Relationships

What IS Romance, Really?

When Harry Met Sally

No, but for real…

My cynicism started young. I was eight years old when my “boyfriend” (a title deserving of the largest quotation marks possible) approached me on the playground and told me he didn’t like me anymore.

“Why?” I demanded.

“Because there’s a new girl in our class,” he explained, like a Peanuts character with a penchant for heartbreak. “You used to be the prettiest girl I’d ever seen, but now you’re only the second prettiest girl, so I don’t like you anymore.”

His words cut me to my third grade core. And just like that, I stopped believing in romance.

From that point forward, while my friends adopted a more optimistic worldview, every time a human attempted something romantic in my general proximity, my reaction was something like this. You can keep your teddy bears and your surprise trips to Paris, your slow dance songs and your Say Anything gestures. When Harry Met Sally notwithstanding, I don’t even like romantic comedies. They’re filled with tropes and rarely pass the Bechdel test.

I longed for something different — subtle, yet serious as a graveyard — which I feared did not exist. There is a Billy Bragg lyric in which he describes his love as “a little black cloud in a dress” and that spoke to me. I’m not unhappy! I’m just me — generally sardonic and often skeptical.

So you can imagine what happens when this person goes out into a world with dating apps featuring men posing nude in plants with only a fern frond covering what is necessary. (Why?) There were cancelled dates and false starts and breakups and breakups and breakups.

Slowly over time, I gave up on all that and embraced a different kind of romance, all on my own. A life filled with friends and creativity and wonder over things like puppies and Trader Joe’s foodstuffs. Of solo adventures. Of outcomes more easily controlled because they didn’t involve another human being.

And yet.

Sometimes, if I was very quiet, there whispered the romance of possibility. The undeniable romantic pull of what is yet to be. And in those moments, I couldn’t help but wonder (sorry, so sorry) might romance — that other romance, involving another person — be possible after all?

I’m in a relationship now (couldn’t you tell, from my super optimistic outlook on love HAHAHA) and this question has been plaguing me. How can I believe in chakras and not in romance?

I want to be a believer. I want to remember to gaze at the stars. I want to forgo the giant sunglasses and weep openly at weddings. I want to engage in behavior that makes other people want to throw up a little. In the words of the immortal Liz Lemon, “I want to go to there.” Maybe, I suspect, I believe in romance so much that I’m afraid to let it run amok.

“There is a certain romance in having a witness to your life,” offers one friend, when I ask what it’s like to be married.

“I just went to the Met,” supplies another friend. “And man, that place is full of couples. It often looks like one person was dragged there by the other, but that is its own kind of romance.”

My officemate offers me a glimpse of her grandmother’s scrapbook about love, compiled for the women in her family. It tells the story of her grandparents’ courtship and decades-long marriage, with memories down to the smallest details. “My grandmother was the biggest romantic,” she said. “And my grandfather worshipped her.”

“I’ll never give up on romance,” says my best friend. “All you really need is two people who believe in it.”

Maybe that doesn’t sound so impossible, after all.

To that end, what’s the most romantic thing you’ve ever done? Or that someone has done for you? Help us all feel a little warmer on this December day…

P.S. 12 relationship tips from a weddings reporter and the best romance novels for smart women.

  1. Katie says...

    After two kids, years of sleepless nights, currently pregnant with #3, I don’t always feel attractive. But my husband always gropes me in the kitchen, grabs little make out sessions behind the door while the kids are in the bath, wraps his arms around me while we’re in bed, and tells me every stinking day that he thinks I’m beautiful.
    That means so much to me right now in this time of life. (And there’s tons of the daily mundane showings-of-love too, but I NEED to hear that he still finds me attractive.)

    Ps I still think he’s handsome too.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      oh my gosh, this is us, too! i’m so grateful for his sweetness, even when i feel my grossiest/sleepiest/unshowered-est.

  2. I think ultimately we all want to be seen and understood. The best romantic act is doing both for your partner. Romance will look incredibly different for different people at different points in their life and to me that’s so beautiful. The most romantic thing my husband has done lately is giving me 24 hours alone.😂 As in introvert and mother to 4, the fact that his extroverted self would do that made me cry.

  3. To me, true love doesn’t need to be overdone. It’s the little things that matter.

    After 9 failed arm surgeries and feeling like crap, my husband presents me with two tiny keychain replicas of the human arm, saying “I got you new elbows!” Sadly those broke too, but it’s the thought that counts.

    When I got into an accident that broke out my teeth and broke my arm, I felt horrible. He made me a makeshift lounge that made it to where I could game one-handed and held cups of food for me, too.

    He listened to the whole discography of my favorite band (and wound up actually becoming a fan of them) just so I wouldn’t have to go to a concert alone.

    He puts up with my sister (who has always disliked him since I started dating him) because I love my family and they come first. We just went to a concert with my sister and her husband. Some guy was blocking my sister’s view, but she didn’t want to say anything. My husband shouts for the guy to sit down (we paid for seats, so.) and the guy listens. It completely blew my sister’s mind and now they get along nicely.

    He works full-time so I can work part-time and prevent my body from destroying itself more. He constantly does what he can to take care of me, from buying me braces to gripping my knee while I sleep to prevent my meniscus from keeping me awake, to letting me hog all the pillows to prop myself up at night. He deals with my weird body temperature issues without saying a word, despite the fact that I use heaters in the summer and fans in the winter and constantly fluctuate between hot and cold.

    I could literally go on and on, but I’ll stop myself here. Needless to say, I’ve been married to him for 11 years and can safely say that the stuff that the media tries to feed ya is crap. Real love is comfort, loyalty, trust, compassion, etc.

    • T says...

      WARNING: Unsolicited medical advice ahead. These symptoms sound like me, and I have been diagnosed with EDS 3. I deliberated in saying this but it took me years and years to get a diagnosis so I thought it better to suggest it as an option than ignore you. Your partner sounds beautiful. And good on you for making changes for better health.

  4. sarah says...

    My husband and I met at 15, went to college together and shared a studio apartment (the ultimate test!) in NYC for three years. We’re now 35 so, needless to say, we’ve logged a LOT of time as a couple. Still, when we meet up somewhere or see each other outside of our regular routine, we both feel the spark of giddiness that united us at such a young age. We call it “seeing each other on campus” and it never fails, or disappoints.

  5. jaclyn says...

    I had a really hard time after my daughter was born. I was super weepy, was not adjusting well and did not feel like my self at all (I eventually got help and learned I had Postpartum depression). I was worried that my husband would judge me for not being a good mom or feel resentful that he was carrying the weight. One afternoon as I was crying in bed and telling him that I needed help and was sorry that I was a burden. He quickly reassured me “You are not a burden. Its okay to be sad. I am here to help you and we will get you the help you need.”

    That has been one of the hardest times in our lives together but it showed me that he really loved me and was in it “for good times and bad, in sickness and in health.” He’s done a lot of other sweet, roamantic, kind things for me but his love in some of my darkest days will always shine the brightest.

    • Nicole says...

      Ok, this one got me crying. “You’re not a burden. It’s okay to be sad…” My husband’s words to me, too! I’ve been there with the PPD (three times now), and it gets better! Thank God for sweet husbands.

  6. Juliette says...

    I have a half-finished scarf that I’ve been carrying around since I started it aged 11 for my first ‘boyfriend’. I never finished it before we broke up, but with the next boyfriend I rekindled it. And the next, and the next, and the next. When my partner moved in with me (17 years after I started the scarf!) he found my pile of various half-finished knitting projects and asked me to teach him to knit. Whilst I taught him, I told him about the scarf and joked that the person I finished it for is the person I’d marry. He then, with very little fuss, took the scarf, got to work, and finished it in a few days! I love his combination of pragmatism and romance. I love reading all of these stories, they are really delightful.

    • What a sweet man!

  7. nora says...

    First of all, I love these comments!! So nice to enjoy some happy tears. Second –
    While my husband and I were on our honeymoon in 2012, Hurricane Sandy decimated his family bungalow that had been around for a hundred years. We spent the next year salvaging what we could and figuring out how to rebuild. We spent that summer camping in the defunct house’s yard, bathing in the ocean and using the bathroom in the bar down the street. (That in itself was pretty romantic). A couple of years and one child later, the family had a new house where we spent a lot of weekends all year round and much of the summer. I don’t know why, but it annoyed him to see me take my makeup bag back and forth. He asked why I didn’t just get a second set up makeup to which my reply was “Do you know how much makeup costs?!” For Valentine’s Day, I opened a Sephora bag to see a duplicate set of my every day makeup. He had taken pictures on his phone of everything in my makeup bag, went to the store and had the sales associates help him find everything. It wasn’t a grand gesture, but so thoughtful and sweet.

  8. Sarah says...

    I developed fairly serious anorexia in college and had to leave school for treatment. I tried to break up with my then-boyfriend, saying, “I don’t know if I’m even coming back to school. I’m a wreck. I’m emotionally and physically unavailable and can’t bring anything to this relationship. Go find someone else you can have fun with.”

    He told me, “We don’t have to keep dating if you don’t want to, but I still like you, and you need a friend. Don’t make this decision right now while everything is changing around you. Let one thing stay the same. I promise I’ll break up with you if I stop liking you, and you can break up with me anytime.” While I was in treatment, he sent me cards, letters, emails, flowers, and talked through all my weird anorexia thoughts for hours-long phone calls–for months. He always reminded me how special I was and how much he believed that I could recover. He didn’t let me give up on myself, and his belief in me and unwavering compassion helped save my life.

    When I came back to school nine months later, it was hard, and I was struggling to adjust to how my friendships had changed in my absence. A few months into the semester, he used his summer job earnings to fly my best friend from high school out to see me for a long weekend to remind me that some friendships had stayed the same.

    We are married now with two young kids and jobs and a house to take care of. Sometimes the daily romance isn’t there–but when I actually notice that, I try to remember to start it instead of just complaining that it isn’t there! Bringing him his cup of coffee in the morning, waking up with the 5 AM kid, actually scooting over to share my blanket with him on the couch, showering while he’s at a night meeting so I’m more “in the mood” when he gets home…I have to hope these little things carry us into the next chapter when we have a little more bandwidth for the big gestures again. :)

    • A Martin says...

      I teared up! What a wonderful love story 😘😘😘❤️❤️

  9. ASL says...

    Part of my love language is greeting cards – a sweet, letterpressed beauty with a few short sentences that speak volumes wins me over every time.
    My husband recently surprised me by presenting me with a card every. single. day. for the 30 days leading up to my 30th birthday!

    This is the definition of romance to me, that he would 1. Be so thoughtful and do something that makes me feel so thoroughly SEEN, 2. Carefully select SO MANY CARDS, remember my favourite local stationary store and sneak there more than once, and 3. Brainstorm a list of beautiful memories, encouraging thoughts and sweet nothings to include in the cards.

    I now have 30 cards on my bedroom dresser greeting me every day, and I have to say they may stay there for the rest of the year!

  10. Maire says...

    My husband, who works full time and is currently going back to school, took three hours out of a precious weekend day to patiently coach the fantastic young woman I have been mentoring on how to parallel park so she will be able to pass her driver’s exam. (It’s coming up this Wednesday! Fingers crossed!) I had been working with her for months, and he stepped in for three hours and it was like magic. I sat in the back seat the entire time in awe of his patience and gentle humor and felt so glad to be married to him.

    Also, the gentle care that is romance has also been shown to be on multiple occasions by my dearest girlfriends. For instance, last year when my beloved Nana passed away after a long illness and we had to endure a long few days of funeral arrangements, Irish wakes, and grief, my husband and I returned home to find that my best friend had come over and had beautifully framed some photos of my Nana and left a brilliantly colored tropical plant on our kitchen table. She knew just what to do to make me feel better, and that is surely romance.

  11. Gabrielle B says...

    We were unpacking the moving boxes in our first home when I realized my favorite movie, Ratatouille, was missing. This was my “comfort movie,” the DVD I would pop in when I was feeling vulnerable, sad, or scared. The DVD I would DEFINITELY need that first night. I nervously unpacked our living room when my boyfriend, Zach, called me into our bedroom. He had transformed it into our own little Paris; complete with a desktop screen saver of the Eiffel tower and the “Parisian Bistro” channel playing on Pandora. From that day forward I knew I no longer needed Ratatouille, just Zach, my now husband and real life comfort movie.

  12. Allie says...

    “I want you to take a nap and not set an alarm.”

