The sex need that rated the fifth highest among women in our survey was romance. Nearly 53% of the women placed romance as a top sex need. We suspect that many of you men are thinking, Okay, of all of my wife's sex needs, this is the one I know the most about. This is where I am the expert. I'm the love doctor.
Men, we hate to break this to you, but most women do not equate romance with sex. Several years ago we conducted a survey about how husbands and wives define romance, and we found that men and women are quite different in this area. Of the husbands we surveyed, 50% said the most romantic thing their wife ever did for them involved sex, 25% said it involved food, and 25% said it involved doing something together. Of the women we surveyed, none of them directly mentioned sex in their understanding of romance; most of them felt that romance resulted from spending quality time together.
A wife feels romanced when her husband does anything that shows he cares for her and thinks about her: special phone calls or notes, surprises, something out of the ordinary on an ordinary day. She feels romanced when her husband talks with her without distractions, when he holds her hand and kisses her every morning.
Romance is the bridge between love and sex, so when a wife's need for romance is not met, she struggles to move toward sex. She views her husband more as preoccupied and distant than as her lover. Will she still agree to have sex? Probably. But it's not as exciting or enjoyable for her as it could be.
Gregory Godek, writer, speaker, husband, and incurable romantic, shares his passion for romance in his book 1001 Ways to Be Romantic. He says, "Romance creates a context within which sexuality can be given more meaning. Romance focuses sexuality toward a loving purpose: the growth of intimacy. Without romance, sex is just seduction. Without romance, sex can turn into an empty habit or dull duty. With romance, sex becomes connected to love. With romance, sex becomes about giving, not merely taking."
Many things can deter romance: misunderstandings, the distractions of home, work, kids, and life. But without frequent doses of romance, a sexual relationship will get boring and shrivel up. Romance is a must if you want your sexual intimacy to deepen.
Several years ago Dr. Phil surveyed 37,000 people and learned a lot about the importance of romance.
"Not surprisingly, romance is central to our definition of love: 94% respond that giving flowers, holding hands, or taking your partner for a night out are hallmarks of love (only 6% say those are signs of guilt or duty). Yet almost two-thirds also characterize mundane chores such as taking out the trash, bathing the kids, or doing the dishes as acts of love. What these actions say to your mate is, I want your life to be better, and I'll make personal sacrifices to ensure that. Our respondents don't appear to be materialistic or superficial… money isn't a factor, and appearance doesn't seem to matter, either – 82% wouldn't love their partners any less if he or she gained 100 pounds. Honesty, listening, giving, respect, and tenderness were words that those polled most clearly associate with love… The core element of true love is that you feel like you belong; romantics call it having a soul mate."
So what is romance? Love is a feeling; romance is love in action. Romance is something you do to express the love that you feel. How do you do that? The key is to know your wife. One wife commented that her husband thinks buying a card is a waste of three dollars, so she doesn't buy him cards. But he gives her cards because he knows it gives her delight. Some women think romance is a candlelit dinner at home, while others need to leave home for romance. Some women are bothered if their husbands spend money they don't have, so they prefer a picnic at a park rather than a fancy meal. Romance must be tailored to your wife's unique preferences.
One thing you can do is ask yourself this question: When I was dating my wife and trying to win her heart, what really got her attention? Men tend to stop thinking about those things once they get married. They feel that once they've won the girl, the work is done. From there on out, it's easy sailing. But that simply isn't true. A husband needs to realize that life's responsibilities have a way of wearing down his wife. She needs him to romance her all over again.
When men hear the word romance, they often become intimidated. Two images pop into their heads: a dollar sign (money) and a clock ticking (time). They imagine they'll have to spend a week thinking of what to do, a week planning this special event, and a week earning the money to pay for it! Some guys immediately shove the idea of romance off, thinking, That sappy, mushy stuff isn't for me.
