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More Romance in My Marriage, Please

Happy Valentine's Day, and thank you for this fourth anniversary of the Asssume Love blog. It wouldn't be any fun at all without you. If you've been lurking, I hope you will say hi in the comments on this anniversary of ours.

Today's topic is, of course, romance. When it gets this much advertising, this much aisle space in almost every store, you would think every husband in America would know exactly what to do today.

So why didn't your husband get you that luxury car with the bow on top and a box of chocolates on the leather passenger's seat? Or at least write you an original song and sing it for you while strumming his ukele in front of a roaring fire?

If you're feeling let down today, let's try this. It might keep you from doing something to him that you will regret.

First, Assume Love. Assume for the moment that whatever he did or did not do today was done with as much love as he's ever had for you. For those of you really smarting today, let's also assume you were not blinded by love when you saw all those great qualities in him, but that you are blinded by something else if you don't see them still.

Let's be clear. I do not want you to act as if this is true. I want you to just try on the idea for a what-if experiment.

What if all this is true? How might it explain your not getting taken out to dinner tonight? Or your receiving a new ironing board today instead of those flowers you thought all wives should get? Or my husband offering just a kiss and a hug to celebrate the day?

Option 1. (You should always consider this one first.) He has no idea you might be expecting some hint of romance today or that you believe romance is for married people, too. If you have ever whined at or insulted him about this in the past, mentioned gifts your friends received from their guys, or made a huge fuss over a past Valentine's Day treat, this is not your explanation. But if you are newlyweds or never said a thing about past unromantic Februaries, you might want to clue him in, even invite him to take advantage of the half-price sales tomorrow.

Option 2. (Another one you should always consider.) He doesn't know it's Valentine's Day. If he's involved in a Mardi Gras Krewe, the America's Cup Race, or the Olympics, he could forget the chocolates, even if he loves you very much and wants you to feel adored. Same goes if he's caring for a dying brother or trying to make sense of a recent diagnosis of a life-threatening illness. Or if he's suffering dementia.

Option 3. He knows you like to be fussed over and he knows today is the day, but he still sees romance as what you do to persuade a woman to love you. To show it now, after he has promised you everything he's got and received your promise to love him for richer or poorer, would expose his vulnerable soft underbelly, his fear that it's all still temporary and must be earned again and again. This is especially possible if he loves you, but you have threatened recently to leave him or have dismissed him publically as someone you have to look after like a child.

Option 4. He wants to shower you with romance, but nothing he can afford, nothing he knows how to do, seems like enough for the woman he adores. He thought by now he would be able to afford to give you something monstrously expensive. Or he shopped for days, but never found anything remotely good enough for you.

Option 5. He's frugal. He does not equate money with love. In fact, he feels most loving when he's protecting your financial future. And he expects you will gratefully receive that gift right along with the simple card or small box of candy.

You know this man, and there may be other explanations for why his way of loving you is to skip Valentine's Day or deliver less romance than you hoped for.

Of course, if he's vicious, showing you what he got his mistress for Valentine's Day or giving you a box of chocolates with the warning that he's put rat poison in two of the pieces, our what-if is over almost before it starts. Loving people don't do these things. They wouldn't even stand by quietly if they saw a stranger doing such things. There is no loving explanation for such behavior

But there are loving explanations for a lot of non-romantic Valentine's Day acts.

Second, Expect Love. I didn't ask you to go looking for loving explanations of an approach to Valentine's Day that upsets you so that I could talk you into settling for whatever crumbs you can get. I did it to help you check if you might have overlooked some of the love you were offered today, love that just happened to get in the way of playing along with Valentine's Day customs.

I think it is perfectly sane to expect love from your husband. But it is a mistake to expect it to show up in any particular shape or form. Looking for it in one place will lead you to overlook it in all the other places. And pouting at your husband because his love did not assume a romantic form is likely to keep the rest of his love for you under his hat.

Use what you discovered from assuming love to shine a flashlight into some of the corners of your marriage and see if there are bits of love you haven't yet enjoyed or thanked your guy for. What can you afford because of his frugality? Has he offered massage or kisses and hugs instead of searching for the perfect gift? Has he been creative in coming up with things to do together, instead of songs to sing you? Has he made every day a little bit romantic instead of making this one overly so?

Third, Find Third Alternatives. You tell him you want flowers, but something (maybe even his way of expressing love) keeps him from buying them for you. Could you enjoy flowers you buy for yourself? If not, it's not the flowers that matter. Is it the time it takes to stop and buy them? Is it having the money spent on you instead of something else? Is it the message you would assume flowers convey? Once you know the specs for what you're looking for, convey those, instead of asking for "a little romantic gesture" or "a bouquet of flowers if it wouldn't kill you."

You can do the same with any other sign of romance you are hoping for. You can also do it with whatever measures of love he's using that you are failing to deliver to him, because we all feel a lot more generous when we feel safe, loved, and respected.

Do say hi, please, in today's fourth anniversary comments. Let us know if your husband delighted you on Valentine's Day or if you found these steps helpful or if you are a husband or a life partner and have an opinion on this. Or send some virtual fruit, and we'll mix fourth anniversary tradition with today's technology. Thanks for reading!

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Patty Newbold is a widow who got it right the second time...

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