Putting the 'Man' into 'Romance'

Keeping Love Alive

Medically Reviewed by Charlotte E. Grayson Mathis, MD
11 min read

Moderator: Our guest is Michael Webb, theauthor of "The RoMANtic Guide." To say our guest is an expert onromance would be an understatement. He is editor and founder of The RoMANticNewsletter and TheRomantic.com Web site. His popular syndicated column,"The RoMANtic," is read worldwide by millions. He is also theofficial romance expert and spokesman for I Can't Believe It's Not Butter'sLove2K Tour. Today, he's here to answer your questions about making romance adaily experience in your life, not just a once a year Valentine's blip on yourlove radar. So, let's get to the first question:

Question from Daisy: My husband has been traveling alot with his work lately. How can we keep the romance alive long-distance?

Michael Webb : One thing I like to do when I'mtraveling is to get several of my wife's favorite childhood books or poetrybooks, and read to her each night for just a couple of minutes. In addition,someone who's traveling can try to pick up little mementos all throughout thetrip. It can be as simple as a matchbook from a restaurant, a business cardfrom a place you've visited, or a brochure. And when you get home you can takethe time through these small items to share memories about the trip.

Moderator: It's probably safe to say manypeople (especially men) intertwine romance and sex. How do we make romance anexpression of love and not an invitation to sex?

Michael Webb: Excellent question. In today'ssociety, there very much is that confusion, and I try to draw the line in mywork that romance should be completely unselfish. And sex by its nature isoften a selfish thing because you are trying to get something in return. Sowhen you are thinking about romance you need to completely think about thewarmth, needs, and desire of the other person -- and not be considering 'what'sin it for me? '

Moderator: Judging bythe title of your book, I would guess men need more romance advice than women.Why are guys so bad at being romantic?

Michael Webb: I think it's often the way we arebrought up. In today's society, 50% of us are probably coming from brokenfamilies, and the majority of that time we are living with our mothers. Sothere are very few romantic role models on the men's side. Therefore, bookslike mine and other material are often invaluable to men and women too, whodidn't grow up learning how to be romantic.

Moderator: It seems a daunting task to findnew ways to be romantic. How do you keep from feeling like you always have totop your last romantic gesture?

Michael Webb: When you don't think of romancein terms of size or money, then being romantic is no longer that sort ofchallenge to yourself. Romance is really made up of all the little things thatyou do.

Moderator: For folks whose romantictendencies have been dormant for a long while, suddenly doing overtly romanticthings on a daily basis might prove jarring to them and their partners. How dowe 'ramp up' from no romance to a daily dose?

Michael Webb: I get this sort of question a lot.Men specifically have a fear that if they are all of a sudden -- if they areuncaring and not very romantic, and then out of the blue they start doingromantic gestures -- they have the fear that their spouse may start to questionthe reasoning behind their actions. Did they break something? Are they havingan affair? Does he really want something from me? But basically you just haveto get over that fear. And once you keep that routine up they realize thechange is real and the motivation behind it is sincere.

Moderator: A question received earlier: Iprefer to be spontaneous. I feel planning my expressions of love make them seemartificial. My partner is the exact opposite. Any tips for springing romanticgestures on her that don't take a lot of planning, but seem well thought-out?

Michael Webb: There are hundreds of these ideasin the book. Most of which take very little time and very little money toexecute. For example, you can get a handful of flower petals, some confettithat you either cut up or purchase at the dollar store, maybe a chocolate kissor two, put them all on top of the ceiling fan and ask your sweetheart to turnit on and they'll be showered with your loving expression. I like to use dryerase markers to draw Valentines and loving messages on the bathroom mirror.It's simple, inexpensive, but yet makes a world of difference in the way thatthe day plays out.

Moderator: You talk about romance all yearin all kinds of interview settings. What's the question you hear the most?

Michael Webb: Boy! Probably it's 'are you onlypreaching to men'? And in fact my material is for both men and women. Itdefinitely takes two to tango. And women equally need to plan and provideromantic experiences in the relationship. Often the men aren't being romantic becausethey're significant other is not being romantic in return.

Moderator: Romance and kids go together likemonkeys and peanut butter. How do parents of young children make romance a partof their daily frantic lives?

Michael Webb: I believe the most importantthing you can do for your children is not giving them a topnotch education, notspending a lot of money on their clothes, and not having a house in the bestneighborhood. What is the single most important thing to consider in rearing achild is to bring him up in a loving family. So planning romantic events withyour loved one should be of the highest priority.