But the real reason many men feel intimidated by romance is because they fear rejection. Perhaps a man has asked his wife several times to reserve two Saturday nights a month as date nights, but every time she has an excuse: she's tired, the kids need her, the house is a mess. Or a husband might give up romancing his wife because he's afraid she won't like his romance ideas. But allowing fear to have the upper hand will harm their desire for sexual intimacy. The passion will drain from the marriage, and apathy or resentment will grow.
What gets in the way of romance? When we surveyed couples about their ideas on romance, we asked them to tell us their biggest obstacle to romance. These are some of the responses:
- Busyness and fatigue
- Distractions – work, church, unresolved conflict
- Financial stress
- Disappointments – "I was thinking of dinner at a low-light, quiet restaurant; he was thinking of the pizza buffet at Village Pub."
- Unwilling hearts
- Lack of creativity
- Chores left to do
How to Meet your Wife's Need for Romance
Husbands, we have good news. According to our survey, romance and your wife often means doing simple things that don't require much time or money. One wife said, "It's the little things that make me realize how much he cares for me."
Pick a few of the following suggestions and begin the process of meeting your wife’s need for romance.
- Learn your wife’s love needs. What makes your wife feel cherished and deeply loved? Study her. Ask her what romance means to her and how you can meet that need. Then really listen to her answers.
- Show your wife that you care. Pay attention to what your wife likes. For instance, she may like to dress up when you go out, but you don't. It means a lot to her when you take a shower, smell good, and put on nice clothes when you go out to eat.
- Surprise her. Women love to be surprised. You can do it in so many simple ways. Write a love message on a Post-it note, and put it on your bathroom mirror. Make her breakfast some morning. Give her a card for no other reason than to say "I was thinking about you." Take home a treat she likes. Send her flowers at home or work. Give your wife an at-home spa experience. Run a hot bath with some of your wife's favorite fragrance, place lit candles all over the bathroom, and tell her to relax as long as she wants. Plan a date night, but don't let your wife know where you are going.
- Get away. As family responsibilities and challenges mount, husbands and wives lose track of each other's needs. Sometimes it takes getting away from the pressures at home to get to know your spouse again. Plan a night to be together. Go for a long drive in the country, and take roads you've never taken before. Enjoy the adventure. Leave town – without the kids! Take mini-vacations.
- If you think it, do it. In his article "Strategic Romance," Jim Mueller writes, "If you have a romantic thought during the day, take action! Pick up the phone and make the dinner reservation; stop by the store and pick up a card; call your wife and tell her 'I love you.'"
For Men: Affirmation
"I don't understand why Josh is so withdrawn," Lila told Gary during a counseling session. During the entire session, she had nothing good to say about her husband. Josh slumped in his chair, staring down at his hands in his lap. In his wife's view he was unable to do anything right. Lila complained, "I honestly don't get what his problem is."
"How's your sex life?" Gary asked her.
"What sex life? He just doesn't turn me on. He's not that good in the sex department. I thought all men were supposed to know what they're doing." She laughed bitterly. "Joshua sure doesn't," she said, crossing her arms and glaring at him.
"I'm beginning to see the picture," Gary said.
A smirk crossed Lila's face, as if she expected Gary to agree with her assessment of her husband's incompetence.
"Lila, when was the last time you said something nice to Josh?" Gary asked.
"What?" She looked a bit shocked.
"When was the last time you affirmed him?"
"What difference does that make?"
"It makes a lot of difference, Lila," Gary told her. "As a wife you wield a tremendous amount of power over Josh and your marriage. How you choose to handle that power will determine the strength and enjoyment of your relationship."
Every time Lila makes a derogatory comment about Josh’s sexuality, it is as if she takes an ice pick to the soul. Once a proud, efficient, loving, fun man, Josh has been worn down by his wife's continual harping. Her behavior has caused him to doubt his self-worth, to withdraw, to become bitter toward her, and to stop meeting her needs altogether. His doubts about his worth and his sexual ability could begin to affect his work, his other relationships, his spiritual life, his faith.
Granted, Lila and Josh's situation seems a bit extreme, but we have had countless conversations in which husbands and wives had nothing good to say about each other. We can only assume that if they were not verbally affirming in public, they were also not affirming inside the bedroom.
