Maybe most women prefer nothing more than sappy romantic gestures, but I am not one of them. I realize this may put me in the minority of women, but I prefer my romance with a dash of practicality. Just a nice “You’re the best wife ever” or “I’ll drive Caroline to soccer practice tonight” works for me.

Hollywood doesn’t really cater to women like me who don’t fit the life-is-a-romantic-fairy-tale mold. But maybe we’d all be better off if we didn’t get so caught up in what the movies tell us is real love. In a movie, true love happens in about ten minutes after a montage of a couple throwing leaves at each other and chasing each other around  a park while a Harry Connick Jr. song plays in the background, and men regularly say things like, “You complete me” or “My life was a vast wasteland of emptiness until I saw your beautiful smile across the room.”

In romance novels and romantic movies, men always know exactly what to say, and it’s never “I accidentally clogged the toilet again.” They care about their wife’s feelings and brush her hair gently out of her eyes and they listen to her, and they know just when to embrace her in a tender hug. And then we expect our husbands or boyfriends to do that same thing and, God love them, there’s a good chance they grew up with brothers, and the way they learned to say, “I love you” was to let one rip under the covers and then trap their little brother in there. It’s just not always in their emotional makeup to have the right response or say the right thing. How else do you explain all the times a man has said, “Is that what you’re wearing?”

A woman watching this scenario knows he should abort immediately: MAN DOWN! MAN DOWN! But most men will continue to dig themselves deeper and deeper into the hole as they try to explain what they meant, when all they need to say is, “I just meant that you look so beautiful, it won’t be fair to the other women at the party.”

I guess my point is that I didn’t go into marriage with any overly romantic notions or expectations. I don’t need candlelight dinners or serenades under the moon or roses delivered on a regular basis. Truth be told, I’m more of a Gerbera daisy kind of girl.

But I’m going to bring up something that might change your life forever, even though it’s about to make me feel a little uncomfortable. Here’s the thing. Men have an innate ability to create sexual innuendo out of anything. ANYTHING. It’s like a part of their brains got stuck around the time they were thirteen years old and they’ve never recovered.

The worst part is that I know now when I’ve just said something that’s about to get turned into an invitation to take it to the bedroom, or, as Adam and Christina call it on Parenthood, “Funky Town.” I can’t tell you how many times I’ve innocently asked my husband, Perry, if he brought any meat home from the ranch and immediately realize I’ve just made a tactical error. And heaven forbid I ask him if he can get some sausage out of the freezer for me. And you don’t even want to know what he said when I bought two large jugs home to put on our bookshelves.

Just the other night we were watching TV together, and a commercial came on for a product called a pocket hose. Are you kidding me? Is this a real thing? What man is going to be able to resist making a remark about something called a pocket hose that “starts off normal size but grows larger and larger when you turn it on”?

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The thing that kills me is that even though the majority of my girlfriends all agree these conversations happen in our homes, not one of us has ever reported that we’ve felt a sudden urge to strip off all our clothes and head to the bedroom after our husbands tell us, “I’ve got some meat for you right here.” I mean, is there one man in the history of the world this strategy has ever worked for?

But every now and then I’ll meet a guy who appears to be the sort of husband who might read poetry to his wife under the stars, and I’ll think, I bet he never cracks a joke when the pocket hose commercial comes on.

The world needs people like that. Perry and I just don’t happen to be among them, and ultimately that’s why we’re a good match. Because when he says stuff like that, I laugh. Or roll my eyes, depending on my mood.

I think sometimes we can get caught up in believing that other women are experiencing more romance than we are, and perhaps that’s right. But there are also a lot of women out there who know their husbands are feeling amorous because they whisper, “I haven’t put my retainer in yet tonight” or “I just brushed my teeth” or “Did you notice I got my burger without onions?” And that’s okay. That’s real life.

Which is why it’s all right for us to sometimes reply, “Okay, but I’m going to leave my socks on because it’s cold.”

book-the antelope

Taken from The Antelope in the Living Room by Melanie Shankle. Copyright © 2014. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved.

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