And yes, because with little children romance often has tobe planned, even if you think that only spontaneity if romantic. Something assimple as setting aside 10 minutes every night to discuss the day over a cup ofhot chocolate can be a romantic experience. Children should certainly witnessromantic encounters between their mother and father; it shouldn't be somethingonly done in private. Otherwise, they will never learn how to be romantic intheir future relationships. They need to know that loving time between mom anddad is very important.

Moderator: In your experience, does anyoneactually like breakfast in bed?

Michael Webb: I don't know of many people whodon't like breakfast in bed. It's a very simple, yet sincere way of lettingyour sweetheart know that you'll do things to please them. And don't stop atbreakfast in bed, you can have dinner in bed too. Or lunch outside on the frontlawn. Or on the fire escape, if you live in the city!

Moderator: Doesn't elaborate bed-eating getmessy?

Michael Webb: It all depends on how big a slobyou are! You do have to be careful with the sort of food that you prepare. Butyou can go to department stores and buy breakfast bed tables for just a fewdollars. And the ease and cleanup is magnificent.

Moderator: If you try to do somethingromantic every day, won't it start to be taken for granted, and the only thingyour partner will notice are the times when the romantic token is missing?

Michael Webb: Never. It depends on the sort ofromantic things you are doing. If you are doing elaborate, well-planned-outcelebrations on a daily basis, that will eventually get old. But the verysimple things of just calling in the middle of the day to say hello, a warm hugwhen you see each other at night, good-night kisses, falling asleep whileholding hands, are the sort of romantic rituals that keep relationships strongand exciting.

Moderator: What's a good way to add aninteresting twist to the obvious but effective act of giving flowers tosomeone?

Michael Webb: For a very special occasioninstead of spending all the money on the dozen roses that everyone else does,go to your photo album and find a photograph of your wife's wedding bouquet.Bring that to the florist and ask them to recreate it, and give those flowersalong with a note that says you want to marry them all over again.

Question from GIVEMEURLUV: Hi! Is there any sort ofadvice a teenager could use to be romantic? Teenagers don't have a ton of cashor time -- so what can we do?

Michael Webb: Again romance doesn't need totake a lot of time or money. A simple thing like taking a piece of chalk anddrawing a Valentine note on the sidewalk is a great way of expressing yourlove. Instead of buying that box of chocolate that can be rather expensive, notto mention fattening, get an assortment of flavored jellybeans, blindfold yoursweetheart and feed them the jellybeans, asking them to guess the correctflavor. You can assign a point system for each one they guess correctly, andafter they accumulate enough points you award them their prize, whether it's a10-minute backrub or going out for an ice cream cone. You can either order or makea pizza yourself, in the shape of a heart. Doesn't take any extra time butgives a very clear message of who you are thinking about. You can buy yourfriend their favorite magazine, count the number of pages in the publication,and then go to a word-processing program, type out a love note that includes aword counter so that the note equals the number of pages in the magazine. Printout each word on a label and then put the labels throughout the magazine.

Question from GIVEMEURLUV: That's a pretty good idea(the jellybeans) -- what about being romantic on a date?

Michael Webb: A very romantic, butuntraditional date, is going to the library. You can first go to the children'ssection and find some of your favorite books from when you were children andread them aloud to each other. Then move over to the microfiche and findnewspapers from the day each of you was born. Read the headlines out to oneanother. Look up on the computer system to see if any authors share your nameand then go hunt down their books. And finally, go over to the travel sectionand discuss your dream vacation plans with one another. Its basically a freedate, yet one where you'll actually learn things about one another, unlikegoing to the movies where you remain silent for two hours.

Question from Bradcaskanette: What isthe best way to put romance back in the marriage after 20 years?

Michael Webb: You need to start with the littlethings, and often that means scheduling romance on a weekly date night or amonthly celebration. From there, hopefully, it will move to more frequentcelebrations.

Question from Daisy: We live with an elderly relative,and would like to keep up the romance. But how do we make sure she doesn't feellike a third wheel?

Michael Webb: Romance is often just abouthaving fun in a relationship, and it doesn't have to exclude others. Includethem in the planning of a romantic dinner for three. Let them pick out themusic, or light the candles. It can still be romantic with children around thetable or an elderly relative. Simple games played together, especially gamesthat involve questions and answers about likes and dislikes, dreams, and hopes,are a great way to get to know others including the relative.

