When you picture a romantic Valentine’s Day dinner, I bet you’re envisioning soft music, candlelight, flowers, and more likely than not, a bottle of wine with two glasses clinking as you gaze into your lover’s eyes.
This scenario seems like the perfect lead up to a night of intimacy and passion.
There was a time where I, too, believed the lies that alcohol and the clever marketers behind it were selling to me. My husband and I partook in countless nights where wine was the foreplay to what we thought was a romantic night.
We honestly thought that everything we were doing was setting the mood for a sensuous experience. From pairing the right wine for each course of the meal to sharing that dessert—we were doing exactly what every magazine article, blog post, and advertisement told us we needed to do to keep the spark alive.
Looking back, I can’t help but laugh. Romance isn’t hidden in a bottle of wine, a box of chocolates, or even in a reservation book at a Michelin star restaurant. So many relationships have been built upon the wine and dine mantra we’ve been fed as romance, but it has yet to keep the intimacy and passion alive in a relationship.
There is incredible irony in billing wine or any alcohol as an asset to a relationship. I can’t think of a single thing drinking improves. Of course, while I was still wining and dining away with my husband, that wasn’t my line of thinking at all. It probably isn’t yours either and that’s okay. It takes being removed—far removed—from those experiences to see the other side.
I say you won’t find romance in a bottle of wine, and it really is true. The reasons are numerous, but let’s touch on a few.
Let’s start with sex. I know we all think that sharing that bottle of wine is the perfect setup for a night of passionate lovemaking. While it is true that alcohol lowers your inhibitions, which can make for a more exciting night of sex, that isn’t all it lowers.
Alcohol lowers testosterone in both men and women, which also lowers libido. It can also cause alcohol-induced erectile dysfunction—talk about a mood killer. It isn’t just men who will find themselves less responsive when drinking though, alcohol slows down the nervous system, so while our inhibitions may be lower, so is our ability to feel and enjoy what our partner is doing.
Now let’s talk about intimacy. I want to clarify something right away—sex and intimacy are not the same things. You can have intimacy without sex and sex without intimacy. In fact, most drunk sex lacks any intimacy at all. Intimacy doesn’t begin in the bedroom, it starts at the breakfast table, with random text messages throughout the day, or when you snuggle up on the couch and watch a movie together. Intimacy is built upon listening, connecting, and growing together.
When you start drinking, you begin ticking away at the intimacy you’ve built. Alcohol makes us incredibly self-centered; the more we drink, the less we want to listen to what anyone else is saying, and the less we’re interested in how what we are doing is making them feel.
While the sex I’ve had with my husband since we stopped drinking is mind-blowing, the intimacy in our relationship is what makes it that special. We’re truly present for each other—not just in the bedroom, but also over coffee in the morning, while the kids are fighting in the backseat of the car, and all those moments in between that before might have been numbed and dumbed down by a glass of wine.
People are also often told that certain wines bring out the flavors of certain foods. In fact, there is a wine pairing for everything now—right down to Girl Scout cookies—and for many, that is part of a romantic dining experience. Sadly, this isn’t true. In fact, alcohol actually dulls our sense of taste by turning off texture receptors. So that expensive dinner you just indulged in to set the mood would have actually been more enjoyable if you’d stuck to the water glass.
And that right there might be the crux of the whole matter, it’s that we’ve been sold on the idea that certain things need to happen to find romance in our relationship. Wine, presents, and grand gestures.
Romance, intimacy, and the things that make relationships work aren’t found in a wine bottle, on a menu, or on an advertising agency storyboard. It took breaking up with alcohol for me to tune in to all the ways romance and intimacy truly existed in our relationship.
My marriage is incredibly strong and passionate, but it didn’t get there because of the years we spent wining and dining, or from a heart-shaped box of chocolates. Instead, it is the culmination of a million small gestures that aren’t limited to a single day of the year.
It’s getting out of the shower to a freshly made bed, coming home to your favorite ice cream in the fridge, or sharing a smile and a laugh over an inside joke we probably would have missed out on had we been drinking.
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