    Thank you, spouse, thank you.

  13. Cal says...

    These comments are so incredibly sweet and special. Reading these actually help restore my faith in the kindness of men. The last 2 men I dated were self-centered and borderline narcissistic (and one was a serial cheater), and it made me lose hope of finding someone who is just simply good, without needing to prove anything or constantly one-up. I realized how sad it made me that I was incredulous to read about men massaging their wives feet, or making special dishes for them, or basically just making their lives easier in some small way. It makes me sad that at 33, I haven’t had that experience in over a decade (and he was a high school fling whose love I dismissed as juvenile, when I now realize he was the only one who truly loved me).

    Don’t mean to sound like a Debbie Downer, because these stories give me hope!

    • Emily R says...

      Cal – like you, it’s been well over a decade since a man treated me that way. I’m glad you find solace in these comments. Unfortunately they make me feel more alone.

    • C says...

      I’m in the middle of these two comments of feeling better and more alone. I have analyzed and fretted over what I have done and the energy I have put out to not get this in my life in a long while. I got it right once, but it ultimately didn’t work out. At this point I’m hoping and hoping for someone wonderful and mindful to find me.

  14. off topic says...

    sorry a little off topic..
    so many comments mentioned husband/boyfriend doing laundry as romantic gesture. Makes me wonder if a man will ever think of a wife/gf doing his laundry as a romantic gesture..same goes for cooking..!

    • Anita says...

      I don’t think this is off topic at all. It is a fair observation and also somewhat perplexing. I also noticed that no one seems to be responding to the first question: what is a romantic thing you have done? Makes me wonder if women find it romantic to do some of the nurturing gestures they describe (cooking, cleaning, running errands)? Genuinely curious about this. Speaking for myself it is a no, though I am pretty ambivalent about romance in general.

    • Don’t see why not?

      See, in my relationship we both cook and clean. I’m a certified chef, but repetitive motion injuries literally ruined me and now I’m just a part-time baker. When I make stuff, he’s always excited because it’s hard for me to do it, plus my lingering eating disorder is still there so I have no interest in food. So, if I get excited to make stuff, it’s serious business.
      The same goes for laundry. It hurts to move, but he is proud when I do laundry.

    • megs283 says...

      ha. my husband is DEFINITELY the one who is more focused on chores in the relationship. If I clean the kitchen, sweep the floors, do laundry, etc. he sees it as an act of love.

    • Mel says...

      Yup! My husband does all the grocery shopping and most of the cooking in our house, he always gets me ‘surprises’ at the store too. SO when I stop by the store or make him a nice meal and actually put in effort….well, let’s just say I know i’m getting some lovin that night.

  15. Jessie says...

    These comments are so wonderful. My fiancé (and boyfriend of over 7 years) is not really a romantic, but for our engagement, he was so incredibly thoughtful. He proposed outside of our apartment door (and had a friend capture video through the peephole!) and then had all of our friends waiting inside for a champagne toast. The most romantic part to me is that he PLANNED all the details — some people were in charge of decorations, others food and booze, etc. That he knew that what mattered most to me was sharing this day with friends. Planning is HOT.
    And in everyday life, the romance is in the day-to-day partnership. He asks my opinion, he (tries to) clean and cook half the time, he supports my career, and when he walks into the room, I feel more calm and more myself.
    My parents are happily divorced and remarried to great people, so I remain realistic that I don’t know what the future holds for us. But he is the person I most love to do nothing with, and I plan to enjoy that for as long as I can :)

    • Adrienne says...

      “…when he walks into the room, I feel more calm and more myself.” Love, love, love this and totally relate. :)

    • Jessie, you’re somehow inside my head. My fiancé proposed in Paris, which was a grand gesture in itself, but what I found most romantic about it was hearing later about all the time and effort he spent planning the darn thing. He watched Paris proposal videos, did research on the Eiffel Tower (no wonder he was rambling off so many facts that day!), asked several cousins who live in Paris or have traveled there for their opinions on locations, etc. That was definitely the most romantic part! And with divorced parents as well, I can’t tell you how comforting it is to hear you say “I remain realistic that I don’t know what the future holds for us. But he is the person I most love to do nothing with, and I plan to enjoy that for as long as I can.” That’s refreshing and cathartic for me, the semi-cynic ;) It’s sometimes hard to blend realism with romance, for fear it will belittle it or take something from it, but I think there’s romance in being realistic and truthful and also remembering not everything is so damn serious. Thank you for that reminder. Ps. I love your proposal story–congratulations to you both!

  16. Deana says...

    Ha! Reminds me of 6th grade, when I went steady for one day with the cutest boy in our class, angora-wrapped initial ring and all! Then heartbreak: the next day he broke up with me to give the ring instead to Porter Wagoner’s niece Penny, who was also in our class and yes, was probably the prettiest girl. True story.

  17. Nina says...

    I’ve been dating my boyfriend for about 5 months, and since it’s the holidays, I thought I’d sew a cross-stitch as my Mom’s Christmas present. This has turned into single handedly the worst idea I’ve ever done. It’s tedious, and the attention to detail is something I struggle with. What should take about 30mins, takes me about 3+ hours. I’m continuously frustrated and I HATE IT. My boyfriend has seen me struggle, nightly, with this cross stich. Two nights ago, he offered to help me, and said he’d like to sew a bit, as he can see how much I’ve been struggling. THAT TO ME IS ROMANCE. I plan on marrying this man.

    • Laurel Hammond says...

      WEll now I am crying at my desk.

  18. My husband and I started dating when I was almost 16 and he was 17. In the early months of our relationship, we were eating some messy bbq sandwiches at our hometown’s annual street fair and some of the sticky brown sauce dripped onto my white pants. I looked down, embarrassed, but when I looked back up he was taking some of the sauce from his own sandwich and swiping it on his shorts so we’d match. This teenage gesture is still a great representation of him and of what has made our love so strong. Over 15 years later, and I have never felt alone.

    • Eliza says...

      Anyone who wears white pants anywhere at any time is a symbol of optimism, and so YOU are MY hero.

    • FGB says...

      I love this. I’m not one for big romantic gestures. When my son was a baby we went to a parade with a bunch of friends. Getting out of the house at all was a big struggle those first few months. While at the parade i realized my shirt was soaking through (breastfeeding). I had a moment of panic and made eye contact with my husband. The sweet guy promptly started a water fight. I don’t know that that is romance but it’s certainly love. He has always had my back (or my front!)

  19. Dallas says...

    I’ve been married 11 years. This year was the hardest. It’s hard to try and figure out who are are, and what you need, while your partner is doing the same thing with sometimes different results. And you have jobs and kids and housework and family and friends and finances and a lot of damn pride on top of it. We started going to couples counseling a few months ago in an effort to really figure out if we could continue, and how. We were making some progress, though some weeks were terrible and made everything worse. But last week my husband’s father fell down the stairs and broke his neck in the middle of the night. We were at the hospital for 2 days straight while we figured out if there was any chance he could live. When it was time to remove all the tubes and say goodbye, my mother in law wanted me in the room, with her and her son. I held his feet while they stroked his head and said goodbye, and in those last minutes of his life, he gave us the gift of wiping away all my pride and delivering to me a wave of love and gratitude that I pray will never leave me. I don’t know what romance is, but last week I rediscovered love.

    • Alexandra says...

      Dallas, this was so incredibly moving. Your year sounds so incredibly hard and it’s incredible you discovered this bright nugget within the dark.

    • Fiona says...

      Yhis is beautiful and poignant and exactly what I needed to hear when I’m feeling this year has been the hardest yet for my marriage. I wish you peace and love and send you the biggest hugs whatever this next year brings for you. Thank you for sharing xxx

    • Sarah says...

      This was beautiful. I’m so, so sorry to hear about your loss. You and your partner sound like you are doing the hard work you need to. Keep loving one another.

    • Biz says...

      Oh boy. Tears. Thanks for sharing!

  20. Carrie Smith says...

    As an unromantic woman married to a very romantic man, I must confess I’ve ruined many a moment over the years. There was the time early in our relationship when he lovingly reached over the table to gently wipe something off my cheek, and I impulsively blurted out, “DON’T TOUCH MY FACE.” Or when he had dimmed the lights in the apartment and lit a bunch of candles to propose, and I burst through the door, flipped on the lights, and asked, “What are you doing sitting in the dark??” Thankfully, he’s loving and forgiving and knows who he married. And while I regret the times my fumbles hurt his feelings or caused him to feel rejected, I also believe that love isn’t only for the romantic. Successful relationships work for so many reasons, and sometimes romance is one of them…but sometimes it’s not, and that’s ok.

  21. Emily says...

    After many long-term, serious relationships, what I realized was most important- and truly romantic- to me was a sense of comfort. I know that might sound boring, but, when applied to a relationship, it really means a feeling of being appreciated and loved despite and because of your truest self. When I felt that feeling with my husband, I knew he was who I wanted to spend the rest of my life with. That feeling of being cherished, while also being allowed to wear stretch pants more than real ones, admit all of your faults, belch because you over-ate chips and dip, read young adult fiction, and baby talk to your pets incessantly, is what romance is to me. It’s that tried and true: “I love you despite (and perhaps a little because)…” for me.

    • Kate says...

      I agree Emily! Last winter, I went to see a movie with my boyfriend, and as we were leaving, we were talking about how funny it was and he said, “yeah and there were parts where you were the only one laughing!” And I immediately felt self-conscious (mainly because an ex-boyfriend once told me that I was too loud and my laugh was too loud and everyone talked about it and how much it annoyed them) and I apologized to my boyfriend. And he said “Don’t apologize. I love hearing your laugh.”

      I always thought that I would meet someone who liked me despite all of my perceived flaws (being too tall, being too fat, being too loud, being too much of a planner) and I have found someone who loves me for all of those reasons (and then some!) It has blown my mind, and the moments when I’m reminded of how much he sees me and appreciates me are the epitome of romance to me.

  22. di says...

    Romance to me is the lived day to day, and having some one to share the good bad and ugly with. 2018 has been an all round horrible year for us both- lots of big life changes, self doubt, plummeting confidence etc. We’ve had periods where we didn’t even want to do much together, but even in those dark lonely moments, I still knew if I reached out my hand, there was a warm hand at the other end. To me it’s that lived “You are here for me, even when I am not myself” moments that are romance.
    Signed, married 15 years young :)

  23. Sarah says...

    We got married at a swanky hotel in Quebec City. I was five months pregnant and exhausted all the damn time. The night before our big day, we sat in our giant bathtub and did facemasks from the drugstore. I didn’t think much of it until a college told me that was the cutest story she’d ever heard and that’s how she knew I married “the one”.

  24. Tricia says...

    A few years ago my husband, Mike and I got into a huge fight. I was so mad I left our house in a huff to take a walk around the block. About 3/4 of the way around I felt my wedding band with my thumb and realized that the diamond had fallen out! I ran home in a panic to find Mike, mad on the couch until I told him what happened. We both ran into the street looking and found nothing. It was a long sleepless night of upset, but at least we weren’t fighting.

    I woke up the next morning to Mike coming back into our bedroom after slipping out at about 5am. HE HAD THE DIAMOND IN HIS HAND. He found it shining brightly in the light of dawn in the middle of a four way stop sign on our street.

    A side note, the diamond fell out of my mother’s wedding band when I was a teenager. They’ve never replaced it and it sums up their relationship, sadly, pretty perfectly.

  25. Katie says...

    I used to think of romance in terms of passion and intimacy, but as I have grown older I have come to realize that it’s the little things. His willingness and genuine cheerfulness to clean up the cat litter/kitchen/guest room/office whenever I ask. When he says that I’ve been cooking a lot lately, so he’ll make me breakfast super early when I’m getting ready for work and he is off for the day. When my depression and anxiety seeps in and he tells me to not worry about what everyone else thinks because it’s him and I and we’re in it for the long haul, that OUR decisions matter.
    We just got engaged this past Thanksgiving and I can’t wait to experience more of the “little things.”

  26. My idea of romance isn’t grand gestures that could be featured in a rom-com or romance novel. Instead romance is little things like letting me have the last salted caramel chocolate when he wants it just as much as I do or putting gas in my car, especially when it’s like -20F with the windchill (I live in MN). Those small gestures mean so much to me. But we are both super practical people who aren’t drawn to big, grand gestures so it works for us!

