Are Your Expectations for Romance in Your Marriage Too High?

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Baked beans, orange Tic Tacs, and memes.

It sounds like a terrible party game gone wrong, not a list of romantic endeavors.

But for me, these three items have shown me love truly does prove itself in the seemingly insignificant moments.

Married Life versus Romance: The Battle of Time

I’ve been married for 5 years, but I’ve been with my husband over a decade. We’re dedicated, devoted. We’re happy and settled. He’s the one for me.

No matter what the media tries to tell you, marriage is a beautiful thing. When it’s done right, it’s filled with moments of connection, of laughter, and of sheer, unconditional love.

But let’s face it: every marriage, even the strongest, loses its magical, fairytale glint after so long.

The first year, everything feels like you’re living in Paris, drinking wine and watching rose petals fall. The grocery store is an adventure. Showering together, napping together, watching movies together—everything is a romantic date. There are gleeful kisses and “I can’t believe I’ve got you,” moments. There’s pure, sheer romance.

And then: real life.

Bills. Groceries. Cleaning. Worries.

It doesn’t happen all at once. But suddenly, the “I love yous” are strategically planned. The kisses are fewer and farther between, and maybe a little less energetic. He doesn’t notice your new hairstyle or your new dress or your new anything. You shave your legs, perfect your makeup, and put on his favorite perfume—and he stares at his phone the whole time. Suddenly, he doesn’t want to go with you to the grocery store. Suddenly, you can’t remember the last time you held hands or made-out like teenagers or flirted with each other.

Expectation versus Reality: Romance and Marriage

We all know fairytales aren’t real, and no love is perfect. We’re all warned by wise elders that the magic in marriage fades, that you can’t hold onto the passionate romance forever.

We don’t believe them. Deep down, many of us are still the little girl wishing we could be Cinderella with Prince Charming, Belle with the Beast, or any of the other magical princesses.

We want to be treasured. We want to have someone fall in love with us. We want to be swept off our feet.

It’s certainly not realistic. I don’t even know if it’s possible. Some men would say it’s unfair for women to expect this.

Perhaps. But that doesn’t make it any less difficult when the magic begins to fade, even a little. It doesn’t make us any less troubled when we start to notice things slipping away, even if it’s just a magical, unrealistic expectation.

How to Keep the Romance Alive: Appreciating the Small Moments

I’ve certainly felt troubled about romance and marriage at times. I’ve noticed in the past few years my husband and I hold hands less and less. I can’t remember the last time he bought me roses for no reason. Candlelight dinners are also a thing of the past—although in fairness, it’s partially because of the fire hazard with five wild cats in the house.

At first, it was easy to blame him. Why don’t you love me anymore? Why don’t you do romantic things for me like you used to? These were the questions that plagued our marriage for a time.

But then, I got real with myself.

Do candlelight dinners, roses, and surprise trips to private islands really prove one’s love? Why was I judging my relationship on a pre-conceived notion of romance? Are grand gestures of romance what I really need in a relationship?

As a married 20-something, I’ve come to learn that even though the fairytale moments are certainly nice from time to time, we have to learn to look for the other, smaller moments as well.

Some may call this settling, and maybe, in fairness, they have a point. But for me, I think it’s more about appreciation for the good things in my relationship. I think it’s about realizing your man might not meet swoon-worthy expectations all of the time, but that doesn’t mean his gestures of love are any less meaningful.

It’s about realizing the loss of huge romantic gestures in a relationship does not equate to a loss of love or a failed marriage.

My husband doesn’t take me dancing to a formal ball. He doesn’t surprise me with trips to Fiji or chocolate-covered strawberries. But he does show me he loves me in all sorts of small ways.

When my husband goes to the grocery store or a convenience store, he always picks up my favorite candy—orange Tic Tacs—and leaves them for me on the counter with a note. When we get KFC for dinner, he orders baked beans as one of the sides even though he hates them. When he’s at home and I’m out or at work, he will send me a picture of a funny meme that he knows will make me laugh. Every day, he does small, seemingly insignificant things to show me I matter to him, to show me I’m always in his thoughts.

Are these the gestures romance novels are made of?

Not that I know of.

But they are the romantic gestures that show me our love is real, even if the gestures seem silly and unromantic to the outside world.

Balancing Your Expectations and Reality

So does every woman need to settle for baked beans when she really has her heart set on a Chicken Cordon Bleu dinner?

I don’t think so.

I think the secret is to knowing yourself and knowing what you really want out of life, love, and marriage. If you need champagne and roses in your life, then by all means, hold out for it.

But if you don’t want that in a relationship, do not let society, literature, or the media tell you those are the requirements for a healthy marriage.

Don’t let your idea of romance be defined by others.

So roses, candles, and fillet mignon or Tic Tacs, baked beans, and memes, it doesn’t matter. The fairytale looks different for each of us. We just need to be brave enough to trust our heart and accept the version we want to write for ourselves.

Lindsay Detwiler is the author of three contemporary romance novels including Voice of Innocence, Without You, and Then Comes Love. She is also a high school English teacher in her hometown. She lives with Chad (her junior high sweetheart), their five cats, and their mastiff Henry. You can find out more about Lindsay at www.lindsaydetwiler.com, www.facebook.com/lindsayanndetwiler, or on Twitter @LindsayDetwiler.