boyfriends would have to learn the romantic playbook, if they were going to get anywhere with our young feminine hearts.
The whirlwind excitement of Romance carries us into a relationship, and the deepening of Romance keeps that relationship alive and thriving.
Romance is blind (or, at least it’s a lot more patient)
Feelings of Romance activate our brain’s reward centers. They release high levels of dopamine into our brain that bonds us to our partners.
When we’re engaged in romantic love, the neural machinery responsible for making critical assessments of other people, shuts down.
When our brains are being lit up by romantic love, we’re not so focused on our partner’s flaws. The towels on the floor suddenly hold less weight. The loud chewing and corny jokes seem kind of cute. Hence the saying, love is blind.
Recent studies using MRIs now show us that long-term couples show the same intensity of dopamine production during romantic moments as couples who are newly in love.
When couples are registering feelings of Romance, the only difference between the brains of long-term couples and new couples was not a loss of dopamine but rather a loss of the stress hormone, cortisol.
Cortisol creates the racing heart, the sweaty palms, the anxiety and apprehension that comes with new-found love.
In other words, the euphoria of Romance can remain throughout long-term relationships, but the cortisol induced stress of new-found love decreases. Makes sense that with time and trust, we can relax into feelings of security and comfort that comes with long-term love.
But love, in and of itself, isn’t necessarily enough to keep Romance alive. Many couples confess their love for their partner, but the experience of Romance has become the missing ingredient in their relationship.
Love + Desire = Romance
Recent studies have also found that long-term couples who feel they’ve lost the ‘lovin’ feelin’ can reactivate each other’s reward centers by actively initiating Romance in their lives.
By romantic desire, I mean that component of the Romance Equation that sets your relationship apart from other relationships you have in your life with friends and family.
Romantic desire is the longing for union, emotional and sexual. It’s a joining of hearts that you feel toward your intimate partner in your open and vulnerable moments. This is how desire expresses itself in the romantic realm of sexuality.
Those feelings of deep intimacy and Romance are what often falls by the wayside in longer-term relationships. We stop courting our partner. We get lazy and take our partner for granted. That’s the honest truth.
Romance is a choice you make every day. It’s the fuel that drives your relationship engine.
We’ve all heard the old adage, “Marriage takes work”. Well this is what they mean by ‘work’. It’s great when romantic feeling arise on their own, but if we learn to generate romantic gestures and initiate experiences that open our partner’s heart, the feelings of Romance will follow naturally.
If you’re in the habit of walking in the door at the end of the day and flopping down on the coach to watch TV or look at your phone, with no energy to give your partner, you’re on a slippery slope that leads to neglect, resentment and conflict.
Romance, or the lack of it, has nothing to do with gender.
I’ve coached women who consider themselves to be the less romantic partner in their relationships, as well as men who complain of being romantically deprived.
Our socialization around intimate love contributes to characterizing men as the gender most lacking in romantic skills, but the desire for Romance is alive in all of us.
Romance is Learnable – Don’t ignore the signs of starvation
Those lacking in romantic skills can feel at a complete loss when our Romance-starved partners make requests for more heart-centered gestures and expressions of appreciation.
Romance is learnable –
First, it’s a mindset that we can choose. Romance calls forth our softer, more nurturing energy, in both men and women.
Romance is receptive in the sense that we’re opening our hearts and letting the love in. It evokes feelings of attraction and desire. It’s felt as a feeling of warm expansion in the heart region of the body.
Whatever gestures you use to express Romance, keep these 4 principles in mind:
- Offer your partner your loving, undivided attention.
- Communicate your love and care for their well-being.
- Experience your partner’s pleasure as a reward in and of itself.
- Don’t use romance as a strategy to get something you want (your partner will feel it).
If your partner has asked you to be more romantic with them, take them seriously. Feeling romantically starved can be a painful and isolating experience.
Do your research and ask your partner what Romance feels like to them, and what gestures, words, and activities they find romantic.
What is your idea of a romantic evening?
What words and phrases do you find romantic?
What does romantic sex look like to you?
What romantic gestures open you to love?
Pick a few of the 28 activities from the Romance section of Your Erotic Menu checklist, and try them out this week.
Here are a few examples you could try-
Romance and words go hand in hand. Make a list of the things you love about your partner and share them with each other. If you can both lie down in a horizontal position facing each other, this calms our nervous system and creates a feeling of focused intimacy.
Get some pillows out, get cozy, and feed your partner with words that fill their hearts with love. Then listen to what they have to share.
This is Romance.
Bathing / showering / hot tubs:
Submerging your naked body into warm water already creates a deeply pleasurable experience. Add your partner, and you’ve got the environment for the exchange of some very romantic energy.
The more we can relax with each other, the safer we feel to open up and let the love in.
Romantic dinners are for connection. They’re for conversations about things that promote closeness.
Agree that if one of you starts veering off topic into work, tasks, or any other mundane matters, the other one can gently guide them back to more personal questions about love, sensuality, sexuality, hopes and dreams, appreciations, and matters of the heart.
Yes, it takes intention and sometimes discipline to not slip back into chit chat, but that’s what it takes to nurture Romance. Shared intention and agreements.
Flirting is very romantic. It’s also light and playful, which is what many couples could use more of. Don’t assume you know what kind of flirting your partner likes – ask them to tell you what they find romantic.
Try introducing a flirty, playful persona you can share with your partner on a regular basis.
Keep flirting separate from making a sexual request. If every flirt is seen as a request for sex then flirting won’t feel very light and breezy. It’ll feel strategic and motivated.
The Look of Love:
Romance can be communicated in just a look, in a certain kind of extended eye contact that goes deeper than usual. Romance can happen anytime, anywhere, multiple times a day. It doesn’t have to be saved for a special event. It doesn’t have to last more than enough time to say, “I love you. I’m so happy you’re in my life”.
Whatever Romance looks like for you and your partner, choose it every day.
Make it part of your spiritual practice, place it at the top of your priority list, and start to reap the emotional, physical and biological rewards that come from keeping Romance alive and well in your relationship.
You now know that Romance:
- Shuts down the neural machinery behind critical assessments of your partner
- Activates your brain’s reward centers, which creates desire for more
- Floods your body with the bonding hormone, dopamine that keeps couples feeling connected and in love
That’s powerful medicine!
There are 24 more romantic activities in Your Erotic Menu. Go through them with your partner, and start your daily diet of Romance.
Next week, we’ll be talking about Sexual Style #4 of 6, Passion (yum)
Looking forward to it!
In my coaching practice, I specialize in working with couples, and individuals in relationships.
If you’d like to learn more about any of the sexual styles found in Your Erotic Menu set up a Discovery Call with me, and let’s talk about your sexual evolution.
Stay well and love deeply,
Schedule your free discovery call and learn how relationship and intimacy coaching opens the door to better Love, Sex and Desire.
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Be sure to download my list of 186 erotic activities that I outline in my new e-book, Your Erotic Menu.
It may be the single most impactful step you take toward your sexual evolution. (I can confidently say, your dates nights will never be the same!)
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