  27. Megan Lec says...

    I’m definitely not an all caps ROMANTIC and I also get cringey during romantic comedies. I think its all about figuring out (and helping your partner understand!) what romance is to you. The most romantic moments of my relationship are not what you would find in romantic comedies but are maybe more special because they fit for me. My husband ordering me extra queso, sending me a Starbucks giftcard on a hard day, or walking downstairs to get my charger from the car when it is 30degrees outside, that’s the stuff that is truly romantic to me.

  28. Shawna says...

    When we were somewhat newly dating, I discovered a mouse in my apartment, and my now-husband volunteered to empty the trap (something I was terrified to do). I thanked him profusely, and he shrugged and said: “for you, I’d even lick the mouse.” It was funny and tender and weird and perfect.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      hahahaah i love that. the weirdest/cutest. :)

    • Amanda says...

      You did the right thing by marrying that man!

  29. Emma says...

    My fiance and I have been together since high-school, and I commuted from Hoboken, NJ to Brooklyn Heights to get there. I was always different from everyone else in my HS, most of whom were really wealthy, had attended that same private school their whole lives, and lived in the neighborhood. I was in a different socio-economic bracket, had just moved to the US from Mexico, and was from New Jersey (which might as well as have been the 7th pit of hell to my ‘Brooklyn-cool’ classmates). To me, that commute was the physical manifestation of the distance between me and everyone else. It was like an hour reminder that I was “less than” and didn’t belong. Anyway, after school my fiance started doing half of my commute with me. A lovely school administrator snuck him a student metro card so he could ride for free (bless her), and he’d take the subway with me to the WTC, where I’d hop on the path train and he’d take the 4/5 back downtown to Brooklyn. I can’t express how much that meant to me. He did this for three years. Be it romance or just love or both, fourteen years later, that immense kindness still blows me away. How did a 15 yr old boy have a heart so big? As I look back on our relationship, they are filled to the brim with similar acts of generosity on his part. And as I look ahead to our marriage, I just feel so incredibly lucky and sure that he’s my person.

    • Angela says...

      Wow! This is so tender and beautiful! Sounds like you have a great partner. Thanks for sharing!

    • I love this, Emma! I’m also engaged to the big-hearted boy I dated in high school. What a lovely reminder of how luck I am.

    • Dee says...

      This is so beautiful it made me want to cry. Keep him he is so worth it.

  30. Kelly says...

    I have battled with depression for as long as I can remember. I was terrified to show that part of myself to my partner in fear of him leaving. One night, I couldn’t hold it in; everything was too much. My husband, then boyfriend, found me curled up at the bottom of the bathtub (the shower is my safe place) sobbing, letting the water rain over me. Instead of running he climbed in, clothes on and held me tightly until I could breathe again. He then scooped me up, wrapped me up in my bathrobe, tucked me into bed and laid with me until I fell asleep. We’ve dated for 10 years, been married almost 5 and to this day it is the epitome of love and romance to me.

    • Kelly, I totally agree — that’s incredibly romantic. I’m so happy you found your person.

    • Lucy says...

      I drew a sharp breath in and tears rushed to my eyes when I read about your husband climbing into the shower with you fully clothed. He sounds like a wonderful, empathetic partner. Thank you for reminding me that ultimately, love is about solidarity. Feeling like you are in this life together and support one another when it matters.

    • Hayley says...

      This hit home for me. Thank you for sharing. It means more than you may ever know.

  31. Alex says...

    When we were dating my husband thought I wanted grand gestures, but they always made me uncomfortable like we were trying to prove our love. He soon learned that the simple things matter most to me: constancy, conversation, trustworthiness, kindness.
    Years later (8!) whenever he gets me a gift it’s always so thoughtful and shows that he SEES me and pays attention to me. In short, he loves me.

    • “Constancy, conversation, trustworthiness, kindness.” Yes yes yes – this is what I’m seeking!

  32. Jen says...

    Back in college, my boyfriend wrote me short poems on slips of paper (usually haikus) and would leave them all over the place for me- wedged into the liner for my coffee, tucked into my bike lock, etc. They were always signed “the hurried poet,” and they were always the most tender observations of young love- just the things you notice and obsess over when you’re falling in love for the first (real) time. One summer when he worked at a remote youth camp with no cell service for 3 months, he wrote a poem for every day he would be gone and had a friend of mine email them to me every day. It’s been ten years and the hurried poet is now my husband.

  33. Kelly says...

    My husband and I bring each other things throughout the day. Glasses of water or glasses cleaners or tchotchkes. We joke that we’re retrievers! It’s really just an excuse to see each other and say hello and get a smile.

  34. i would have agreed even just a few months ago. my parents are divorced so i never really believed that long term relationships or marriage could work. but as part of my “30 before 30” list (https://tps-steph.blogspot.com/2018/10/0003-30-before-30.html) I decided to add a private one too – grow/evolve. Its something i’m always trying to work on but this was specific to my relationship. i knew i wasn’t letting go of that belief and that it was impeding my growth. my bf and i were apart while i was spending time with my dad and when i came back i knew i wanted to do better. it’s been insanely great – i honestly didn’t think i could love him more, guess i was wrong. he’s my best friend, has always seen ME even when i was my worst and i’m a better version of myself today because of our relationship. romance lives! not in the chocolates and trips to france way (not my style) but in whatever way that makes sense for you and the person who totally understands and gets you and loves you despite your inclination to be your worst self at times.

  35. Marci says...

    Love is the buttoning up of a dress. Romance is the kiss on the neck.
    Love is a nourishing meal. Romance is the sweet dessert.
    Love holds a snotty, crying woman in the middle of a crisis. Romance waits and brings flowers after she’s pulled herself together.
    Love shows up every day. Romance makes regular days special.

    You can have romance without love, aka Caroline’s “boyfriend.” You can have love without romance, aka the boyfriend who doesn’t make special gestures. But love *and* romance? Sublime.

    • Jannelle says...

      This! Exactly this!

    • Thank you says...

      Marci, this is so beautiful.

      “Love is the buttoning up of a dress. Romance is the kiss on the neck.
      Love is a nourishing meal. Romance is the sweet dessert.
      Love holds a snotty, crying woman in the middle of a crisis. Romance waits and brings flowers after she’s pulled herself together.
      Love shows up every day. Romance makes regular days special.”

  36. Cara says...

    My husband and I met the first day of the year, and things just took off. We really, really liked each other. He had no hesitations about moving fast, but I was dragging my feet just for the sake of social dignity (aka what my mom and friends would think). On January 21, we were hanging out at my house, and it had snowed so much that we couldn’t go anywhere. We spent the whole day doing nothing, just snuggled up and laughing. He started making jokes about “once we’re married” and asking if I wanted to look at rings on his phone. I said “No, stop! We can’t talk about this. We can’t count our chickens before they hatch.” He started looking something up on his phone, and then turned the screen to me. It said “It takes a chicken egg 21 days to hatch.” That day was exactly 21 days since we’d met. He was so pleased with himself. He said “This egg has hatched, babe!” That was the closest I’ve ever come to a chick flick moment haha.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      hahaahah that is so cute, cara!

    • kaela says...

      Hahahahaha I love this.

  37. Rachel says...

    As I joyfully read through all the sweet gestures outlined here, I find myself wondering about the difference between romance and love. I figure that romance is one way to show your love to someone, but if my mom could do the same thing, I’m not sure it qualifies as romantic. To me, romance is the combination of love, something physical/sexual, and perhaps an element of understanding of the other person that makes it more intimate. So my question for Caroline is: is it romance you’re struggling to believe in or love?

  38. Nora says...

    I have long hated rom coms because I think they get romance wrong (grand gestures, lots of beautiful but clumsy women). I wondered for years if I was jaded. Thanks to you I realize that my version is romance is being strong when the other isn’t. Wanting your partner to live their most satisfying life and giving them tools to do that. Communicating openly about challenging topics so you both grow as people. And fine, a fancy night out together now and then (with bourbon cocktails) counts too!

  39. Lauren says...

    whenever my sweet boyfriend helps zip or button up my dress, he always finishes with a little shoulder squeeze. whenever he gives me a back rub too, he finishes with the little shoulder squeeze — it’s the absolute sweetest.

    we also make a point to get up on saturday mornings and do a quick clean of the apartment together — the smell of coffee brewing, a record spinning and watching him cheerfully wipe down the counter top just makes my heart swell <3

  40. Jen C says...

    My husband and I have been married a little over eight years now, and after surviving my dad’s suicide, my father-in-law’s death from cancer, and my husband’s Stage 3 colon cancer, I thought we would see the beauty in still having our life together and the daily joys of our love and our twins. Then, his anxiety and depression set in. It has been four years since his cancer diagnosis. The best expression of love came one night last month when I told him I couldn’t do it any longer and could no longer see our love. He hugged me tightly and told me he saw it and saw a our love, even amid this darkness. This morning, we were holding hands in bed in the faint morning light while our six-year old son lay snuggled between us. That’s enough for me right now.

    • Emma says...

      It sounds like a really tough few years, Jen. Wishing you a joyous 2019 and all the love in the world.

    • Anonymous says...

      Jen,

      My husband has also suffered from periodic episodes of severe depression, and one resource that helped me was reading about depression and the relationship traps it can set you up for. Here’s the link—this truly saved my marriage during a very difficult, dark time because it gave me and my husband the vocabulary to understand what was happening and extend compassion to each other. http://www.storiedmind.com/relationships-crisis/

      You sound like an amazing wife. Standing with someone through hard things is the epitome of love and romance. Xo.

  41. Mel says...

    I remember when I was younger (teen/early 20’s) I thought romance was grand gestures, and flowery words, and racing hearts. But i’ve now been with the same man for 10 years, married 4 and we have a 2 year old and by far the most loving (tho not at all romantic) thing he has done was what he did after the birth of our daughter. In the hours that followed he bathed her then followed me to the tub and washed my achy, blood covered body, he gently washed my hair and dressed me as if I was made of glass. For 3 days every time I went to the bathroom to change my ‘diaper’ (as I called it) he would hand off the baby and slip in quietly after me and take off the soiled one (if you’ve had a baby you know how rough it looks/is) and would prepare a new one and put if on for me. Never said a word about it, just quietly did it. He’s not a man of romance, he scarcely calls me beautiful or brings home flowers or treats me to jewelry or big poetic affirmations of love. But he serves, quietly, selflessly, tirelessly day in and day out. And perhaps that is something even more beautiful than romance.

    • Michelle Bengson says...

      Tears. This is so beautiful.

    • Emilie says...

      This is so beautiful, Mel. Acts of service = my love language too! And while I know those postpartum diapers well, I still see romance reading your love story.

    • Amanda says...

      This made me cry. Actions speak FAR louder than words. Your husband sounds so great.

    • Juliette says...

      Oh this is so beautiful, and I think it’s really romantic. I am training to be a midwife and recently witnessed my first birth. Me and my mentor gently cleaned the mother’s legs after the birth whilst she cradled her brand new baby and it was one of the most tender moments of my life. How wonderful that he looked after you that way, thank you so much for sharing.

  42. Erica says...

    I’m not romantic, at all, but I’ve come to realize that romance is what works for the couple, not what others say it is. My wife and I married quickly. We were engaged for 6 days before eloping in a JOP’s living room. She was in nursing school and needed health insurance. The school’s insurance had skyrocketed to a ridiculous amount that didn’t even cover the tests and flu shots that the school required! So, we got married and I put her on my insurance through work. We had been talking about getting married for about a year before that, but it was still shocking how quickly we dove in and didn’t feel panicked about it. It was a good thing, too. She was in a minor motorcycle accident a couple months later that would have cost a fortune. Romance for us is helping each other, especially when we could do it ourselves, but it’s easier doing it together. Big or small things, it doesn’t matter, it’s all done out of wanting to help the other person.

  43. Shana says...

    I was diagnosed with breast cancer in the summer of 2016. Having someone fight for your life is pretty romantic. My husband took on my cancer like a full-time job. He demanded that MRIs, CT/bone scans, appointments, blood work, surgeries be done as soon as possible. Calling daily to see if there had been cancellations. Driving to hospitals when no one was picking up the phone to talk to people in person. He researched treatments being done in other parts of the world and requested that I get that too. At the time they said that the cost benefit was not great enough as the treatment was new and there wasn’t a lot of data. We paid out of pocket as he had read hundreds of pages of medical research and felt like it was worth it. Now in the last couple of months they have started recommending it too. Putting a Christmas tree in our bedroom when I was bed ridden and rarely saw the one downstairs. Still leering (in the best possible way) at me even though I have one breast. I could go on forever.

