When my wife and I retired, we decided to go ahead, bite the bullet, and live together. During the working years it often seemed we just cohabited, sharing a dwelling and a daughter, but very often pulled in different directions. Retirement changed all that. Suddenly we were together, day in and day out. Fortunately, that change has worked well for us—it doesn’t always for many retired couples. My wife and I couldn’t help but wonder why. We think three things are key: Respect, Response, and Romance. In my last post I spoke of Being Responsive.
Today’s word is Romance.
I got an email last year from a friend of mine complaining about the electricity. It seemed that a recent storm had knocked out the power at his house so he couldn’t watch the game. He couldn’t read either because there was not enough light. He ended up sitting and talking with his wife for an hour or so. He ended his email with these words, “She seems like a nice lady.”
Well, that’s what I discovered, as well. Retirement is somewhat kin to running out of electricity and being shoved into a situation where you have time for discovery.
(Audio) Danny Perasa (DP): You see, the thing of it is, I always feel guilty when I say "I love you" to you. And I say it so often. I say it to remind you that as dumpy as I am, it's coming from me. It's like hearing a beautiful song from a busted old radio, and it's nice of you to keep the radio around the house.
Annie Perasa (AP): If I don't have a note on the kitchen table, I think there's something wrong. You write a love letter to me every morning.
DP: Well, the only thing that could possibly be wrong is I couldn't find a silly pen.
AP (Quoting DP’s latest): To my princess: The weather outside today is extremely rainy. I'll call you at 11:20 in the morning.
DP: It's a romantic weather report.
AP: And I love you. I love you. I love you.
DP: When a guy is happily married, no matter what happens at work, no matter what happens in the rest of the day, there's a shelter when you get home, there's a knowledge knowing that you can hug somebody without them throwing you downstairs and saying, "Get your hands off me." Being married is like having a color television set. You never want to go back to black and white. (Laughter)
Dave Isay goes on to say, “Danny was about five feet tall with crossed eyes and one single snaggletooth, but Danny Perasa had more romance in his little pinky than all of Hollywood's leading men put together.”
So, the big question of the day is what color is your television set? Are you running black and white or going all out with the new-fangled version?
You may never write daily love notes, but the options are not that limited. The good news is that you can find your own romantic gestures.
Flirting. Do you remember this word? I haven’t heard it in awhile. Maybe we ought to reinstitute it and add some zest. In a relationship flirting is high on the list to get that first date—a chance at something better than being alone and lonely. After the years Crys and I’ve had, these days we aren’t flirting to start anything. Now, flirting enriches everything and demonstrates continued interest.
I brought Crys flowers for her 70th birthday. We’re not a “bring flowers” kind of family, so the gift was a total surprise. It evoked delight and glee. It was a new verse added to a familiar refrain.
Tending. Did you know that some monkeys spend time pulling bugs out of their mate’s hair? Not a very romantic image: “Honey, come over here. I want to delouse your hair for you!”
Hmm. Maybe we should try something else. You can rub feet when they are sore. You can comb hair. Tending has to do with being there for comfort. Care for a wound. Carry something or help carry something. Put things in the attic. Take things down from the attic.
Tend. Tend to needs and do some things that might not be on the usual docket. Do these things because they show caring. Spontaneity is also helpful. Don’t wait to be asked.
To find out what those things are, you have to be mindful. To watch. To learn. To pay attention to interests and things not of interest. Take notes. Learn from your partner’s smiles and the delight in her eyes.
Touching. Or gifting, or serving, or affirming, or spending time. These five things comprise five love languages that author, Gary Chapman, speaks of in his book: Five Love Languages. Expressing your love can take all these forms, but most of us crave a particular one. If your husband expects a present, holding his hand or thanking him won’t fulfill his basic need to “hear” the love in a way he understands. Similarly, if your wife really would like some help, showing up with flowers may not have the impact you’d hoped for. (Gary’s webpage is 5lovelanguages.com).
But Ed, “What about sex?” Hopefully, sex will be important component to romance and last your whole life. Sex certainly can be romantic. Over time, however, sex can lose it’s all-consuming appeal. I hope sex can be artfully blended with a little of this and a little of that to create a whole meal. Then too, the frequency of sex may wane, but I would sincerely hope that romance never will.
Romance is different from passion. Passion can be overwhelming; romance is subtle. Passion is consuming; romance is embracing. Romance sneaks into the quiet moments. You offer a flower, give a hug, share a kiss. Romance is intimacy in bits and pieces. Romance is not a single high point of the next few days, it is an on-going, daily occurrence. Romance is about a style of living together, a style that continually and repeatedly says “I love you” in lots of different and playful ways.
When you add up the romantic moments, blend in respect, and learn to respond to her and her to you, you begin a new stage in your relationship where your feelings about your spouse are more delight and joy.
Romance is a like the words we discussed previously, respect and responsiveness. These three seem to meld together and grow together. It is a whole lot easier to be romantic with someone you respect and are responsive to.
There is a lot more to these words—respect, responsiveness, and romance. I hope you can use the three as springboards for discussion with your significant other and flesh these ideas out a bit. Come up with your own three words. It could be a very romantic exercise. Who knows, maybe the discussion will turn the electricity back on.
…the retired guy