Romance Builders: A Great Investment for 2013

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Elizabeth Taylor was a famous actress who lived from 1932 to 2011. She married 8 times and was observed to gain weight in between romances. She said that she would fall in love and feel that she was pretty and desirable and then would fall out of love and have no motivation to take care of herself. Romantic love is a powerful, compelling force in our lives. It is the very foundation of a loving, lasting marriage and is considered the first stage or phase of a long term relationship. Romance is a time when we are compulsively looking for ways to please another person.  We give gifts, offer to serve, work hard to appear attractive, and to make the other person happy.  In return, we receive an abundance of love and care. Love seems effortless, yet we are really devoting much time and effort to be experienced as a loveable person. We are at our very best during Romance.

Unfortunately, the positive intensity of Romance is short-lived. The normal cares of life such as work, relocation, getting married and raising children make it impossible to sustain the focus of the Romance phase. Researchers tell us that 18 months is the average length of the Romance phase of relationship. Romance can be longer in a situation where daily contact is not possible. This may be true in long distance relationships or extra-marital affairs. Elizabeth Taylor disengaged when relationships moved beyond the Romance phase. She would then fall in love with someone new in order to experience the joy of Romance again. She married Richard Burton twice, the first time for 10 years and the second time for 9 months.

In order to have a life-long love affair with one person Romance must become intentional. We have to put daily effort into being a loving, caring person. I give the Romance Builders exercise to every couple who comes in for marriage counseling.  At the top of a page write, “I feel loved and cared for when you…”  Then list 12 positive things that your spouse can do or say that you experience as loving.  You exchange lists and agree to do two Romance Builders each day.  We have to boost the positive interactions in order to have the relationship capital to handle the stress of solving problems and making changes to repair broken or distressed marriages.

Romance is for every day, not just weekends or holidays and is refreshed with a minimum of two intentional expressions

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of love and care per day for the rest of your life. Your marriage is worth the effort.  A great resolution for 2013 is to invest your time and energy in building a relationship that is loving and fun.


Paul VanValin, PhD, is founder and President of Eden Counseling Center and Eden Family Institute.  He and Becky have lived in Chesapeake since 1997.

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