  44. Kate says...

    My husband reached over and patted me last night just as we were falling asleep and said, “I love our live together” and I never want to forget that moment! We’ve been through some hard times together but we feel like we manage to be steadfast supporters of each other while the rest of life whirls around us.

  45. My fiancé at the time (now husband) met me at the bus stop after a long shift at the hospital with flowers, a big smile on his face and gave me a massive hug. I was not expecting to see him there and was so happy I almost cried. He then got a bacon sarnie out of his bag and I knew then I was marrying the man of my dreams – someone who knows how important food is to me :P

  46. Annelies says...

    I love making eye contact with my husband from across the room at a party. We smirk, like we have a little secret. Also, when the appetizers come by, he always hoards them for me, based on what’s vegetarian/really delicious and he will hunt me down to deliver the bounty. It gets various looks of amusement/judgement – depending on who I’m talking to – when Pat drops by to put food in my mouth.

  47. Melissa says...

    My husband of 10 years is the kindest person I know. He’s done countless romantic things for me, but the one that stands out is that after each of our 3 children were born, for months and months after, whenever he heard them cry at night, he always put his hand on my back and said, “I’ve got it”. If I was nursing he would bring them to me and then take them back to the crib when they were done eating. Maybe doesn’t sound like the typical flowers, chocolates, whatever. But it brings tears to my eyes as I type it out. True love.

    • Christina M. says...

      True Love!! Better than any gift in my book.

  48. Cynthia says...

    My husband brings me my gin and tonic every evening when I am downstairs, no matter which room I am in. If I am upstairs, he calls up to say my drink is ready. He cooks breakfast and dinner, and sometimes lunch if we have no leftovers. And he washes dishes! We have an old house and no automatic dishwasher. A few weeks ago, he bought me some microwave popcorn because he knows how much I love popcorn and I rarely buy it. I buy him his favorite brand of dental floss, and every Christmas, I make his favorite candy. We’ve been married almost 41 years. The fireworks of early romance give way to a warm glow.

    • E says...

      This “The fireworks of early romance give way to a warm glow.” And sometimes remembering our story of falling in love is enough romance to get through times of no romance.

    • Katy says...

      This is so very beautiful. To love is to know and be known

    • kaela says...

      Beautiful xo

  49. Stacey says...

    My husband lost his wedding band back in February. The band had our first date and our wedding anniversary engraved on the inside. This was the second time he lost it. The first time was a few winters ago while we were away with family at a rental chalet. He was helping move something on the deck and it fell off in the deep snow. We dug around a bit with a serving spoon but couldn’t find it. Skip ahead a few months when all the snow had melted off that deck and the property manager called to say she found it and would mail it to us. So he loses it again this year…slips off his finger at a buddies while he was (drunk) digging around amps and cables. I was not impressed. Since losing it our daughter would bug him to get a new one, even a couple of his friends mentioned it. Our 16 year wedding anniversary was earlier this month and we hadn’t seen each other for two weeks prior. The three of us were together again and after giving our daughter her (belated) birthday present he pulled out a little box, gave it to me and said happy anniversary. It was a new wedding band but this time he had the date he met me and the date he met our daughter engraved inside.

    • kaela says...

      What a thoughtful comeback xoxo

  50. Cait says...

    Romance is in the little daily reminders that someone thinks of you. Like the other morning, when my fiance left for work early and knew I wasn’t feeling well, so he located some cold medicine (day formula, so I wouldn’t zonk out at work) and left it on my nightstand so I’d see it when I woke up and wouldn’t have to go searching. I’ll take that over a poem any day.

  51. Lydia says...

    We live in an apartment without a washer and dryer in unit and I hate doing laundry in the laundry room. Everything about it bothers me: lugging clothes up and down a flight of stairs, needing to do two loads but there’s only one free washer, when people leave the washer door closed and it smells like mildew. I can’t stand it. So my husband finds a day during the week when I have plans after work and he does all of our laundry while I’m out. The sweetest part is that he knows tights don’t go in the dryer but he can’t ever remember the difference between leggings and tights so I’ll come home to find tights and leggings hanging all over the apartment to dry.

    • Maggie says...

      This is such a sweet gesture on his part. And the leggings and tights thing made me laugh. I had to sit my husband down once to explain the difference between a skirt and a dress!

    • LK says...

      the sweetest! it weirdly makes my heart swell too, when my boyfriend loads the dishwasher badly… he really tried! haha :)

    • Judy says...

      When we first started living together, my fiance would wake up earlier than I would for work. Every morning I woke up to a hot cup of coffee on my nightstand. Now that I’m the earlier riser, I usually make breakfast for both of us. The other day he woke up early and, when I asked why, he told me that he missed spending the mornings with me and he liked getting ready together. He’s been waking up early at least a few mornings a week ever since. This morning we only had one frozen banana for smoothies. I told him I’d have oatmeal but he insisted on making himself a smoothie with a fresh – not frozen – banana (yuck), so that I could have the frozen one. This post was a real reminder that these small gestures mean so much – tearing up just thinking about it.

      Oh, and he is an amazingly thoughtful gift-giver. Last year, after mentioning offhand that I would love a mezuzah for our home, he secretly hand-carved the most beautiful mezuzah out of olive wood. I’m so excited to have it forever.

    • Nicole says...

      My sweetheart does my laundry for me as well, for all the same reasons you’ve mentioned. I’d do it if the units were in my apartment but there’s steps and a scary dark basement etc.
      Usually I’m home to do the folding and putting away but sometimes when he has some time home without me he’ll get to work on my laundry and I’ll come home to these little neat stacks of my clothes. There’s something so sweet about him folding my dresses into these neat little piles that makes me feel so very loved. I try to remember these things when he is being an absolute terror!

  52. Dienesa says...

    LOVED your friend’s quote! “There is a certain romance in having a witness to your life.”

  53. H. says...

    These comments are so sweet.

    I’ve been seeing someone I met on a dating app a bit over a month ago. It’s still too soon for all the mundane everyday romance that a lot of people have mentioned, but he recently started doing a little thing that totally melts me: When we’re out in public, at a museum or waiting in line for food or something, he’ll stand nearby and put his hand on my lower back. We haven’t yet had THE TALK about being official, but there’s something about how he’s comfortable being in public and showing people “Hey, we’re together,” that I find very romantic.

    • Jenny says...

      Oh, I love that! Subtle and powerful!

  54. Liz says...

    My husband and I have been married for almost eighteen years. His romantic gestures range from ordering me vintage, hardback Anne of Green Gables books to helping me check into an inpatient rehab for painkiller addiction (and bringing me his sweaters to wear while I was there, so I could feel his presence). I struggle with depression, anxiety, and OCD; these can be unconsciously selfish conditions and I sometimes try to isolate. He has always been supportive, even when he didn’t understand. He demands that we remain a present, committed and equal couple, with no coasting by. We have three daughters that mean the world to us. We have hurt one another, of course, over the years. Naturally, the person you’re closest to has the greatest ability to wound you. We have learned, and grown, and loved even more. He is my everything person. He loves me on purpose. ❤️

    • I’m so happy for you both. What a beautiful partnership.

    • Annie says...

      Beautiful.

  55. Sarah says...

    I’ll often ask my husband to button up the last couple of hard to reach buttons on the back of my dresses.

    As long as we’ve been together he’s always kissed my neck after finishing the last button.

    10 years we’ve been together, and 10 years he still does the last button neck kiss. I have expected many times for it to somehow fade out of habit, for him to forget that it’s something he does, that we do, and that I cherish for its simplicity,

    I love that I don’t count on it, but that I CAN count on it. I love that he’s never missed doing it. I love that as time goes on it is an action that has defined his consistency and care.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      oh, sarah! the sweetest.

  56. CR says...

    A few weeks (or months) after my daughter was born, my husband said to me “there are two of you now, and I only have one life to give”
    Ugh, those words just got me. I felt so loved and I felt the love he has for our baby.

    • Kate says...

      This made me cry..

  57. Rebecca says...

    My husband and I are both lawyers and have small kids, so our lives are hectic and romance is made up of the little kindness throughout the busy week. However, because his job is more “exciting” to hear about at parties, there are these moments when we are out with friends and I overhear him talking about something I have done at work and I feel 100% supported and 100% loved.

  58. M says...

    We will both be lying in bed chatting away or about to fall asleep and I’ll start to make the move to get up and he says, “Where are you going?” “I’m thirsty, just need some water.” “Stay there, I’ll get it.” <3

    and . . . foot massages right after sex. dreamy

  59. Polyana says...

    i’m not a huge romantic myself. i don’t plan on having a wedding, and don’t feel the need to constantly celebrate my relationship for others to see.

    but last night, my partner did the most romantic thing for me. i currently have a cold, and was coughing up God knows what, last night. it was awful, i couldn’t sleep, and neither could he. at about 3 AM, he shot up out of bed and said he’d be right back. i thought he had given up and gone to sleep in the guest room, but 15 minutes later, he showed up with two mugs of ginger, lime and honey tea he’d made to help soothe my throat. i felt so loved and so much love for him at that moment. and slept like a baby for a few hours after my tea, before the cough erupted again. who needs unexpected flowers when you get unexpected tea that you actually needed?

    • What a sweetheart!

  60. Lindsay Somers says...

    When I first met my now husband, my Mom was dying of brain cancer and I was living with an ex boyfriend (we broke up months ago- but he was on medical leave and had moved from another province and we couldn’t get out of our expensive lease.) It was hands down the worst time of my life.
    My now-husband in that first few weeks of dating put together a cozy corner at his house and curated a library of books for me to have my very own space to just be. “This is your library cozy corner and here is a key – it’s all yours.” It meant so much to me.
    We got married 11 months later. He continues to be the kindest and most thoughtful human I have ever met. And, he’ll dance with me ANYTIME I ask, which I love too.

  61. jaime says...

    When I was in my early 20s, a guy I volunteered with used someone’s negligence to blind copy email addresses in a mass email to get the proper spelling of my name and look me up online. He found race results from years ago to pinpoint where I grew up and then emailed me with a fake story about how he remembered meeting me before a race. I saw through it immediately and at the time was low-key horrified. In my early 30s? Low-key impressed by the amount of effort he put in, the likes of which I never expect to see again. (I kid, but seriously … the romance bar is that low.)

    • Susan says...

      So did you go out with the guy? If that happened to me I would definitely save that email… as a record in case I needed to go to the police.

    • jaime says...

      I definitely did not. My mother was stalked when she was younger (pre-Internet) and taught me to always be aware of what information is available about me online. When I got the email, I thought it was spam at first because it mentioned things that I knew came up in a Google search at the time. I ignored it. So when he brought it up with me at an event a month or so later, I immediately understood what happened and called him on it. He never showed up at the food service (an Out of the Cold program in Toronto) again. Now that having a work bio is more common and my name is published in a bunch of places for writing work, I don’t attempt to keep as close a watch on what’s available online (though perhaps I should?). That being said, I think the average person is a lot more discreet about their Google habits. Yeesh.

  62. Kathleen says...

    When my husband I bought our first (tiny!) house, I declared I would always get to park in the garage, since I had the smaller car and had never had a garage to park in. He made fun of me, but always made sure to keep the garage clear so I could park inside. Our second house has a 2 car garage with separate garage doors, we used one side for me to park, and the other side for storage. One morning, the garage door on my side of the garage broke. The repair was going to take a couple weeks, so while I was still at work, my husband moved all the items in storage to the other side of the garage for me so I could park on the functioning side. I thought that was pretty damn sweet.

  63. M says...

    it’s the small things. my partner of five years sometimes comes up behind me if i am the one doing the dishes, hugs me and then we just stand like that, for a while. every once in a while – if we’re out and about – he’ll randomly grab my hand and give it a kiss without saying anything. if we’re at a party together we’re often socializing with different people on our own, but he can lock eyes with me across the room and give me this look that’s just… it sounds fucking corny but it’s like a look of warmth and reassurance, like he’s checking in to make sure i’m having a good time.

    the best thing however, is when we both have had a long (and perhaps even a bad) day at our respective work, we might call each other up and be like ‘do you want to come over’ and then we’ll just lay in bed together, watching netflix in silence and falling asleep together. that right there is romance to me.

    • emma says...

