True Romance on Valentine’s Day

By Greg Smalley
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Dr. Greg Smalley encourages couples to look beyond chocolates and flowers to pursue true romance this Valentine's Day.

One of my most memorable, or should I say, most humiliating, Valentine’s Day experiences happened in 2014. The chain of events started with an innocent conversation I had with my wife, Erin.

I was embarking on my annual attempt to crack the code for the “right” combination of Valentine’s Day gifts. I wondered if I should get Erin flowers, chocolate, jewelry, lingerie (although that would probably be more for me), perfume or maybe a spa day.

So in addition to the gift that I already had in mind, I asked Erin if she would rather have flowers or a gift card in the amount that I would have spent on the flowers. A dozen long-stemmed roses can run about $50 on Valentine’s Day! Erin quickly replied that she would much rather receive a gift card to her favorite store than some flowers that would die anyway. 

Fast forward to Valentine’s Day, and Erin found herself at the grocery store. She bumped into a large display bucket full of flowers. Innocently, she thought about how beautiful the flowers were and decided to buy herself a bouquet.

In light of her having picked the gift card option, this wouldn’t have bothered me — except that Jim Daly, the president of Focus on the Family and my boss, was standing right behind her buying his wife a dozen long-stemmed, red roses. His only question to Erin was, “Why is your husband, the vice president of our marriage department, making you buy your own flowers?”

Since that day at the grocery store, Jim likes to “graciously” remind me (especially if we’re in front of large crowds) that I made my wife buy her own Valentine’s Day flowers.

True romance

Trying to figure out what gift to buy or where to go on Valentine’s Day is not easy. Flowers, chocolate, cards, gifts, dinner reservations — is this really the meaning of Valentine’s Day? Our culture seems to think that these things are the essence of true romance.

I understand that taking advice from a guy who made his wife buy her own flowers on Valentine’s Day might seem suspect, but I want to tell you one of the greatest truths I’ve learned about romance. True romance isn’t about flowers, chocolate or the perfect candlelit dinner. These things can enhance romance, but they do not define it.

Instead, true romance is about curiosity, fascination and intrigue. It’s about being truly interested in your spouse and your spouse being captivated by you. True romance is a deep, life-long fascination with your mate. 

The gift of curiosity

Sadly, many couples feel dissatisfied in marriage because their relationship slips into the mundane — they become so accustomed to one another that they stop being curious. And this creates boredom.

Boredom is the opposite of true romance. Boredom involves the belief that you know everything there is to know about your spouse. However, an entire lifetime is not enough  to truly get to know someone. Every season of marriage is different because both people keep changing. The great mystery of marriage is that you never know what’s going to happen next. Not only is change inevitable, but it’s also a part of what makes marriage so enjoyable.

A line from one of my favorite ’80s songs says, “I get the joy of rediscovering you.” And author Mignon McLaughlin explains it this way: “A successful marriage requires falling in love many times, always with the same person.” When you make curiosity one of your goals in marriage, you get the joy of falling in love with your spouse again and again.

The initial excitement of getting to know your spouse when you were dating doesn’t have to fade. Boredom and routine don’t have to be your reality. All it takes is a decision to remain fascinated and interested in your husband or wife. Because your spouse and your marriage are always changing, there’s something to be discovered every day. This is exactly why I believe the greatest gift you can give your spouse on Valentine’s Day is the gift of curiosity.

Developing the art of curiosity is simple. Curiosity is the strong desire to know more about something or someone. The key is to daily pursue knowledge about your spouse. Ask questions. Seek out information. Deepen your understanding. Make your goal to “stay current” with your spouse.

This Valentine’s Day, use flowers, chocolate and cards to heighten your romance, but spend your time being curious and asking questions. Take joy in rediscovering your beloved as you fall in love over and over again.

Copyright 2015 Focus on the Family.

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About the Author

Greg Smalley

Dr. Greg Smalley serves as the Vice President of Marriage at Focus on the Family. In this role, he develops and oversees initiatives that prepare individuals for marriage, strengthen and nurture existing marriages and help couples in marital crises. Prior to joining Focus, Smalley worked for the Center for Relationship Enrichment at John Brown University and as President of the …

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