When Steve and I were dating, he would drive 30 minutes across town during his lunch break just to drop off a bouquet of flowers. Because he had to get back to work before his lunch hour was over, he only had time to knock on the door, hand me the flowers, give me a kiss, and then jump back in his car.

As I watched Steve drive away, I would bury my face in the flowers and say, “Oh, how romantic!”

After we got married, Steve often stopped by the flower shop on his way home from work to bring me lovely bouquets. When I became a stay-at-home mom, Steve continued the romantic practice of bringing me flowers. Only this time, I did not say, “Oh, how romantic!” Rather, I said, “Oh, how expensive!”

I made a big mistake when I said that. When my husband’s romantic gesture was met with my practical “this doesn’t fit our stay-at-home-mom” budget, I did not realize how my words discouraged him. He was attempting to keep the romance alive in our marriage by doing the one thing I had told him was romantic since the days of our courtship. In one fell swoop I had made him feel like he had failed in his attempt to be romantic and made him feel bad we were on a tight budget.

Don’t mistakenly assume husbands don’t care about making romantic gestures. A 2004 survey showed that 84 percent of men say they do want to be romantic, but most say they just don’t know what romance looks like to their wives.

So help your husband understand what is romantic to you.

Steve and I had a discussion about romance before I sat down to write. He explained,” We men really do want to be romantic, but for most of us this means getting out of our comfort zone. When we are afraid we won’t measure up to our wife’s expectations, it’s tempting to just not try at all.”

Steve went on, “I know that giving gifts is romantic, but I always put so much pressure on myself to think of romantic gifts to the point I end up at a loss.”

I then pointed out to Steve how I found it very romantic when he builds something for me. For example, I recently asked him to make a wardrobe mirror for me. He was not sure he agreed with my request to build the mirror’s frame out of the reclaimed barn wood we had on our property, but he complied.

Within a few days, I had the most amazing wardrobe mirror, framed with shabby-chic barn wood, leaning up against the wall in my bedroom. I loved it! So much so I posted a picture of the mirror on Instagram.

This one post created a great deal of chatter among my Instagram followers about how much they wanted my husband to make a mirror for them as well. To which I replied, “He just does this for me.” To me that’s romance!

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So what says romance to you?

You cannot very well expect your husband to know if you’re not even sure of the answer yourself. So take some time to consider some of your husband’s romantic gestures in the past. And then tell him how you found those actions romantics. For example, when our children were young, I made sure Steve knew the most romantic thing he could do for me was to clean up the dinner dishes and get the kids bathed and into bed–while I took a hot bath. This romantic act was most certainly met with a grateful wife and some sweet lovemaking that evening.

When your husband makes an effort to be romantic, help him know when he is on the right track. Remember, he is likely putting himself in a situation where he feels inadequate. This means your husband might think he is risking humiliation if he gets it wrong. He may even believe he will lose your respect if his attempts at romance fail. So if he ruins the dinner he was making or–in my case–he pays too much for flowers you can’t afford, don’t humiliate him.

One man said, “If I make the effort to be romantic and she laughs at me, you can be sure I won’t put myself in that vulnerable position again for a very long time.”

How does your husband define romance?

Remember when you were dating? How did you spend your time together as a couple? Did you husband sit across from you reading poetry or singing songs he wrote just for you as he gazed into your eyes? Probably not. (Or maybe he did, if you’re married to an artsy kind of guys.) At any rate, I imagine your courtship hours were spent talking and playing together as a couple.

If you are like most women, the talking and listening you experienced from your husband-to-be filled your romance tank. By contrast, the times of playing together would like have ranked number one on your husband’s romance chart.

Which brings me to an activity most men find romantic:

Play with your husband. What does he like to do? What activities did you enjoy doing together when you were dating? Did you hike, play golf, or go fishing? If joining your husband in such activities filled up your husband’s romance tank then, most likely it will do the same today.

If you’ve been married for any length of time, you’ve likely come to realize that there is a big difference in the way husband and wife view intimacy. I find it interesting that God specifically made us to be different. And contrary to what you might think, our differences are not a result of mankind’s sin. By God’s design, the differences in husband and wife actually work together to create unity in your marriage relationship–if you understand and value the differences.

Excerpt adapted from The Marriage Mentor by Steve Stoppe and Rhonda Stoppe, ©2018 Harvest House Publishers. Used with permission.

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