      I agree, been married 5 years together 10, and I think it’s the daily small moments- of stopping and touching the person, or saying I love you, or thank you, or doing a thankless task that needs to be done without asking, or just being kindest to the person you love the most, that adds up to a loving relationship. At least for me. People too often focus on the big picture and forget that those small things add up to the big- picture, and without them, there’s nothing.

  64. Nigerian Girl says...

    What is romance, really? I wish I knew, Caroline. I wish I knew. I’m thirty-four years old and I’m still trying to figure it out. Reading through all the comments here, it’s pretty clear to me that I haven’t done well in the romance department. I can’t think of the most romantic thing I’ve ever done for someone, or the most romantic thing someone has ever done for me.

  65. joana says...

    hi!
    the most romantic thing i’ve ever done was to make a book, my own version of the little prince, which is my favorite book of all time. i had only ever read it in french, but the person i was giving it to didn’t know french, so i got a copy in portuguese, proofread it with the french version next to it, and wrote my own version. then, i did a workshop on how to make a notebook, saw many videos online, wrote the whole book, illustrated it with watercolor and sewed the whole thing. 104 pages of it! it was my biggest achievement yet.

    later i realized the gesture was kind of misplaced, but that means i now have my work of art with me, and it really does make me proud. and even though it was too much for that person, much more than he deserved, it’s kind of a reminder that i believed in love and that i will again (at this moment i’m heartbroken over someone else). and also that i will do amazing things for love, but i also deserve them back.

    thanks for the lovely post! :)
    joana

  66. Kahani says...

    I think that society has overly contrived ideas of romance. It’s not what’s done it’s the person you’re with. I’ve had midnight firefly lit surprise picnics, outside the window serenades and a necklace handmade by a straight man in Germany just for me (uh, yes, really) – and yet not a single one of these moments compares in romance to snuggling on the sofa with my husband, eating ice cream and watching a silly show.

    Romance to me is the deep joy of being with the person you most want to be with and knowing that person feels exactly the same.

    • Rachael says...

      I love this. “The deep joy of being with the person you most want to be with and knowing that person feels exactly the same.”

    • Katrina says...

      Seriously, the last paragraph should be cross stitched on pillows everywhere.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      love this.

  67. Jenn says...

    This past October my partner and I relocated from Toronto to Tel Aviv for a job opportunity. Christmas/Hanukkah has always been a big deal in both of our families, so I’d been feeling a little sad that we’d be missing out on all of our usual holiday traditions. The first night of Hanukkah I ended up working late, and by the time I got back to our apartment I was totally exhausted. My plan for the night was to pour myself a big bowl of cereal and go to bed, but instead I came home to a fully decorated apartment, Christmas/Hanukkah music playing in the background, and my husband in the kitchen cooking dinner. As soon as I came in the door he sat me down, poured me a glass of wine and gave me a latke. We’ve been together six years and have done a lot of romantic things, but nothing has made me feel more loved than being handed that potato pancake.

  68. Kelly says...

    After our daughter was born a few months ago, my husband was like the best postpartum doula I could have asked for. He stripped our bed and washed the sheets and towels every morning, he checked my stitches to see whether I needed to call the midwife, he cooked delicious and nutritious meals for me and my family, he helped our daughter latch when I was having feeding issues, and this was all in addition to the expected new dad duties of changing diapers, giving baths, lots of snuggles, etc. It was beautiful to receive such romantic, concrete care in those wild early newborn days.

    • MB says...

      Ah that’s so heartwarming!

  69. Lisa says...

    If I think of the best and longest standing couples I know, none of them are / were into “romance” as defined by Hollywood movies. My great aunt and uncle who have been married for over 60 years are resolutely anti – Valentine’s Day because they say they don’t need someone else to tell them when to show their appreciation for each other, but their mutual adoration is obvious. I think it’s because the Hollywood / commercial version of romance is telling you what you should be doing, it doesn’t arise organically from you as a couple.
    Right now, with two small children and full time jobs, the most romantic things my husband and I can do for each other are taking turns to get up (at 5!) with the kids so the other can sleep in or ordering takeaway and watching movies together, or when he called me “gorgeous” even though the bags under my eyes have bags. In the early years of our relationship the most romantic thing he did was waiting outside my first evening French class (he’s French, I was learning for him) with a bouquet of roses and then taking me out to dinner. Now that would be nice but unnecessary

  70. Jessica Garrett says...

    I teach AP Art History to high schoolers and took them on a tour to San Francisco last year. My poor husband came along as a chaperone. The trip was chaotic and filled with non-romantic late nights and early mornings, but was the most fulfilling experience of my professional life.
    On the flight home, he turned to me and surprised me with, “So, when we do this again next year…,” (“Again?! WE?!” I thought, hopeful heart pounding) “…I think you should delegate all the logistics to me, so you can focus on teaching your kids onsite. That’s where you really shine.”
    My pounding heart melted on impact.
    With all its validation and happy anticipation, this comment was, for me, the married-for-10-years equivalent of “So, um…can I take you out again next week?”

    • Amanda says...

      I love this so much.

    • Amy says...

      This is the sweetest :)

  71. Slavka says...

    Oh my God, the stories here are amazing. I must admit, that I believe in romance and I am lucky enough to be married to a guy who likes it (a little bit) too. I met him at work and I remember saying to myself, that this handsome guy would never ever want to date me. Then over time he would give me special presents – like every female colleague got a yellow tulip, I got a purple one (I like purple). Then he got me a book from his trip in Scotland. Then he bought me a pair of glasses that I liked but did not dare to buy. And so on…Still I did not think he was on to something. But one day he got me story he wrote by himself and when I was reading it at home it finnaly struck me. He asked me out and in eight months we were married. This was eight years and two kids and loads of romantic stuff ago.

  72. Candice says...

    My husband has spent the last 5 months learning to play the piano so he can accompany me singing Christmas carols this year. It’s such a beautiful gesture that I can barely wrap my mind around it.

    • Robin says...

      So amazing! Sell that story to the Hallmark Channel! LOL… Just saying, I would totally watch! ;)

    • kaela says...

      What a fun and loving thing for him to do! xo

  73. Rashmik says...

    I feel you Caroline. Hard-core nom believer here… until….
    Met the guy at MBA school and immediately fell for his shoes (!!!). And slowly over the next 10 months for him, only to leave the city for work while he continued on. And every alternate weekend I would board a flight from my city on Saturday evening 7pm(I worked Saturdays) and land there at 10 and fall in his arms. This went on for 3 years! We had no monies, I dined on cuppa noodles several nights because I needed to save up for my flight tickets but never ever did the thought of not booking one flight ticket crossed my mind. We are happily married now and the longest time we have spent apart in our 10 year relationship is 21 days. Even now we end up weeping sometimes when we realize how excited we are to see each other after a 3 day work trip! I will believe in romance till the day I stop missing him every time he goes away.
    Off to wipe my face now…

    • kaela says...

      All of the warm fuzzies. xo

  74. Rachel says...

    My now husband and I met as coworkers. There are two distinct, not classicly moments that stand out as the most romantic gestures (and the moments that in hindsight I “knew”): (1) He picked us up coffee the morning after a night of drinking and didn’t ask my order but instead just handled it so I could have a few extra minutes of sleep then (2) a few days later I mentioned I wasn’t feeling well the day before a big meeting and unprompted he went to CVS and bought every cold medicine and vitamin C option. He’s a caretaker and after years of relationships where I was the primary decision-maker/adult/responsible-person it was exactly what I didn’t know I needed.

  75. Sundus Abrar says...

    My husband and I were in a long distance relationship for about four months. In retrospect that doesn’t seem too long. He’d fly in from Chicago to Toronto on the weekends to see me. He’d message me when boarding his flight, and I’d start my transit to the airport to meet him. This entailed two bus rides, then a shuttle to the Billy Bishop airport, and finally a seven minute ferry ride. I’d reach the airport with a sand which, and a bag of chips in hand for him. That was a memorable, and intense time in our relationship.

    Now five years later the grand romantic gestures look very different and ordinary, but these are the highlights of our relationship:
    He is tea drinker, but learnt how to brew coffee for my sake. I get to sleep in on Saturdays, and wake up to a warm cup of coffee

    He always brought the babies out of the crib to me for the night feedings.

    Gives the kids long baths and showers. Enjoys every moment of it.

    Let’s me pick the music in the car

    Empties the dishwasher, and moves the laundry to the dryer.

    Fills gas in my car

    Helps change the sheets

    These may sound very mundane, but in this season of our life with two toddlers and a sick parent, and demand work schedules these are moments and traits I have come to cherish. I yearn for quiet uninterrupted time with him, but I also just love watching us evolve together.

  76. Blair says...

    My fiance always tells me that he knew he was falling in love with me when he had to “toilet” my ear every night when I got a terrible ear infection after scuba diving in Bali. We had been best friends for two years and only recently started dating during our semester abroad together in Australia. He did it willingly and with zero complaints – and told himself, “This must be love!” It was! It still is! We had so many magical and romantic moments falling in love while traveling on the other side of the world. But the way he took care of me when I was miserably sick – ear toileting and all – was how we both realized that we were meant to be.

  77. Ap says...

    Im 27 which I know isn’t that old but its starting to feel that way and Ive never been in love or in a serious relationship and I’m terrified I’ll never have stories like these. Sometimes it’s hard to read this blog when it’s all relationships and babies I just feel like I’m getting left behind. And it kind of makes me angry when people who are in relationships say they’re not into romance it feels like their taking it for granted.

    • Joyce says...

      You have your whole life ahead of you, AP! :)

      I’d advise dropping the anger. It’s not serving you. Allow people in relationships have relationships however they prefer.

      Also, drop the fear. Being fearful of never having stories like these is living in a projected future. It’s not helpful. Live in the present.

      And the feeling of being left behind? Drop it. It’s not true, and you don’t need it. Left behind of what? The “master plan” for life? Bullshit. There is no master plan, everyone’s life is wildly different. Are you afraid you missed the boat? There is no boat.

      I think if you’re able to let go of things, and squash some of these limiting beliefs, you’ll create space for new, loving things to enter your life. xo.

      And just a reminder: you’re so young! :)

    • Abby says...

      I felt the same for so many years AP! I just recently (I am 29) got my very first ever boyfriend and it is love. I don’t want to be yet another Person who will tell you that you will find the love of your life eventually, because – let’s face it – some people are just not for a bazillion people.
      What I want to tell you is this: find and realise you already have love – in Family and friends and cherish These relationships because they are as worthy as any monogamous relationship you might wish for. Of course I don’t want to say I don’t appreciate the state I am in right now (very much in love) but I sometimes look back and see how much more time I spent caring for all those beloved people around me when I was single and regret to say that this has changed somewhat since I am focusing much more of my love on one person lately.
      Love is everywhere, please don’t ever forget that!

    • Linds says...

      AP, I feel very much the same. 29 and only one relationship to my name. I live in a town where most people met and married young. It feels like I’ve missed my window. If one more married friend tells me, ‘it’ll happen when you least expect it’ or ‘enjoy the single years and your freedom’, I might smack them.

    • Elle says...

      AP, I’m in my mid-30s. Most of my friends in this city are older than me, and most of them are unmarried. Some are finding new love after divorce. Many are just getting settled into relationships at 39, 40, 41 years old. I’m the one who feels like the odd one out with 2 young kids and one on the way. Look beyond your own circle and you’ll see a different story. Perhaps your own friends or old schoolmates are married like my hometown friends were when I was in my late 20s. But I promise you there are worlds of people out there who are decades older than you and still making the most of their single lives, finding simple pleasures with new loves, or just settling into their forever relationships. Hang in there girl!

    • Emma says...

      YES! What Joyce said x10000

    • ND says...

      Dear AP, I think I understand you. I was 28 when I slept with someone for the first time- my future husband. The divorce was finalized a few weeks before I turned 35: that was a hard birthday, with a lot of fears like yours – but also certainty that I’d rather be on my own than in a relationship that was hurting me. I’m 38 now and am, slowly, starting to think a truly loving romantic relationship could again be possible. It sounds trite, but try to be comfortable with yourself first, and then take what comes. You are amazing as you are, and nobody should ever make you feel otherwise.

  78. LLL says...

    I was in my last year of a broadcast journalism degree when I met my husband. I’d work until 8 p.m., then go to campus and edit my videos until 1 or 2 in the morning. My husband (at the time my new boyfriend) refused to let me be alone in the editing building late at night. He’d sleep on the filthy couch in the lobby until I finished my project, then wake up and take me home. If that’s not love, I don’t know what is.

