NotMSP – "I don’t really do romance."

I wrote this mostly to get it out of my head and though it has nothing to do with MSP, I’m going to post it anyway because it’s been received well so far.

With Valentine’s Day fast approaching, I am once again thinking about romantic gestures. Mostly, I’m thinking about not letting my fantasy hopes run away with me. You see, I’m kind of hopeless. I wish I could say “Oh, V-Day is stupid. It’s a marketing gimmick. Blah blah blah.” But I can’t.

It’s true, I love this shit. I want the flowers, candies, and cards. I want it all. To be fair, my love language is gifts, so this is to be expected. And so every year, this stupid holiday makes me think about all of these things, and then focus on not expecting any of them.
Almost every man I’ve ever dated has said “I’m not really good at romance.” To be fair, all of them have had plenty of other good qualities, and since I feel silly over wanting these things I usually try to make it seem like I don’t care. My current boyfriend does an AMAZING job of making me feel loved every day of the year, and that truly is more important to me than any holiday or gesture.
That said, as I get older and more self-aware, I have spent some time thinking about why I feel bad for wanting these things and whether or not I should accept the excuse of “I’m not really good at romance.”
Let’s start with the feeling bad. We have a huge segment of society telling us there’s only one way to be in love. I call it the Disney Princess model because of all the happily ever afters, but it exists in TV, movies, books, greeting cards, advertisements, etc etc. Two people meet, date, fall in love, get married, and live happily ever after. It’s a pervasive image.
My life doesn’t match that model. I have a boyfriend and he has a wife. His wife has a boyfriend who has a wife and another girlfriend. And so on and so forth. Because of anti-polygamy laws in America, my relationship escalator stops at dating. Also, we’re not just two people trying to build a life – we’re a near endless chain of people trying to coexist. Every date depends on three or more schedules. Every commitment affects a variety of lives.
Okay, so we have the relationship model, and we have my life. And here’s the thing, people who are in untraditional relationships also seem to have untraditional relationship values. I think that Valentine’s Day, greeting cards, and roses tend to reek of outdated traditions. And I’m okay with that, but many people around me aren’t. So I try to act like I don’t care when really, I care a lot. Yeah, that’s really more about me than the holiday – but I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in my feelings.
So that’s me. Now let’s talk about the statement “I’m not really good at romance.”
At its heart, this declaration is really an excuse. “I’m not good at this so I’m not going to try.” Maybe that seems a bit harsh, but surely romance can be a learned skill. Sure, it’s easier if these things pop into your mind without lots of extra thought – but so is changing your diet, or going to the gym. Romance can be a learned skill and eventually even a habit, just like going to the gym.
Sure, Valentine’s Day is when this topic comes to a head, but for someone like me, with a gift love language, it really does apply year-round. A few years ago I tried to explain to someone who small romantic gestures matter to me by way of an analogy. “Think of a relationship as a car. If you take care of the small maintenance like oil changes and tire pressure, you can avoid a lot of major issues.” In other words, do small things along the way and you might avoid a fight or feeling like you have to make a big apology gesture.
So how does someone learn to be romantic? The same way you learn anything – time and effort.
Pay Attention:
Watch for cues from your partner. Is he the type to point out an upcoming anniversary weeks in advance? That’s a good clue that the anniversary is important to him and he wants it to be recognized. Does she get sentimental about romantic gestures in shows or movies? Next time you two are watching Netflix together, sneak a peek at the list things recently watched or Netflix recommendations. Let their algorithm do some of the work for you! Does he point out little things when you’re out and about or say “I wish someone would do that for me?” These are all clues. Listen closely!
Do Some Research:
Figure out your partner’s love language, this will give you an idea of what sort of romantic gesture might connect best with your partner. Keep a mental list (or Google doc) as you learn your partner’s likes and dislikes. Google. It might sound dumb, but there are a million lists and sites out there with ideas.
Ask For Help:
In a perfect world, you and your partner have the sort of relationship that involves lots of honest communication. Admit that this isn’t your strong suit and ask for help. I am generally more than happy to give ideas to my partner – as long as their goal is to learn. Eventually I want to stop having to prompt and have the surprise factor kick in. If you want to jump straight to surprise, maybe talk to a mutual friend and see if they have any ideas for you.
I think the hardest part of this learnable skill is to *just do it.* Maybe to get started, you have to set yourself a schedule prompt every so often, reminding you to do something sweet. That plus paying attention to your partner’s cues will get you off to a great start. Eventually, you’ll probably start seeing things here and there that prompt the idea naturally. She had a tough day at work? Send a quick email detailing a few reasons why you love her. He is stuck home feeling ill? Drop off some crackers and aspirin.
Contrary to how it must sound, this post isn’t saying you have to constantly buy gifts or spend lots of money, it’s to encourage small gestures that say things like:
  • “I was thinking about you.”
  • “This made me think of you.”
  • “I thought you would like this.”
  • “I wanted to tell you this.”
All of these things can be accomplished by a homemade card or even a surprise email/text message.
That said, I won’t lie, I have a life long dream of receiving a beautiful bouquet of flowers at work. But coming home to a card, treat, or grocery store bouquet would also be amazing.
If people can learn to speak a foreign language, or climb cliffs, or sail boats – we can learn how to express love in new ways. There are a million skills out there that you “aren’t really good at” until you practice, this is just one more!

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