Romance takes effort.
In the modern era of Tinder and “Netflix and Chill,” suddenly, lovers have become accessible, fast, cheap, and easy. But “fast love,” like fast food, banks on depravity and has its short-comings. Notably, a lack of excitement, commitment, capacity for deep affection, safety, and romance.
To each our own standards, but what are we perpetuating if we keep going for the lowest common denominator? I want more. I want a love that feels good. I want a love that feeds and nourishes my soul. I want a love that is whole and that is real. Why shouldn’t we all have that?
Authentic love is inspiring, profound, and can often bring us to a heightened experience of reality. In comes a refreshing suite of gestures from gentlemen who have put in the effort to romance. I’m citing them here to inspire this behaviour and raise the bar.
I’m tired of hearing complaints on loop from those whose partners just aren’t putting in the effort. The common saying, “You don’t know what you have until you don’t have it anymore” is true. Romance takes work. If it’s not working, respect your worth enough to leave. Simple, but not easy. Just remember, you’re worth the effort.
I. Intimacy by design
Establishing intimacy is step one, because quiet date spots are rare in New York. Bars, restaurants, even the patios and parks can be too loud. It’s awful when you have to ask your date to repeat what’s said three times or more. There are several ways around this—you can directly ask the establishment to turn the music down a bit, or, in many places, there are private rooms and booths that are closed off from the rowdier crowds.
It’s not impossible to get in to these closed off spaces—if asking doesn’t work, then you have to be smarter. Charming your way through is possible—and encouraged, because there’s nothing to lose, and when it works, the charmer feels like a hero and the charmed feels like a queen.
This has been tried and true on many occasions, but the one that really stood out from the rest was when a date had asked for a private word with the manager when we were told that the private half of the restaurant was closed off. He didn’t give up when we were told by the wait staff that we couldn’t be there. Instead, he pulled management aside, and asked for the private space because “she’s kind of recognizable, and would prefer not to be bothered by others.”
The kicker? It worked. After moments of exchanges between management and staff, we were seated in prime real estate, with super attentive servers the entire time.
Sadly, social treatment is not equal; there is power in discretion. Now you know the secret. Go use it!
II. The element of surprise and a sense of adventure
“Bring your passport,” he said. That was one of the dates I’ll never forget. I was in undergrad at the time, while he had already graduated and relocated to a bigger city. On a free Friday, he had arranged for a secret wine tasting and a concert—essentially, the perfect date. All I had to do was drive three hours to reach him, and all I knew at the time was that we were attending a concert, so I could effectively leave my sailing gear at home. The morning as I was packing to leave, a text came through that read, “bring your passport.” Nothing more.
Really? I suppose with the weekend in sight, we could have taken a short-haul flight for a quick getaway. But more than anything, the mystery and intrigue took over my mind, and being someone who’s ready to jet set any time, I was hooked. I was excited. To get into someone’s head is a successful seduction. The date had already began, with foreplay.
III. Be the chef
Making a special meal from scratch is incredibly sexy. Design and delivery are two ways to up the game in this area, because mood is everything. Flowers and candlelight are starters, but what if you can do more? You can always do more.
While I was studying abroad, with a free weekend, I was taken to a nearby town, where he completely took over the kitchen of the BnB we lodged at. My chef (boy)friend (we didn’t have labels) knew the owners of the BnB, and had planned this dining experience meticulously in advance, with impromptu menus working with whatever we had and whatever had been in season. Six degrees of separation seem to be condensed to three with the help of social networks. I’m sure there are many creative ways of delivering a special meal—location and setting can work wonders. Gardens, riverside, rooftop are all great options for the summertime.
You must know someone with a great rooftop. Go!
IV. Acknowledgement in public
You want to be low-key, I get it. A lot of romances start off this way, because the public and peer pressures of the digital world today can ruin a good thing too viciously too soon. I’m not championing couple-selfies, though if that’s your thing, power to you, but acknowledgement in the form of special introductions and recognition can keep the buzz going all day long.
This comes down to our basic desire for meaning and fulfillment—and many of us look to our relationships for this. We are conditioned to forge meaning through association and attachment. Perhaps you’ll forget someone’s name at a party, but you’ll always remember them as “so and so’s boyfriend/brother/aunt/child/neighbor.” So introduce your date properly—if he/she is special, then say so, don’t make others guess and your date wonder if you’re trying to keep things under the table.
I once left a guy (who never introduced me properly) for another purely because the other guy said “I love you” on stage after performing a concert. Sharp contrasts, I know, but we all want to feel special, and the other guy made it happen. Why waste time on people who don’t have the courage to appreciate you?
V. Send flowers
Not just random flowers—her favourite flowers. Find out and write it down. Send them to her house, to her work, to her opening night show, to whatever special occasion she has going on, or not going on, because why not? Make a bouquet with wild flowers from the mountains and fields—never pass up on an opportunity. At the end of a first date, as we were saying our goodbyes, he pulled out a single long stem rose that was hidden inside his jacket the whole time.
Spoil and be spoiled. Why not?
VI. Specificity is key
Find out what her preferences are and zero in on all of them. What does she like? What doesn’t she like? I once dated a man who took all his dates to the same handful of establishments he frequented—all happened to be in his neighborhood, so he didn’t even have to go far. Lame. I was insulted and disgusted when I found out that he was proposing the same dates to different women.
Romance isn’t one-size-fits-all. Don’t just take her to the spots you enjoy—explore uncharted territory together. Check things off her list, as well. Don’t be lazy. Put in the effort, plan something according to her interests. Generality is dull, familiarity can become tiring, yet novelty, mystery, intrigue, and adventure are all elements that fan the romantic fire.
VII. Daily Questions
This is about accountability, progress, and checking in. Romance doesn’t live in a vacuum. How do we make sure it’s growing? That it’s developing in the desired direction? That we are the best partners that we could be? Executive coach Marshall Goldsmith proposed in his book, Triggers: Creating Behaviour that Lasts, Becoming the Person You Want To Be, the key concept of asking ourselves active questions on a daily basis.
The answers to these questions will give us valuable feedback that we could use to become better partners. This is totally applicable in the romantic arena, where scores aren’t usually monitored or kept track of. Some questions as a starting point: Did I try my best today to make my partner happy? Was I attentive enough today? Did I make her/him feel special today? Did I remember to listen? Did I do something special for her/him today? Did I say something nice to her/him today? Is there anything I could do more? Did I love the way I want to be loved?
The busyness of life and the familiarity of routine can make romance an ephemeral thing. The concept of daily questions puts effort on the line—and while we cannot control the outcomes of many things, we can control our intentions, our efforts, and that counts for a heck of a lot.
This is scary because it’s more naked than being naked. “Fast love” can be intense, but often shallow, devoid of meaning, leaving you lonelier than being alone. How many of us have truly felt the height of romance through detached sex? On an emotional level, it’s almost impossible, because we are more than animals. Lust is a primitive instinct, but lasting romance is a slow dance with the soul. You can’t soul-f*ck the way you flesh-f*ck. You just can’t. True romance is founded upon trust and integrity. Authentic love necessitates full-disclosure. Of your past, of your fears, of your vulnerabilities, of your desires, of your dreams, of your fantasies, of the rawest parts of you that you don’t share with anyone else.
Scary, of course, but full-disclosure is oxygen.
Author: Xiren Wang
Image: Flickr/Virginia State Parks
Editor: Travis May