  79. Allison says...

    I have not been the best partner for the last couple of years-two little kids and an intense career. And even so, my husband wins at romance. Sometimes when he goes to bed before me, he’ll set out my toothbrush with toothpaste on it. I’m busy being an ass and he still finds tiny ways to show me he loves me.

  80. Arrisa says...

    The first boy I ever fell in love with came to my uni from New Zealand on a soccer scholarship. In the first few weeks of knowing each other, he came knocking on my dorm door at about 11:30 PM (I was in bed already!) so ecstatic about the snow outside. Being from the Midwest, we’re used to snow in December but him being from New Zealand and never getting snow, he was so astonished by it! So he whisked me away from my roommates and told me to put my coat and shoes on. I figured we were going to the 7-Eleven down the street but he lead me to the soccer field across the street from the dorms. When we got there and saw the desolate yet beautiful white field, he smiled with the hugest grin on his face and it had to be the first piece of romance I’ve ever experienced: someone was letting me in. He was very child-like, full of wonder, making snow angels I’d made several times before as a kid, rolling up balls of snow and throwing them at me. It was beautiful to just watch him be and for him to share that moment with me. No tough-guy act, no ‘cocky athlete’ demeanor and he wasn’t trying anything slick. Just two kids playing in the snow together.

    • Kristy says...

      wow.

  81. Oneida says...

    The most romantic thing my husband has done for me is be kind when I’m unkind. And he does it often.

    Probably the other most romantic thing has been his willingness to work on himself and our marriage when things got hard. He was willing to risk being open and vulnerable with me, our counselor, and our friends, no matter what it cost him, so we could have truth rather than a truce. He made me want to be a better wife and I was/am so proud to do life with him.

    Thanks again CoJ for giving me an opportunity to reflect. XO

    • Gretch says...

      That is beautiful. Thank you for sharing!

  82. Natalie says...

    My boyfriend and I have independently had tough years (mental health struggles, job uncertainty) but the silver lining (?) of these struggles has been the amount of time we’ve gotten to spend together this year. I think his laughter and daily comedy are what keep me afloat. Yesterday, in a very comedic exchange he said “you’re my water-wings babe! My floaties!” When he says “just keep swimming!” through the tough moments, I know I’ve got my water-wings to help me and that’s my kind of romance.

  83. My husband bought a while set of writer thesaurus for me because I needed it for my job.

  84. Kathe says...

    It was a friend not a boyfriend but once I got stranded in a blizzard walking home from a grocery store. I called him and he literally ran to my rescue. Another time he was with my mother, who asked me if I was wearing makeup. I said no, and he said (too my mother), “isn’t she beautiful?” To me romance is when someone sees you the way you hope to be seen, beautiful and worthy of rescue.

    • K says...

      I’m thinking he was in love with you!

    • Sharon says...

      Yes, I second the other commenter. This man is in love with you! The most beautiful and selfless kind of love ;-)

  85. Hannah says...

    One night I was sitting on the couch, furiously typing away at thesis-draft-six on my laptop and my fiancé was next to me watching Seinfeld.
    At one point, he reached over and held onto my big toe. Like, just held the toe.
    After a while I asked “ummm, what’s with the toe holding?”

    And he said, “you tell me that you want more affection sometimes. But right now your hands are busy. So I’m holding your toe. Keep typing.”

    • I laughed out loud and then tears came to my eyes, reading this. 😊

    • jade lees says...

      Swoon! (and I don’t even like feet!)

    • Abby says...

      This is everything!
      Reminds me of a scene from one of the Winnie the Pooh Sequels (unfortunately not in the original version otherwise I would have 100% given that book to my boyfriend and underlined the dialogue already!):
      “Pooh” whispered Piglet.
      “Yes, Piglet?” said Pooh.
      “Oh, nothing,” said Piglet
      “I was just making sure of you.”

    • Hannah says...

      The best part of all is that he pretends to be this super rough around the edges guy but then does stuff like this, and I caught him researching personalised door mats for our new family the other day.
      He is the BEST “bonus Dad” to my five year old and refuses to use the term “step dad” because to quote him “I am ALL IN with both of you!”

  86. Tricia J says...

    From the time my husband and I started dating, and to this day, when our song comes on, we stop what we are doing and slow dance. We’ve gotten up from our dinner table at very nice restaurants to dance, we’ve danced in the grocery store and we even stopped on the side of the highway at 5:30am when we hit the road early for a road trip to dance in 20 degree weather. We will forever stop what we are doing when our song comes on.

    • Ashley F. says...

      What’s the song?!?

    • Tricia J says...

      It’s “The Gift” by 98 degrees. He has a major love affair with Christmas so as soon as we started dating he knew he wanted to marry me and always dreamed that we would either get engaged or married at Christmas time. So he picked that as our song. He proposed to me on a Christmas morning after we danced to our song and I was not expecting him to propose then. It was pretty special. He also had the song favorited on Pandora so he would randomly turn on his 98 degrees channel (throughout the entire year) and it would always come on, so we have danced a lot over the years.

  87. Rachel says...

    I love reading these comments! Like most folks, I don’t think romance is a big gesture, it’s the little things. Like when my husband wakes me up in the morning with ten kisses on my face, or brings me coffee in bed. I have been having trouble keeping my feet warm this winter and he ordered me a three pack of heated socks.

  88. Kiera Galway says...

    Married my sweet husband about three months ago, and his brand of romance is also made up of small everyday gestures…for example, he arrives at work by 6 am every morning and he’ll wake me by texting me a picture of my horoscope from the local paper. If I’m working from home, he’ll throw a blanket in the dryer so he can wrap me in its fresh, warm scent, and he’ll make me a little plate of cheese/charcuterie/crackers as a snack if I’m working late.
    One of the “big gestures” that stands out is our first valentine’s day together. He arranged for my parents to take me out to coffee, and I came home to a house plastered with print-outs of hilarious illustrated puns and memes, complete with a bouquet of flowers with a card reading “admit it – I’m the man of your memes”. The corniness of it all, the fact that he’d been saving images for months, and the forethought involved both cracked me up and melted my heart.

    • Tricia J says...

      What a sweet husband! Reminds me of my own!!

  89. Tara Ilsley says...

    2017 was a shit show, I lost a baby and a marriage. I am falling in love in this very moment. I could not even imagine my heart opening a year ago. I had allergy surgery two weeks ago and I sit here with black eyes and a full heart. He comes over every morning and puts on my nose tape and bandages on since I am terrible at it. I’m not use to be taken care of, and shit it feels so damn good. Yesterday, I built a snowman with his eight year old son and I cried on the way home. Happy tears. I’m so sappy right now I don’t even know who I am and you should see my netflix recently watched. FUCKING HALLMARK MOVIES.

    • Laura says...

      This makes me so happy, and makes me laugh. DRINK IT IN, SISTER.

    • Bobbi says...

      I think the best kind of love is the kind that makes you ask “who am i?” in the best possible way. Who am I, believing in love? Who am I, opening my heart again?

      The best kind of love is the kind that makes you discover another layer of yourself, or shed one altogether.

    • Julee says...

      I’m happy you’re able to find joy and romance and love right now. Accept it and enjoy it.

  90. Julee says...

    My husband, who wasn’t my fantasy “Prince Charming” or my “dream boat” or “my type”, has turned out to be the great love of my life.
    He’s cradled our three children’s newborn heads in his hands, rubbed my back in bed at night until I fall asleep… he didn’t know what to do that one time I lost our baby and had emergency surgery (fainting on your wife as she’s being wheeled into the OR is not support)… but he was there when I woke up after, and he took me home, put me to bed and fed me dinner from a spoon like I was a child.
    Romance can be quiet, ordinary things done with great devotion, as I’ve found out in my relationship.

    • Laura says...

      “Romance can be quiet, ordinary things done with great devotion”

      THIS.

    • Sarah says...

      “Romance can be quiet, ordinary things done with great devotion, as I’ve found out in my relationship.”

      Holding on to that quote forever.

  91. Jessie says...

    I just sitting and desperately shifting through my brain to retrieve a romantic moment with my husband. We have been married four years and together for eleven, meeting at 20. I kept thinking how all the “typical” romantic gestures we ever tried always flop from failed expectations and general human flaws. We eventually gave up planning any such events for each other. So I sat reassuring myself that it’s ok that I cannot think of one romantic gesture… And then my husband walks into our bedroom, silent while listening on a work conference call. He hands me a small circle of paper that he taped together with doodles he had drawn all over. He winked and walked back to his desk. On the back of it he wrote in Italian what translates to “my dear, you are my world, love your husband.” And he does not even speak Italian haha. How impossible for me to list the millions of these tiny gesture that have woven our beautiful love. Our simple mundain life together is the romance of poetry.

  92. The fourth Chakra, as you know, is the heart Chakra, or Anahata in Sanskrit. The energetic center for Love, forgiveness, and compassion. Anahata translates to “unstruck” — referring to unstruck sound. Meaning, I think, there is a part of your heart that is pure. It is unstruck by all the heartbreak, it is unstruck by all the highs and lows of romance. It is Love, and it is eternal. :)

    P.s. I recommend Thich Nhat Hanh’s book “How to Love.”

  93. Katia Bloom says...

    I used to think (though wouldn’t admit), that romance is the whole white night fantasy. After 12 years together, I know that true romance is showing up. Every day. And quietly fighting to make the two of you the best it can be.

    • Eme says...

      drops mic .. you know it sis!

  94. Mads says...

    On our second date, my significant other and I went hiking in the kind-of-chilly rain. When he picked me up, he had two large Yetis filled with hot water in the cupholders and a box of honey lavender tea. It was such a simple but thoughtful gesture, and it made me feel so cared for. Now, when I think about what I love most about him, I often think back to that date. I think it’s when I knew he’d be around for long haul.

  95. Carol says...

    Romance for me started with marrying a guitar player when I was 19, then 43 years of the romance of kids and work and cancer and laughing and having fun together. Every day is romance, eating spaghetti together, figuring out the budget, day after day.

  96. Veronica says...

    My boyfriend, now husband of 9 years and father to my amazing children, and I had only been dating for a few months when my beloved puppy swallowed 2 socks and needed an emergency surgery. It was so expensive and so stressful to think of money when all I could think about is my poor puppy having this huge surgery. When I got to the Vet’s office to pick up my dog the bill had been paid for by my “new boyfriend”. OUR dog is now 13 and the vet still tells me how he knew I would marry him.

    • Jenny says...

      I cried about this and I’m the biggest cynic ever.

  97. Anonymous says...

    A few years ago, I had an episiotomy during the birth of our son. As the swelling went down, one of the stitches went haywire and started poking me in *all the wrong places*. I was too drained to call the obgyn. With neither a word of horror (I was one week postpartum! It was our first! I had no idea what things were like down there!) nor even making a pass at me in a compromising position, my husband found the offending plastic thread and cut it until it stopped jabbing me. It was his ability to actually not look at me intimately, but instead to care for me as a person in pain, that felt deeply romantic.

    On a lighter note, sometimes when I’m too tired to dry my hair after a shower but too cold to go to bed with a wet head, he’ll dry my hair for me.

    • Anie says...

      Its beautiful to hear that this is out there in that big world. I am out of a decade long loveless marriage and your words give me hope

  98. I don’t think there is a fixed definition of romance. Some folks see/feel romance in tragedy and drama and others in stars and joy. I agree! I believe it’s not what it is but how it causes us to feel.
    My husband and I start every single day with a 17 second hug. No talking, or kissing just a warm loving hug. Why 17 seconds? My understanding of energy is that 17 seconds of pure attention to anything ( wanted or not) is the tipping point of momentum that attracts the next and the next etc. If one of us is too busy or has to get the dog walked or any of a million little things the other will say “WAIT, we haven’t done our 17 yet”. It has become a wonderful ritual to set the intention of the day. Feels romantic to me :)

  99. Isabel says...

    Sometimes I think that romance got ruined by Hollywood. Not so much the romantic comedies, which in an of themselves, are a self-contained genre. No. Romance has been ruined by the walking hand in hand, giggling, and frolicking to music montage. That has ruined romance.

    You know what I just saw that I found profoundly romantic? RBG. Yes, the documentary. If Ruth and Marty’s marriage was not romantic I don’t know what is. To me, that is romance: seeing how two people admire, root for, and truly, deeply, like each other. Did you see that, too? Wow. Now, that’s romance.