Most wives may not realize how much power their words and attitudes carry: words can tear down their husbands or build them up. If a wife wants her husband to be all God created him to be, she needs to affirm him in every way possible.
Affirmation is so important to a husband that 55% of the men who responded to our survey rated it as a top sex need. What Lila and many wives responding like her do not understand is that a man's self-esteem is often fragile – especially in the area of sex. He needs his wife – more than anyone else – to affirm his masculinity. If his wife doesn't do it, who will? Anyone can affirm his job skills or intellect or sports ability. But only a wife can get to the most sensitive, deep, vulnerable, intimate part of a man. Only his wife can affirm him sexually.
If a man finds that no one at his workplace appreciates his skill, he may look for another job in which people value what he has to offer. If no one at church appreciates his spiritual gifts, he may look for another place where they will value his contribution. Similarly, if his wife doesn't encourage, appreciate, and affirm her husband – especially his sexuality – he may look for someone else who will. A wife alone has the ability to make or break her husband in the vulnerable area of sexual ability. A wife is the one person who gets close enough to her husband to build or destroy him.
The woman in the Old Testament book of Song of Songs understood the importance of affirmation. Throughout the dialogue, she boasts of her beloved's ability as a lover. Look at this passage as an example: "How handsome you are, my lover! Oh, how charming!… Like an apple tree among the trees of the forest is my lover among the young men. I delight to sit in his shade, and his fruit is sweet to my taste." Maybe you don't feel comfortable using those words, but no husband will resist a woman who tells him, "You are an incredible lover. You turn me on. You satisfy me. I bet no other woman has a husband who satisfies her the way you satisfy me."
Without hearing those kinds of affirming words, a husband can become insecure. Or worse, hearing negative words can cripple him.
When women asked us, "But what if my husband is not that good in bed?" If a wife has difficulty experiencing orgasm, if she does not feel the tingling sensations that come with foreplay, if she's bored by sex, then she needs to communicate with her husband – but in an affirming, encouraging way. Blurting out "Just forget it. This isn't working," in the middle of sex is not the way to do it. Instead, say something like, "I love you, and I'm so attracted to you. I want to experience the best sex I can with you. I'm just not there yet. Will you help me?"
That does several things. First, it says, I want you. Second, it respects a husband’s self-esteem. Third, it gives him a problem to fix. Remember, men love to fix things. And if a wife calls on her husband to help her "fix" her sexual response, he very likely will take on the role with seriousness.
How to Meet your Husband's Need for Affirmation
Wives, here are some ideas to get you started on meeting your husband's need for affirmation.
- Affirm him for who he is. Affirmation starts outside the bedroom. It's a lifestyle, not a technique. Let your husband know that you value him. When you admire him, say it out loud. When he makes a decision that took courage, recognize it and commend him. Notice when he shows perseverance in his work, and say something about it. Help your husband know all the good things you see in him.
- Affirm him for being a good lover. Tell your husband what you like about the way he loves you. Tell him what you like about his body. If you aren’t sure how to do this, ask your husband for advice: "I want to affirm you as a lover, but I want to do it right. How can I best tell or show you what a great lover I think you are?" We can guarantee that not one man will rebuff such a question!
- Practice the golden rule. This is one place where the golden rule works well. Treat your husband the way you would want him to treat you. Talk to (and about) him the way you would want him to talk to you (and about) you. It's that simple. Become lavish with your praise and admiration.
- Understand that for men, body image does matter. A man's body image is important to him. As men age, their bodies change. Their muscle tone diminishes, they begin to lose their hair, and they have a harder time staying in shape. A husband loves to hear that his wife is impressed and turned on by looking at his body. Since a wife is typically not stimulated visually, she probably is not that aroused by viewing her husband's body. But a husband needs to know that his wife likes what she sees, that he's "got what it takes" to be her one and only. This may be a stretch for some women, but when a wife makes an affirming comment about her husband's body, his confidence soars.