Friday, June 19, 2009

How to Not Be Romantic

You're not going to like this post. I'm not even sure I'm going to like this post. It's so anti-intuitive. But I'm going to talk about how my marriage has completely changed my ideas about what is romantic.

When I married my husband the first time, we did romance. He sent me flowers. He got me jewelry. We did dumb, mushy, bad joke Hallmark cards. We lit candles. We went out for picnics on the beach, dinners in dark restaurants. We went on weekends away in ski resorts, vacations, etc. We followed the script. We were even following the script when we were being creative and spontaneous. We were both doing romance the way we thought it should be, the way it was on Friends, and in the movies, and in trashy novels. You know, explosive, demonstrative, with big gestures and lots of gazing into each other eyes.

Yeah. Well. Five years later, that romance didn't keep us from getting divorced. What it did do was cause a lot of resentment on the mutual lack of response to each other's efforts. Why? Why didn't I feel loved when The Husband bought me diamond earrings? Why did I silently criticize how small they were and how they were in yellow gold when he knows I like white gold and how the diamonds were so unwhite? Yes, I did think that, internally (thankfully, I knew enough not give voice to such pettiness). On his side, instead of appreciating my gestures, he resented the fact that I was spending so much money on them. The romance was hollow to us. It did nothing to generate love. There was so much wrong in so many other areas that the romance became plastic.

Fast forward to marriage #2. We just passed our one month anniversary and we spontaneously bought each other stuff to celebrate. I got him a portable Ipod speaker (cost: $9.99) and he got me Bananagrams (cost: $14.99). What was cool about this was that 1) we didn't decide beforehand to buy each other gifts, we just did and 2) we didn't spend a ton of money and 3) we bought each other very un-romantic gifts. But we spent two hours playing Bananagrams on Shabbos afternoon and laughing our heads off at some of our lame attempts at cheating. And he used the Ipod speaker while he was relaxing at home and didn't feel like having headphones on. And I think that we both really liked our gifts. And we both felt appreciated and loved.

When we got engaged the first time, I hooked The Husband up with my cousin in the jewelry business and he bought my engagement ring from him. He had a certain ring in mind (round stone, yellow gold, solitaire setting) and so did I (radiant stone, white gold, side stones). We went back and forth and settled on a compromise, but we both felt sort of bad about it. I wanted him to instinctively know what I wanted and was frustrated with what he wanted to choose for me. I realize now how foolish that was. He wanted to pick out the ring himself and was frustrated with how what I wanted was so different from what he thought would be the perfect ring for me. What we compromised on was still a pretty ring. But the process to getting there sort of sucked the joy out of it.

Fast forward to marriage #2. I still had the stone from the first engagement ring (I had reset it into a necklace during the divorce). I asked The Husband about putting it into a new engagement ring for our new engagement/marriage. He said: here's what I'd like to spend, go get yourself a new ring setting and tell your cousin to send me a bill. Very unromantic, right? But I picked out exactly what I wanted, and then threw in some of my own money to buy a matching band. Very, very unromantic. And when I showed him the rings, The Husband looked at my hand and said "Wow. They look gorgeous. I would have never chosen that style. We'll have to work on some matching stuff for future anniversaries." And then I tackled him. And what started as a very unromantic, practical gesture became a very sweet promise. And frankly, I don't care that much about when we actually buy the stuff. It's the feeling behind the promise that was never there in the first marriage. And when I look down at my hand, I feel like my husband really does love me. Finally.

This is probably obvious to everyone else, but at last I've realized how mature, happy people carry on relationships. It's not romance that makes the love. It's love that makes the romance.

7 comments:

MK said...

Romance, as depicted by Hollywood, is the reason the divorce rate is so high in Hollywood.
I'm so glad to hear that you're happy, and I'm equally glad you posted this.

Much nachus and hatzlocha!

frum single female said...

funny... i think that the post you have written is what romance is all about...

Anonymous said...

incredibly written, as always.

Frayda said...

very sweet post! it brought tears to my eyes! i'm glad that you finally feel loved. i hope i will too soon.

הצעיר שלמה בן רפאל לבית שריקי ס"ט said...

When Jewish people get engaged, do they usually have to have the ring presented at the time of the marriage proposal, or can they just do it verbally and have the girl decide on the ring she wants later?

WebGirl said...

Shlomo, both ways are acceptable. When we were dating, things were getting pretty serious and my husband and I knew we were headed toward marriage, so I told him about the kind of ring I wanted and he gave it to me when he officially proposed. When we remarried, we reset the diamond from the first ring.

Ahuva said...

Great post.