    So maybe romance is not dead. We just need to look for it elsewhere. It’s time for new role models. And RBG sounds like a fantastic one to me.

  100. Amy says...

    I got sick first and my husband refuses to touch me cuz he doesn’t want to get run down with a terrible
    Virus. He gets sick with the stomach bug in less than 24 hours (it might be my virus but I had color symptoms) but he manages to recover in a day and drags himself to work. Next our 3yo gets the same stomach bug and vomits in him twice. After all this, he still offers to stay up with the kid tonight even though I’m the one that’s been home all day and likely staying home tomorrow while He has to drag himself back to work. This is what love is.

  101. What struck me the most in this was your initial question. Why don’t we give this more thought instead of accepting the tropes delivered to us by romcoms? About three years ago, after adjusting to our first few months as new parents I grew frustrated at my husband for not being romantic. But what is romance after all? Why couldn’t it be the coffee in the morning after a sleepless night or the times he brought a hungry baby to me in bed to nurse because I was just too tired to get up. He’s continue to do the surprise flowers and other traditional gestures of romance, but I still find watching him cook a new recipe or play with our son just as romantic.

  102. Shannon Casey says...

    I went back to work when our daughter was one, and for a number of different reasons it was the most difficult year of my life. One day I came home from work and my husband (who had been doing everything he could to help) welcomed me at the door with our little girl and said, “We have a surprise for you in the backyard.” It was a red bicycle with a seat for our toddler. It was so unexpected and it made me so happy. To date, this is the most romantic thing that has ever happened to me!

  103. Monica says...

    My favorite flower is a daffodil. My husband (with the help of our two kids) planted over a hundred daffodil bulbs in our yard in the Autumn. The three of them didn’t say a word. In the Spring they started popping up everywhere in our yard – Cheerful reminders of their love.

    • Peg says...

      So lovely ❤️

    • Jessica says...

      That is beautiful!!!

    • Abby says...

      Love this so much!!

  104. Steph says...

    Romance is seeing the best in someone when they are having their worst moment.

    Marriage is a form of romance when it’s marriage with the right person.

  105. L8Blmr says...

    My husband is a scientist and not really plugged in to the notion of romance. But every year, without fail, he makes me something fun or silly for Valentines Day…a pop-up card out of construction paper, a necklace spelling “i love you” in foam letters, a snow globe made from a baby food jar, pipe cleaners and some glitter, a picture of us he painted on a travel pillow…these are just a few. Sometimes I find glitter on his clothes and I smile and wonder what he’s been up to. Plus, every year on my birthday, he bakes me the cake of my choice (and let’s me lick the spoon.!) Warms my heart just thinking about it.

  106. AJ says...

    Yey, Caroline! 🤗
    Oh I am a sucker for romance, despite a billion heartbreaks and an enduring knack for falling for the ‘wrong’ men, I just can’t help myself. The belief won’t be quelled – although I often now wish it would, as I’d save myself a lot of misery and time! Haha!

  107. Emily says...

    my husband is not a big lover or giver of flowers, but on our first married valentine’s day, i beat him home from work to find some spray roses in a copper coffee pot that i had loved in a thrift store the previous weekend with (and for some reason this is the part that kills me) a card with “thank you” printed on the front, under which he had written “for being my wife”. i burst into tears, alone in our kitchen.

    so, pretty much, that and every time he brings me coffee while i’m getting dressed in the morning.

  108. jade lees says...

    I am single and like Caroline am a skeptic. But for me – I think Romance is simply caring. Caring enough to think of someone, caring enough to be there when someone needs you/ wants you there and maybe even more importantly when they don’t know that they do. Caring enough to ask how someone is and be interested in the answer. Care enough to ask questions and listen. Whenever I am asked what I want in a partner that is the one- non-negotiable for me – someone who cares.

  109. em says...

    re: “And man, that place is full of couples. It often looks like one person was dragged there by the other”

    My husband could care less about art. But he does care about the way i smile at my favorite painting, or the funny thing I have to say about a sculpture. He likes experiencing my passions through my eyes and will marvel at the architecture along with me. He isn’t dragged there. He goes there to experience my joy and build a deeper understanding of his partner. If that isn’t romance, I don’t know what is

  110. Caitlin says...

    I believe in romance but not in a stereotypical way. It’s the little things like when my husband randomly brings home my favorite dessert or fixes my broken desk chair. It’s when he sees me in my crocs, oversized PJ’s (that are his) and tells me he thinks I am beautiful and I can tell he really means it.

  111. Hanna says...

    The minute we get in his car, if it’s below 50ºF outside, he will turn on my seat warmer as he starts the car. If he’s picking me up, it will already be on. I noticed he did this too when we drove my friend to the airport. Made my two sizes too small heart swell. That’s some serious romance.

  112. Ivy says...

    I thought I was getting a giant tax return last year and it didn’t happen. When it didn’t happen, I asked my financial advisor something-or-other/boyfriend what would have caused that lack of return to occur. He responded with curiosity, wondering what I was hoping to do with my extra cash flow. It had been a tough year, so I told him my real plans for it – I wanted to go to Bryce Canyon, UT and see the stars.

    My birthday was a month later, and when I opened my gift from him it was a sheet of paper with beautiful photos of Utah and a note that said, “I guess you wanted to go on this weird trip, so we’re going to go…”

    I know the actual language utilized doesn’t sound romantic, but if I hadn’t been sitting on a couch, my knees would have buckled. And within a month of that, we were officially “together.”

  113. Laura Bretheim says...

    When I was in college I somehow got head lice. It was an awful, embarrassing experience. And yet from that horrible ordeal I have a memory of my then-boyfriend, now husband, in my apartment bathroom slowly and meticulously combing nits out of my hair. It was a long process and he did several sessions of nit-combing with me. He never made me feel gross or ashamed about it. While head lice are not traditionally associated with romance (or untraditionally?) I will always remember how tender and sweet he was to me in that vulnerable moment. We’ve been married over six years now and have a toddler son and a baby sister on the way!

    • Amelia says...

      My kids got lice this summer at camp and then our whole family got it. I was embarrassed too and then annoyed at myself for being embarrassed so I decided to announce it to everyone I could possibly think of, until it stopped being embarrassing. I told everyone at work, everyone at my other kid’s daycare – EVERYONE. And no one cared or judged me. It ended up having the silver lining of reminding me that people are pretty nice.

  114. Steph Gilman says...

    “There’s someone staring at you in personal growth.” That photo and that line from that photo.

  115. Laura says...

    Oh, and the most romantic thing? I’ve had boys sing songs outside my window, build me bookshelves, write (and publish!) poems, travel across the Atlantic, but the most romantic thing was the way my ex-boyfriend used to adjust the seat on my bike share, every single time, without me needing to ask, no matter the mood or circumstance. The steady constancy of that felt so beautiful to me.

  116. Susan says...

    My then friend, now husband, drove 8 hours overnight to find out if I would accept his ‘proposal’ of officially dating and becoming his girlfriend. Fast forward 25 years: he surprised me with a trip back to England to visit people and places I hadn’t seen in 30 years,(when I went to school there), because he knew how much it meant to me. He’s not a touchy-feely guy on a daily basis, but he has shown his love in romantic , wonderful ways through the years.

  117. Jennifer says...

    I was in a relationship for 8 years with a guy who was mostly emotionally unavailable and not cut out to be a boyfriend. But despite that, or maybe because of it, I often remember this one story: we were on vacation at a cottage by a large lake. I wanted to go wind surfing. I was not an experienced or adept windsurfer, and my boyfriend warned me that I would probably get far out into the lake and be unable to get back because of the wind direction. I ignored him and set out, only to find myself stuck in the middle of the lake, as he predicted. I dropped the sail to the side and sat down on the board, paddling ineffectively back towards shore. Without a word of “I told you so”, my boyfriend kayaked out to me with a spare paddle, handed it to me gently, then silently paddled back to the dock. I paddled myself back and he helped me out of the lake and we never spoke of it again. Sometimes romance is not having to be right, even when you’re definitely right.

  118. Laura says...

    I literally said these words today! What IS romance?? I don’t know the answer, but I feel like some things — maybe the things that matter most — defy definition. When I want to believe in something, and I’m not sure I do, or even if ever I could, I tell myself that I’m going to try my best to be open to believing it, to surrender to the possibility of it, and sometimes, it happens. I have no clue what romance is, if it’s a good thing or a dangerous thing (or both!), but I finally admitted to myself that I am a romantic, and that that’s OK. “I believe in romance so much that I’m afraid to let it run amok.” That resonates so deeply & feels so true to me. Thanks for this post!

  119. Michelle says...

    Yes to romance! It is the every day things, like both getting excited when you unexpectedly run into each other in the parking lot; him finding it cute that I jump up and down in excitement over his cooking; realizing that he saved all the cards I gave him nine years ago at the beginning of our relationship and he says, “you stopped giving me cards so I don’t have anything recent” in a sad voice. Romance is caring more about the other person and their happiness than you do about your own, and showing them that in big or small ways every chance you can.

  120. Emma says...

    this is so completely disgusting that I cringe sharing it… but in the depths of some of my biggest fights with my husband, when we’re hashing out how he was disrespectful here and I was too harsh there, I have to completely pin down the immense urge to smile, laugh and kiss his face, because even in these dark moments, he is still so kind and we are still able to talk to each other with love and compassion. It makes me proud of us, what we are together and like I’ve found “it”.

    I think that’s part of the problem with romance, everyone’s version of “it” is different, so it takes a while to figure out what your particular “it” even looks like. I wish everyone luck in their search for “it”, be it romantic, platonic, familial, animal <3

    • Diana K. says...

      haha, It is gross but I love this.

    • Sharon says...

      This is beautiful… this is my goal. To have empathy and love in those especially frustrating moments. You SHOULD be so proud!

  121. Carrie says...

    I’m not sure if it was romance, but the day my parents divorced my husband quietly wrapped his arms around me and let me soak his chest with my tears. Between heaving sobs, I spoke of all my most cherished memories, a family of 6, there are so many. Wondering how my dad could throw all of that away. Not a word uttered from my husband. He just knew his safe presence was all I needed. I don’t know….to have someone know me so well, and give me exactly what I needed in that moment…it felt like true love. I will never forget it.

  122. Laura says...

    My husband is not one of huge gestures, even though (I think) I wish he were. But after my mastectomy, he gently emptied my drains twice a day for two weeks, something I was too squeamish to do.

  123. Ruoxi Cao says...

    ”We need a witness to our lives. There’s a billion people on the planet, what does any one life really mean? But in a marriage, you’re promising to care about everything. The good things, the bad things, the terrible things, the mundane things, all of it, all of the time, every day. You’re saying ‘Your life will not go unnoticed because I will notice it. Your life will not go unwitnessed because I will be your witness’.”

    Yes, Susan.

  124. M says...

    My heart was shattered last night after nineteen years of commitment (from me) and not (from him.) Today as I was driving to work I wondered if there really is such a thing as romance or being loved in my future. I’m reading all these comments hoping there might be.

    • C says...

      Oh M, I’m so sorry. There is absolutely romance and being loved in your future. In the meantime, please think of the other people around you (not least of which, YOURSELF) who love you immeasurably. If you’re reading these comments, take inspiration from the romance in these comments and apply them to your own self-love. Sending you the biggest hug.

    • Claire says...

      Oh M, that’s so heartbreaking. A week ago my boyfriend broke up with me after revealing that, while he knew I loved him, his response had become mechanical and he wasn’t emotionally available. And that spending time with me felt draining to him, despite recognizing that he had few friends/family in his life. It was crushing, all the more so because he couldn’t articulate what he wanted and it felt like he was asking me to break up with him (the last thing I wanted). I’m so sorry you’re going through this, too.

  125. JO says...

    I’m not overly romantic and my husband has never been an over the top romantic, but he always, since our first date ten years ago, answers my calls or texts either immediately or as soon as humanly possible. He’s one of the “coolest” guys I know, but he’s never once kept me hanging or worrying.

    And the way he gazes at our children and then looks at me like, “can you believe it.” Those things feel romantic to me :).

    • Claire says...

      Wow, that sounds wonderful, Jo! It’s the smallest things that mean so much.

  126. Still in love says...

    The most romantic thing that happened to me – my husband of 16 years now when we were still in college offered me a horse back ride with him on a beautiful white horse after some great dancing in a night club and him petting my hair while explaining the сonstellations at the dark clear sky. I am sure he invented some of them, but who cares – I don’t)).

