Neil Rosenthal will be conducting a one-day workshop open to the general public titled "To Love and To Be Loved" on March 2 in Westminster. For information and to register, email email@example.com.
Here's a snap quiz in honor of Valentine's Day. When women use the term romance, what do they mean? What does romance mean to most women? And when men use the term romance, what does romance mean to them?
Before you read what I'm about to say, answer the above questions first.
One gender (women) will get the answers to the above questions right, and the other gender (men) will have to think for a while about the questions, and then maybe will or will not get the answers correct.
Men tend to define romance sexually. Women more commonly define romance as words and behaviors that represent that they are loved, cherished, valued, respected and desired.
Although there is some carryover between the two definitions, they're still not the same. Men define romance as the prelude to sex, and women define romance as one of the expressions of love.
So pay attention, gentlemen, because when women feel loved, cherished, valued, respected and desired, they tend to show their appreciation sexually. Are you following me?
In order for romance to stay alive, you have to keep it alive - it doesn't stay strong by itself. A relationship between once-close lovers will drift apart if both of you don't put effort into keeping the connection, the closeness, the friendliness and the eroticism alive. So in honor of Valentine's Day, permit me to address the question of how to romance a woman:
When you think of nurturing a child, most of us knows what that means. But when I ask people about how they nurture their spouse or intimate partner, they frequently give me blank stares, as if they don't quite know what nurturing an adult consists of.
Here are some common nurturing behaviors most adults crave: cuddling, being told they are loved, sincere compliments, great food, empathy, compassion, friendship, kindness, expressing an interest in me and how I'm feeling, going out on a date and affection that doesn't have an expectation attached to it.
Frequently, we expect our relationships to be positive, loving and responsive while we act upset, angry, rude or demanding. But people lose respect for those who are rude, inconsiderate or disrespectful.
So no belittling or disrespectful comments or behaviors - to your lady or to anyone else. Always act gentlemanly and respectful.
Be emotionally safe. This means you must remove your reactivity, defensiveness, anger, hostility, sarcasm, name-calling and negativity from all communication with your Valentine.
Being emotionally safe also means that you will refrain from withdrawing in order to get what you want or from threatening the stability of the relationship.
Reciprocal sharing is the best type of communication. It's about being interested and inquisitive about your lover's emotions, needs and desires. It also means that you will be an extremely good listener, and that you can hear your mate's emotions without getting defensive, hostile or dismissive. It's intoxicating to feel that someone is truly interested in what you feel and think.
Endearments. Whispering "sweet nothings" in her ear. What character traits does she have that you respect or admire? Is she considerate? Trustworthy? A good mother? Compassionate? Sexy? Fun? A good friend? These are the reasons you chose her. Tell her.
While you're at it, write your own version of Elizabeth Barrett Browning's poem: "How do I love thee? Let me count the ways. ..." and give her your answers in writing.
Express your love physically every day, through touch, hugs and kisses. Touch helps us to get close, feel close and stay close. If you're not touching each other a lot, your relationship is unlikely to feel passionate, and both of you will notice that the closeness and connection you once had has waned.
Emotional presence. Making yourself available and showing up. Having a willingness to share your thoughts, feelings, hopes, hurts, yearnings and fears, and to truly hear hers.
Flowers, cards, notes, surprises, weekend getaways, sweet texts, voice or email messages, doing something to lighten her load or relieve her of some of her chores - these romantic gestures matter.
If these gestures stop, courtship will stop, and then your relationship risks growing stale. So no matter how long you may have been married, woo her.
Neil Rosenthal is a licensed marriage and family therapist in Westminster and Boulder. His column is in its 21st year of publication, and is syndicated around the world. You can reach him at 303-758-8777 or by emailing him through his website via www.heartrelationships.com. He is not able to respond individually to queries.