I once thought that love was defined by romance, and no romance in marriage meant something innately bad.
After all, how many weddings have you been to that had readings like this:
“I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where. I love you directly, without problems or pride: I love you like this because I don’t know any other way to love, except in this form in which I am not nor are you, so close that your hand upon my chest is mine, so close that your eyes close with my dreams.” — Pablo Neruda, One Hundred Love Sonnets: XVII
“I carry your heart with me (I carry it in my heart). I am never without it (anywhere I go you go, my dear; and whatever is done by only me is your doing, my darling).” — E. E. Cummings, I Carry Your Heart With Me
“What greater thing is there for two human souls, than to feel that they are joined for life–to strengthen each other in all labour, to rest on each other in all sorrow, to minister to each other in all pain, to be one with each other in silent unspeakable memories at the moment of the last parting?” — George Eliot, Adam Bede
I thought husbands were supposed to read their wives sonnets, such as these…otherwise there was no romance in marriage. I thought that the bigger the diamond, the more I was loved. Or the more flowers sent to the office, the more I was loved. Or the more exotic the surprise getaway, the more I was loved. Without these things, there was no romance in marriage.
Well, I don’t have a big diamond. Does that mean there’s no romance in marriage? I think I received flowers at the office exactly one time. How about that—no romance in marriage? And there has never been an exotic or surprise getaway. Maybe now you really think I have no romance in marriage to my husband.
Are we doomed when there’s no romance in marriage?
For a long time, I thought that because these things were lacking, my husband didn’t care about me, that there was no romance in marriage for me.
But 13 years of marriage, four pregnancies, and two kids later, I’ve finally realized that my husband’s love for me cannot be measured in impractical gifts or momentary fantasies. In fact, my definition of romance has been wrong all along.
It’s not the expressions of love based in fantasy that matter. It’s the expressions of love shaped by reality.
Think about what 1 Corinthians 13:4-13 has to say about love:
4Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.
7It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 8Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.
12For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. 13And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
So many times we hear or read those words at weddings, maybe even at our own weddings. But how many times do we think about what they really mean? How many times do we put them aside, and make them secondary to the diamond rings, surprise flowers or chocolates, romantic getaways, or sappy postings on social media? If there’s no romance in marriage, perhaps it’s because of a misunderstanding of love.
For us, no romance in marriage doesn’t mean no love. Acts explained by 1 Corinthians 13 are what show real, lasting love.
Like when my husband comes home to piles of dirty dishes and dirty floors, and without prompting starts scrubbing and sweeping.
Or when he fills my car up with gas, and I don’t notice until I turn the ignition the next morning.
Or when he rearranges his schedule so I can run errands by myself.
Or when, before I officially lose it, he notices that I need a few minutes without my kids breathing down my neck.
Or when he takes out the garbage because there’s no telling when I’ll get around to doing it.
Or when he changes a diaper without me asking him to.
Or when he treats us to dinner at a burger joint so the dishes I just did and the floors I just swept might, fingers crossed, stay clean until breakfast.
Or when he chooses to comfort instead of criticize when life gets hard and my mood quickly deteriorates.
Romance isn’t shiny, expensive or luxurious. Maybe there is romance where you think there’s no romance in marriage.
Romance is rather ordinary. It’s shown when your husband shows patient when you’re not so easy to deal with. It’s show when he’s kind. It’s shown when he’s selfless and not easily angered. It’s shown when he protects your relationship, trusts in you, and perseveres. Romance is shown when he doesn’t keep a record of wrongs. It’s demonstrated when he delights in the truth and lifts you up. Romance is shown through his hope in your future. It’s demonstrated by a husband who keeps showing up day after day despite the mess and hard work that’s involved. It’s the million little acts of service that are done simply out of love.
My husband loves me and he shows it. And maybe that’s all the romance I need.
**This article originally appeared on a Beautifully Burdened Life.