Romance is in the Growing Relationship

We all love the grand gestures stories. Maybe because movies have “trained” us to swoon at them. Or maybe even simpler reasons, we love being on the receiving end of a grand gesture because for one moment we know for sure that we are worthy of love. Or if you are the one who loves to plan the grand gestures, you love knowing that you have found someone worthy of your love.

Or maybe because it gives you something wonderful to put in your social media feed. That’s another topic we should talk about at another time.

But grand gestures do not make a relationship. Grand gestures are an unsustainable path.

The real of romance is the time it takes to grow a relationship. Time. You find your love for a lifetime over time. Most often that happens in the time and work that a marriage takes. This stuff is certainly not social media-able.

Somehow (and I will explain) marriage becomes the place where romance actually happens.

Moving through time and mystery together grows that love for a lifetime.

The mystery is the discovering the who of each other. It is discovering you in this growing process. It is the vulnerability you hate about dating. It is liking the other enough to stay curious. It is not trying to put this person into your self-perceived box of who you want to marry on the first several dates. Curiosity requires vulnerability because you must surrender to uncertainty/mystery. Which means anything is possible—like this could be your love of a lifetime.

Certainty is certainly more comfortable. Curiosity requires time.

Grand gestures give you certainty for a short time. Then the vulnerability creeps back in.

Life happens in time. When something hard happens, a bond grows when your boyfriend/girlfriend decides to help you carry your pain. It is a romantic bond. You have learned something beautifully deep about this person. It opens your vulnerability. It opens your heart to love. Whatever sucky thing that smashed your heart happened, you will have learned a lot about this person you are dating. Time gave you that gift. If your other is afraid of your pain, avoids your pain, gives you platitudes, time also gave you a gift to end this relationship.

Not that you need to go through a life tragedy to know if he/she is the one. My honest prayer for you is to be spared a life tragedy.

Time reveals someone’s actual faith practice. In the getting-to-know part of friendship, pre-dating, early dating stages, these are some questions you may find yourself answering often. When did you become a Christian? How would you describe your faith life? How do you know Jesus is real? I understand why these questions are asked but these are intimate questions. Intimately personal. Intimacy should not be a part of your relationship this early.

You and your relationship with Jesus is also mixed with time and mystery. It is often hard to put words to this. And now you are being asked this so someone you may not have met yet can figure out if your faith is good enough.

This is the stuff you learn about a person over time–when time gives you the space to share this intimate part of your life. This helpful thought has little to do with romance unless you find yourself swooning to be in love with someone who loves Jesus possibly even more than you.

Moving through time and mystery together grows that love for a lifetime.

Of course, you may choose to live together first as a way to continue the time and get to know each other better. But why does nearly every study say that a marriage is a different commitment than living together? Why do you know of so many sad stories of couples who tried living together only to find out that then this was a bad match?

Marriage has a “commitment” feel to it. Like the backdoor is closed. We are legally stuck together. You are deciding to have to grow with your other through the good and the uncomfortable and the hard that life just cuts in and gives us.

Through conversations and adventures and memory-making, through conflict and resolution, through navigating what life throws at the two of you, through time and mystery you will find your love for a lifetime. Romance is in the growing relationship. All of this.

Then you marry and you really get to know each other. The mystery decreases (how does he smell like that?) and time settles in. Romance is in the growing relationship that is full of the mundane.

The romantic grand gestures come and go in marriage. That leaves a lot of time left before and after the grand gestures. Do you like being with your beloved in those other times? In those boring times? In those hard times? Do you ever catch yourself “netflixing and chilling,” being bored with what’s on the TV, and still finding joy in being with your beloved? Those realization moments are romantic.

Romance is found in the mundane. It is in those everyday moments of life that is moving so fast and here you sit exhausted on the couch and your beloved is next to you still holding your hand.

The real romantics imagine graying and sagging and wrinkling as the beauty to look forward to. (Did your heart skip a beat when you read this?)

I’m nearing 25 years of marriage to whom some would describe as an unromantic guy–because he sucks at grand gestures. A grand gesture to him is speaking my love language of acts of service and giving me a whole day of acts of service. Our reality is when you are married for 25 years and you own a home, cleaning and fixing the home is the mundane. His to-do list shouldn’t get to be as long as it is but such jobs are not a priority in his life. My nagging has never changed this so many things get left undone for long lengths of time. Until he goes on this whirlwind of repairs. That’s a grand gesture in this marriage. I wish this would happen more!

Like with other grand gestures, there is a lot of before and after the grand gestures. It in this mundane time that John and I grow to love each other more. The graying and sagging and wrinkling are our long story of our years of handling all of our brave decisions and heartbreak together.

Dr. Henry Cloud teaches, “Love is built through soul-to-soul connection, shared values, commitment, resolving conflicts and hurts, tenderness, sacrifice, forgiveness, giving, displays of character, spiritual comparability and sharing — things that all have something important in common:  time.”  (Dr. Henry Cloud, email, March 13, 2021)

I hope this takes some of the anxiety off of dating. Because you won’t know any of this by the second date or the 20th date. Be yourself. Get to know your new cute and interesting friend. Make the memories. Grow together. Face the conflict and learn resolution skills. Time and mystery will help you figure out if this person is a worthy love for a lifetime and that is when the romance really starts.

Read also:  What is the Right Pace of Growth for a Relationship?

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