Updated: Jul 5, 2022
A Romantic Marriage
Do you have a romantic marriage? Do you desire a romantic marriage?
What does that mean? What ideas come to mind when you think of romance?
When we think of romance, are we thinking only of what we desire, or are we also thinking of what our spouse desires as well?
What is Romance Anyway?
- When we think of romance, we tend to think of erotic, emotional, exciting, passionate love. That’s our cultural understanding, anyhow. That’s how we think of love.
It shows up in our movies, our stories, books, and more.
We see in the lives of the rich and famous.
We see it portrayed on the various forms of social media platforms.
Romance, it seems, is everywhere…. “everywhere but in my own life!”
Have you ever felt that way? Maybe you feel that way now?
Are you satisfied with your marriage; with the passion in your relationship? Do you desire something more than you seem to have currently?
The idea of “Romance” seems to offer us something that we don’t currently have, and that we can’t seem to find.
The movie stars, actors, and book characters all seem to find it. Or, what seems to be the case, it finds them. They get caught up in these overwhelming relationships that seem to function so easily and effortlessly. They always desire one another, never argue, they never find one another undesirable. It’s just all so easy and desirable.
But, in their actual lives, celebrities tend to have pretty terrible track records with relationships with some studies showing that celebrities divorce at twice the rate of normal folks.
So, what gives? What's the problem? Where’s this romance thing? Why is love not always passionate like the movies and books say it is?
We’re buying from the Wrong Vendor.
-I think part of our problem comes from the fact that we tend to get our ideas about love, relationships, and romance from culture.
I’m talking about books, movies, radio, politics...and now, the ever present cell phone.
These things are all peddling a version of the good life. They all sell a version of romance.
But the problem seems to be that their version of romance only looks good on the big screen, or in books…it never quite works out in real life.
A man is unhappy with his marriage, and he begins, (so he thinks) a casual flirtatious relationship with his female coworker. “Nothing inappropriate; it's all innocent,” they tell themselves. They’re both unhappy at home, after all. That causal relationship turns co-dependent, and the emotional connection goes up. Looks linger, touches become intentional, desire grows…
Must be romance, right? That’s how romance is sold.
But, things usually always turn south at this point in the real world. These types of relationships, rather than being romantic, almost always turn out to be forest fires. They destroy everything, including themselves.
“This is not how it happened in that movie…”
We Can’t See Straight.
We can see just how messed up our ideas of romance are by looking at our own definitions.
Let’s start with the adjective form, “Romantic.”
Websters defines “romantic” as,
A) Of, relating to, or involving love between two people;
B) making someone think of love : suitable for romance;
C) thinking about love and doing and saying things to show that you love someone.
Interestingly, Websters goes on to say romantic means, “consisting of, or resembling a romance.”
Ok, so let’s consider that noun form, “Romance.” The thing that adjective was describing. Here’s what Websters says about “Romance”…
1 - A medieval tale based on legend, chivalric love and adventure, or the supernatural.
A prose narrative treating imaginary characters involved in events remote in time or place and usually heroic, adventurous, or mysterious;
A love story especially in the form of a novel.
2 - An emotional attraction or aura belonging to an especially heroic era, adventure, or activity
3 - A love affair (an episode between lovers).
"It’s no wonder we have a problem."
We can’t even see straight. Our definitions and meanings of words don’t even line up with each other.
To feel romantic supposedly means the feeling and experience of love between 2 people; but romance means something that is more appropriately found in novels or in inappropriate sexual flings.
The modern cultural ideas of romance have blinded us. They have sold us a false bill of goods. They have promised an experience that can never be delivered; in fact, it is an experience that is not even real.
One of the major problems with our cultural ideas of romance —that hot, heavy, passion filled experience of love— is that it strips away some of the essential aspects of our humanity. On-screen, fictional romance can’t happen unless it dehumanizes us. Let me explain…
Gaining Romance. Losing our Humanity.
Typically, when we see or read about a romantic relationship, it focuses solely on the individuals involved, and even more specifically, on their emotional and physical desire for one another. Really, the focus is on how each of them feel personally. “They want the other person.”
And that’s about it. That’s all that is highlighted. They feel physically drawn to each other and that’s enough. That’s romance. That’s love.
But we’re never told if one of them has irritable bowel syndrome; or if one has a prosthetic limb; we’re never told about unsightly and embarrassing moles or skin tags. We’re not told if they have bad breath, or missing teeth.
They don’t ever seem to be too stressed for romance, or have headaches, backaches, and the like. They don’t seem to care about sweat or smells, or anything like that.
Romance is never depicted as holding your tongue, folding the laundry, taking on more chores, taking our the garbage, putting the kids to bed...again! Those things don't make the cut.