Question from Barbie: My boyfriend is not romantic, andrarely thinks of doing something nice. I have given him a couple of books,ideas, etc, but this is not one of his strong points. Any ideas on how to gethim to be a bit more responsive?

Michael Webb: Often you have to be veryexplicit on how important romance is to you in a relationship. To some peopleromance is simply the icing on the cake, to others pretty much the entire cake.And once he knows what the need is in your relationship, that it's not just alittle perk or wishful thinking, he may realize that he'll lose you if hedoesn't try to be a little more sensitive and caring to your needs. But men arenot mind readers. We have to be told.

Question from Bradcaskanette: Scheduledromance seems to be fine; it's just getting the fire going...

Michael Webb: You will often find that once youbegin practicing romantic things the fire will come soon afterward. The mistakepeople make is that they wait for the fire to be there before they feel likedoing something romantic for their partner.

Moderator: Especially for couples thathaven't been together very long, one person's idea of romance may be perceivedas embarrassing, suffocating, or even threatening by the other. How muchromance is too much? And how do you gauge that for your own partner?

Michael Webb: You need to be aware of yourpartner's reactions when you do something romantic. If they are somewhatho-hum, either your approach was incorrect or they're not that needy in theromantic arena. But statistically 95% of women can't get enough romance. Soit's that rare person who feels overwhelmed by continual romantic gestures.

Moderator: Do you recommend romanticgestures on a first, second, or third date? What's appropriate?

Michael Webb: Romance again has very little todo with sex. So romance really is about letting the other person know that theyare special. And of course, the degree to which you make that known isimportant. You don't want to be giving the impression that you are deeply inlove with them if you really don't even know them yet. But you can certainlylet them get the feeling that you care about them.

Moderator: You mentioned that a very highpercentage of women are insatiable romantics; here's a question about the guys:

Question from GIVEMEURLUV: Do most guys enjoy beingpampered with flowers and love notes, or do they find that corny?

Michael Webb: Most guys, surprisingly, enjoygetting flowers and love notes. Although not all of them would admit it toother men. But perhaps one of the best romantic overtures for men is with food.

Moderator: Now you're talking!

Michael Webb: A special cake, their favoritebrownies, recreating grandmother's lasagna recipe -- those sort of things arehighly romantic for men. Because men really appreciate experiences more thanthings.

Question from Lillie: Tastes and scents are recalledfor years.

Michael Webb: When you are planning romanticexperiences, take consideration of the five senses. And the more senses thatyou can involve, the greater chance that this romantic idea of yours will belong remembered and cherished.

Question from Bradcaskanette: So whatis the most romantic thing for women?

Michael Webb: Again, each person is unique anddifferent, and what I often advise men is to pay close attention to how their sweetheartpampers herself. If she had an extra $75 and four hours what would she do? Mostlikely, she would not buy herself lingerie, and probably not take herself tothe baseball game. But she might go to the spa, she might buy herself a coupleof her favorite CDs. She might go to an out-of-town bed-and-breakfast for onenight just to get away. What is romantic for one woman could be completelydifferent for another. But I believe that they all agree that the little things-- the hugs, kisses, and notes -- are all romantic.

Moderator: What do you think of Valentine'sDay? Some people feel like it sets up an expectation where if you don't go allout, you look bad, rather than being an occasion for doing something positive.

Michael Webb: I celebrate Valentines Day 365days out of the year. February 14 is not a special occasion for my wife and me.Unfortunately February 14 has become so commercialized it's difficult to letyour true feelings be expressed on a day that has so much expectation attachedto it. In a recent poll that I saw 92% of the people who responded said thatthe amount that was spent on them on Valentine?s Day was irrelevant. They onlycared about the meaning behind the gifts.

Question from GIVEMEURLUV: It seems most of the timedates should be romantic for the girls, but what's a really good way to make itromantic for the GUY?

Michael Webb: To consider what his likes andhis feelings are. Maybe he wants to be an astronaut -- then you could take himto the planetarium. Perhaps he's an outdoorsy type of guy. You can go fishingwith him one weekend. Again, it's most important to ask him questions, to getto know him, and to plan your events around what would make him feel special.

Moderator: That's all the time we have fortoday's chat. Thanks for joining us, and for sending in such great questions!And thanks to Michael Webb for being here!