  127. Sonja says...

    When I was getting ready to push in labor the nurse said, “Are you ok?!” with intense urgency. I looked up in amusement/confusion when I followed her eye line to my sheet white husband. They pumped him full of apple juice and I started pushing our son out while my husband looked at me in sheer terror. He still tells me, three years later, that he’s never been more scared than he was in that moment. The first time he said it I told him the baby was totally fine, everything was going great, I was doing great, we were in a hospital – in the US – in a major city! He replied with, “Any time you hurt, I hurt and I couldn’t bear it.” Swoon. The longevity of a relationship has nothing to do with romantic gestures and everything to do with devotion – that’s where the married for fifty years, decades long inside jokes, grandkids talking about how in love they were romance comes from.

  128. My husband does laundry and makes me coffee. NOTHING more romantic than that.

    • meg says...

      mine too. it’s the best. especially the coffee.

  129. Every night for ten years, right before we fall asleep my husband say “Will you marry me?”. And I say “yes.”

    • Laura says...

      This is lovely! I have a frequent nagging in my head that I want to be married to my husband. I have to remind myself “you two are married.” My brain wants what it already has and it’s wonderful. I feel like it’s the same for your husband. <3

    • Ivy says...

      That is absolutely beautiful.

    • Jessie says...

      Yes, my husband and I say this too each other all the time too!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      That’s so beautiful, Caroline!

    • Laura says...

      This is so beautiful!!! <3 I hope I find that kind of love one day.

    • Brooke says...

      Adorable <333

  130. Kate says...

    I am a romance skeptic too, but after starting a new job in the same city as my husband (we just got married 2 weeks ago!) we are able to commute together and I find myself smugly swooning when he finds me on the train and slides into the seat next to me. He gets on two stops after me on our way home and we talk about our days and think about what we’ll have for dinner. I spend my last few minutes at work putting on lipstick and fluffing my hair in anticipation. It’s the little things, I tell you.

    • Erin says...

      This is like a scene from a movie!!

  131. Daniella says...

    This made me laugh so much. <3 to coffee lovers who love.

  132. Una says...

    This happened a few years ago, but was obviously deeply affecting as I immediately thought of this story! My boyfriend at the time was talking on the phone with his dad and was in the process of telling him about the new (terribly disappointing) co-worker I had acquired that week and at one point he said, referring to this situation, “We are so frustrated.” We. We. It utterly melted my heart. (Needless to say, I married him.)

    • kristy says...

      that. is so cute.

  133. Kerri says...

    I recently found dozens of emails sent between me and my husband at the very beginning of our marriage (almost 12 years ago!). They were so cute and sweetly romantic and that night while lying next to him in bed I asked him if he missed that. He said “not at all, what we have now is the good stuff.” And it’s so true! Growing up together, knowing one another’s life story, witnessing raw and ugly emotions and choosing to love and serve one another even when your spouse isn’t acting “lovable” is so much more romantic than I could have ever imagined. And it shows up in the tiniest moments, like when you walk through the door and you look down to see your husband has left your slippers for you to change into. AND he’s folding laundry. ❤️

    • Rima says...

      Aaah this got me all misty eyed. So true.

  134. Megan says...

    One time I was trying to log in to our credit card account online and I couldn’t get logged in because he’d set up all the passwords. One of the security questions was “Who is your best friend?” After trying EVERY GUY HE’D EVER BEEN A GROOMSMAN FOR IN THE HISTORY OF WEDDINGS, I found myself unreasonably annoyed and shot him a text that said FOR THE LOVE OF GOD WHO IS YOUR BEST FRIEND. Ten seconds my phone buzzed with the exact answer I needed. “Megan.” (Me.) Well played, husband. Well. Played.

    • Kile says...

      This is adorable.

    • This is beyond knock-your-socks-off cute! Well played, indeed!!

    • Melanie says...

      That’s the best 🌹

    • Erin says...

      Oh the sweetness!

    • JO says...

      This is the cutest thing I’ve ever heard.

    • rachel says...

      This is romance!

    • Abby says...

      oh gosh, how wonderful is this Story?

    • Hannah @ AndThenWeTried says...

      Why am I tearing up at my desk right now? So, so sweet.

    • Sarah says...

      AWWWW!

  135. Kate Sullivan says...

    Caroline! You are such a fabulous writer and I love this post so much. I lost the first love of my life when I was 27 to suicide. I never thought that I would love again. I didn’t speak for awhile and then I got a puppy and THAT was it’s own form of adorable best-friend romance. I also threw myself into directing and learned a new skill which made my brain sizzle and spark. I then moved myself across the country – running from my past and trying to create a new future. Romance was trailing me – my heart was just not quite ready to accept it yet. In NYC I met my now FIANCE – an amazing writer who believes in romance. So much in fact, that I proposed to her 2 weeks ago on a park bench in Brooklyn where we shared many a chaste kiss! Her favorite movie is When Harry Met Sally (!!) so naturally, I recited Harry’s final speech to Sally but changed the words to fit her and our relationship. The evening was so magical and filled with so much love and my heart, which had been so very broken, has over the course of 8 years, somehow healed. And romance had everytjing to do with it. <3

    • Adrienne says...

      How wonderful!
      This sounds like a beautiful movie I would love to see… and congratulations on your engagement ❤️

  136. Lori says...

    I am a cynic, not always but after a hard messy divorce I became one. Hands down the most romantic thing ever was the man I am currently dating told me to enter something in particular in his phone for him – he said to enter it with my contact information. There when I opened my contact in his phone was every fact about me…my birthdate, my favorite drink at every coffee shop in town, the date of my first marriage, the date my divorce was finalized, the date I lost my dad, the code for the door to my house, my vehicle, important dates in our relationship it was all attached to the notes in my contact. I became a little less cynical that day.

    • Kristiana says...

      Love this.

  137. Sarah says...

    When my fiancé (and helicopter pilot) took me and a group of my family up for a sightseeing flight last week, my sister’s boyfriend remarked on the romance of watching someone you love do something they love. I thought that was an incredibly delicious insight, and how true.

  138. Jen says...

    My husband is the bread winner at the moment, but also Mr. House Husband. He is a much more thorough cleaner than I am, and way more neurotic.

    Nothing says romance like a clean home, with notes saying “Please don’t destroy the kitchen” next to my morning coffee.

    Love/romance changes as the years go on. You’ll be surprised how it evolves as the years go on.

    – from your fellow cynic

  139. Yesterday was my 7th wedding anniversary (!!) and I actually wrote on Instagram about this very thing! My concept of romance has changed so much as I’ve gotten older and moved through different life stages. In high school, it was my first boyfriend and daydreaming about our future to the soundtrack of the Dixie Chicks’ “Cowboy Take Me Away.” In college and my early twenties, it was an elusive ideal that I wasn’t sure would ever materialize. When I met my husband in my late twenties, we swept each other off our feet and were married in less than a year, but guess what? The traditional sort of romance wore off real quick (I’m talking by the end of our honeymoon in Kauai). But something else replaced it. I agree with your friend about the importance (and romance) of someone being a witness to your life. Of sticking together. Creating a family together. Raising a child together. As Frederick Buechner says, “If they’re lucky, even after the first passion passes, they still have a kindness and a patience to depend on, a chance to be patient and kind. There is still someone to get through the night with, to wake into the new day beside.”

    Here’s my post from yesterday! https://www.instagram.com/p/BrOrO9zAQgo/

  140. Alba says...

    In the hardest part of my quite painful non-epidural labor, when I thought I couldn’t handle it anymore, my husband silently put a picture of my mum and me as a baby in front of my sweating head and told me: you are doing this, you are strong… I appreciated that gesture much more than any massage, flower bouquet or secret date we have ever had. Romance is also this. :)

  141. Sarah says...

    Years ago while living in Tokyo, the boy that I was dating gave me a simple box for my birthday. Intrigued, I opened it to find what looked like hundreds of paper origami cranes. The total number of paper cranes equaled the number of days we had known each other. He nudged me to look closer and I found folded within each crane a tiny folded note that contained a sweet moment we had together. One said, ‘the way your eyes widened at the sight of that huge purple cake’ while another said, ‘your belly laugh that time eating sandwiches.’ I was amazed! Even more so at the thought of his huge hands and normally clumsy fingers folding each tiny crane. I seriously think heart emojis came out of my eyes that night. Ah the memories….

    • Des says...

      I think I just died while reading this. Seriously, that is ROMANTIC. OMG!

    • Jeanne says...

      I feel like I just saw a clip from the most romantic movie in the world. That is just beautiful. Do you still have it??

  142. Denise says...

    O yeah, romance is 100% a product sold by your television. Who is cynical?

  143. Julia says...

    “Trader Joe’s foodstuffs” sums up single life. In the about me section on Bumble it asks where you will most likely be found after work- my first and only response was” At spin class and/or in most cases perusing the cheese aisle at Trader Joe’s”.

    • Sarah says...

      As someone who went to spin last night, and is heading to Trader Joe’s tonight for some Unexpected Cheddar, this really spoke to me :)

    • Sarah – I’m guessing that “Unexpected Cheddar” refers to a specific brand, but at first read I thought that that was just what you called spontaneous cheese purchases and found it so adorable haha

  144. Ruci says...

    I think about this all of the time! I am 21 and was in a long-term relationship for 3 years, until I turned 19. When we got together, it felt like a confirmation of my suspicion and hope that there was mind-blowing love in the world. The break-up was very painful for me and I had been depressed throughout my life but this was mind-blowing depression and I tried very hard to believe that there would be more mind-blowing love in store for me. I don’t think of romance, as much as I think of love. And since the break-up, I have fallen so deeply in love with being a person in this world. I sometimes see a house on the street or a child waving at me and feel overcome with gratitude at the sheer bliss of being alive. There’s a wonderful Yeah Yeah Yeah’s song called “Wedding Song” with this line: “some kind of violent bliss/led me to love like this”. Sometimes I think of that “love” as a person, as a future person that I will meet. And sometimes I think of that “love” as a verb, as the ability to love in the way that I can.

    • caroline says...

      well that’s beautiful..

  145. BFF says...

    Most romantic comment: “I like the way you express yourself.”
    Most romantic gesture: reading an entire draft of my novel aloud to me so I could hear which sentences needed to be cut (and doodling scissors in the margin as needed)

    It’s alive (mwahaha)! Dive on in.

  146. Samantha says...

    This past Valentine’s Day, my boyfriend (of less than 6 months at this point) made me homemade cannolis, like made the shells from scratch and everything. Cannolis are my FAVORITE dessert and this is a fact I had only mentioned once or twice. He also gave me a box of chocolate fingers, because we watched Sons of Anarchy together when we first started dating. (it makes sense if you’ve seen the show)
    It was so clear that he put so much thought and time and love and attention into the day- is there anything more romantic than that?!

  147. CaraM says...

    I always thought I was a romantic, but it turns out my husband is a huge closet romantic – the real romantic in the relationship. He asked me out for a first date on Valentine’s Day (skeptical me thought it was awkward and refused); luckily we rescheduled to another day. The night before we were married, my husband handed me a box. In it was every scrap of paper, ticket stub, menu, note or piece of memorabilia that occurred over the course of our seven year relationship. Things I completely forgot about. It brought tears to my eyes.

    Now as a parent of an 18 month old, romance looks a bit different. I feel like you fall in love with your partner all over again when they interact with your child. Our daughter recently stayed over for the weekend at my parent’s house. On Saturday, after the lights turned out, my husband squeezed my hand in bed and whispered, “I miss our little Remy. I just really want to hug her and tell her I love her.” It melted my heart in an entirely new way.

  148. My husband replied with that viral divorce lawyer article that I sent him last week with a simple “You’re my Subaru.” It’s up there with when on The Good Place Eleanor tells Chidi that she felt like she was dropped in a cave and he was her flashlight for me in terms of most romantic thing anyone has ever said to me. <3

  149. Julie V says...

    On a random Tuesday of a busy week, I get home from work plop down at kitchen table, not wanting to move ever again. My boyfriend got home a little while later, and with a sly smile handed me a cup of hot chocolate from my favorite chocolate shop. – it’s the small things that romance is made of.

  150. Jorden says...

    My husband brings me coffee in bed every morning. I’m a cynic, too, but I sure love that coffee.

    • Erin says...

      this is romance, for sure