And what’s more, the characters in these stories seem to always be hot and ready.
Have a bad day? Romance.
Stressed out? Romance.
Not feeling well? Romance.
-These things might make for a compelling movie or story, but they are terribly and utterly false.
So what do we buy them?
Why do we buy into these ideas and bring them into our marriages?
Why do we buy into these false ideas of romance and passion and read them onto our spouses?
Why are we allowing the world to define romance for us when it can’t seem to understand the concept of a committed, monogamous marriage?
Regaining our Sight.
-One of the fundamental problems here is a misunderstanding of love itself.
The world has basically reduced love to feelings and emotions.
But is love just feelings and emotions? Because, if so, that really stinks. I feel all kinds of ways and have all kinds of emotions all the time.
If I have to build something, like a marriage, on the foundation of my feelings…well, I’m doomed. And so are you.
"We’ve sold our understanding to the culture,
and we need to get it back."
The Scriptures help us here in a number of ways.
First, the Bible warns us not to trust our feelings; not to depend on them. Our emotions are broken and often lead us to feel and think the wrong things.
Jeremiah tells us, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?
"You catch that? The way you FEEL is often deceitful and wrong."
How does the culture primarily depict and define romance…? Primarily as a feeling.
It has no idea. Blind leading the blind. We should steer clear.
Second, the Bible tells us what real love is. In fact, it shows us.
The Bible says it crystal clear in 1 John 4:8 - “God is love.”
But that’s not all that the Bible tells us. It goes on to explain and define what that means. And unlike the culture, which depicts a false reality, the Bible is helpfully honest.
Love is From God.
-God is love. So we look to Him to learn what love is. If we fail to understand that love is from God, we'll spend our lives moving from one false source to another, always leaving empty.
John says, “In this the love of God was made evident among us, that God sent His only Son into the world so that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son…”
A few observations are helpful:
First, love begins with God. In fact, love is part of God’s character. Not that He possesses it, but, as John says, He is love itself. Therefore, He defines it. His actions define it. And we see clearly that one of the most fundamental aspects of true love is acting for the good of another.
When God sent Jesus into the world, He was acting for the good of His people. That’s love.
But we also see that true love is not only full of joy, but is the path to joy itself (Psalm 16:11).
True Love is Totally Concerned with the Other Person.
-True love always has the other person in mind.
True love has the other person's well-being in mind. In fact, Paul says true love never insists on getting its own way (1 Cor. 13:4).
In Romans 15:1, we are told that the strong people are to bear with the weak people, to make sure they do well.
And most clearly, we find an incredible love has been made available to us in Jesus Christ. And not because we went looking for it. In fact, John says when we weren’t loving God is when God demonstrates His love for us in Jesus Christ.
"True love finds it most pure and powerful expression in the Person and work of Jesus Christ."
So, what is real Romantic Love?
What makes a marriage hot and heavy? What creates passion, fire, and real romance with someone you’ve been married to for years and years and years?
Ephesians 5 tells us.
Husbands create romance in their marriages by loving Jesus, leading their wives to love Jesus, and sacrificing themselves for her well-being.
Wives, create romance in their marriages by loving Jesus well, submitting to His Word, submitting to their husbands, and giving themselves for the good of their husbands.
The Bible is just clear and plain: Real love, and the joy of real love, comes as we give our whole selves for the sake of the other person.
Worldly romance says it's all about feelings, emotions, and personal satisfaction. Jesus helpfully allows us to see the foolishness of those ideas. They are dead-ends. They lead nowhere. They are paths to destruction and death.
And what's more, those ideas fill our heads with lies and rob our marriages of pleasure.
So, here’s the secret to real romance:
-Do everything you can to make your spouse's life better.
Give yourself for them entirely.
Give yourself and don’t do it to get something in return.
Do it with no expectation.
Do it solely for their good.
-These are the ingredients for romance. These are what create a sturdy love that lasts and benefits everybody involved.
Can you imagine? A relationship where both members are totally focused on pleasing and benefiting the other? All the while thriving and flourishing themselves.
That's real beauty. That's real romance.
Give Yourself away and Find True Romance
Pastor Tim Keller and his wife Kathy speak very helpfully to this point saying,
The Christian teaching is that sex [romance] is primarily a way to know God and build community [in our marriages], and, if you use it for those things rather than for your own personal satisfaction, it will lead to greater fulfillment than you can imagine…Each partner in marriage is to be most concerned not with getting sexual pleasure, but with giving it...the greatest pleasure should be the pleasure of seeing your spouse getting pleasure. (The Meaning of Marriage)
-Paul says we should imitate God, meaning that we should act like He acts. And God shows us that real love means sacrificing and giving for the good of others.