She looked fabulous that night. As we sat in the concert hall, we didn’t hold hands, though it felt as if some magnetic force were attracting them to each other. Our lips never locked, though it felt as if her whole being was flirting with me. It was one of our first dates, though we weren’t officially dating, just getting to know each other.
As we left the concert that night, her high heel snapped, so I took her arm in mine, and together we strolled to our next destination, a party with friends. When we arrived, I took Amber’s hand and we joined the dancing. I looked into her shimmering eyes, and it felt as if I was really seeing her for the first time. She looked happy and free—as if she had something to tell me.
“Hey, how would you like to get a bite to eat yet tonight?” I suggested after the dancing was over. It was already past midnight, but she agreed. And so our final stop on this three-part date night was Wendy’s.
We had been intentionally going on dates for about two months now, though I was still auditioning to win her trust. She was still getting over the heartbreak of her last relationship, and she had told me that she needed some time to know me better before dating me. I respected that, but it also made me nervous. And sometimes I had the suspicion that I was falling flat on my face. (In her journal about a month before, Amber confided that her feelings for me were still trying to catch up with my feelings for her.)
But the past few weeks, something seemed to be clicking with us. She met my parents on a date, and saw me in a new light. The next Sunday, we split a dish of Chinese take-out and talked happily as snow fell outside.
By the time of our big date night, she was “totally enamored” by me (as she wrote in her journal). And at the end of that magical evening, I took her hand and asked if she would give me the honor of dating her. “You read my mind,” she told me, explaining that she had been hoping I would ask her to be my girlfriend that night.
That night at Wendy’s, something special happened between us. We were starting to read each other’s minds, we were starting to really see each other. It was one of the most romantic dates we’ve ever had. And this happened even though our lips never locked and we were not naked with each other that night. We were winning each other over, slowly—and very flirtatiously.
What is romance?
Romance is a look of love that says, “I see you.” It’s the fruit of seeing the person as someone to discover and appreciate and know, rather than a body to exploit. Sometimes it’s a rush of head-over-heels-in-love feelings that makes you want to sacrifice everything for your beloved. “I’ll do anything for you,” is what so many lovers have said. “I’ll never let you go,” they say to each other, and he means it, she swears it.
Romance is a promise of love that says, “I’ll always see you.” The look of love that we shared that night at Wendy’s birthed a beautiful and passionate intimacy that, over time, drew us to the wedding altar and to be completely naked with each other. To share all of our selves with each other, body and soul.
And romance is an action of love that repeats, “I see you, and I’ll always see you.” Amber found out last week that she has gestational diabetes. It could be worse, but it’s not the news we were hoping for. After she picked up the things from the pharmacy that she needed to check her blood sugar, we sat on our bed together, reading the instructions and trying to figure out how to get a drop of blood and get the little machine to beep with her blood sugar reading.
Romance is reminding my wife two hours after she ate to check her blood sugar and record it in the little booklet they give you. At night in bed, it’s renewing our marriage vows with our bodies: it’s reconnecting with each other through sex, acting out our promise that we’ll always see each other, we’ll always love each other, in gestational diabetes and in good health, until death do us part. In our old age, we’ll hold hands and enjoy our grandkids and help with each other’s ailments. Romance is cultivating the love that took root on those early dates, and enjoying the miracle of growth for years and years on end.
Romance is seeing, promising, and acting—and repeating that three-part drama for a lifetime with your beloved. If romance were only about the initial sparky feelings that I felt on those first dates, romance wouldn’t be very romantic. If romance were only about loving a person in good times, romance wouldn’t last very long. But romance is supposed to be romantic and it’s meant to last—and it’s even deeper and better than when you first wade in.