Love Is More than a Bottle of “Heavenly Nights”

There’s a notion, out there, suggesting the amount of happiness and fulfillment in a woman’s relationship is directly related to the amount of goo-goo eyed, hearts-and-flowers romance she experiences.

This idea seems to permeate everything — TV, videos, bodice-rippers, woman’s magazines, movie — not to mention any number of advertisements, from hair dye to teeth whitener.

If we accept everything we see and read, this “romance quotient” is measured in certain quantifiable, demonstrative displays: such as how many times our significant other wines-and-dines us, how much they compliment us, and how often they profess their undying love.

Romance is also, if we can believe the ads, measured in the amount of gifts the lover showers upon the woman: special-order salted caramel chocolates from Godiva, or a Whitman Sampler, if in a pinch; expensive fragrances with names like “Longing,” “Seductive,” and “Jump Me”; lots of jewelry; anything from Victoria’s Secret; dozens of long-stemmed yellow roses (red is out this year); and at least one get-away trip to a Caribbean island, or, if money is tight, a weekend in the Amish Country, or, if it’s really tight, a visit to the Zoo.

If any of this is missing, we are led to believe the romance is finis, because the man is either taking the woman for granted, bored to tears, or just plain doesn’t love her anymore.

Since romance is reportedly the glue that keeps relationships from falling apart, it is only a matter of time before the man will take off in search of some elusive — and illusive — but must-have key to happiness in the arms of another woman, a woman of mystery and sultry eyelids, who will wait in a steamy bar, e-cigarette in one hand and organic wine in the other, ready to steal away to the south of France in a romantic stupor.

This is a dangerous notion. It’s what, I believe, is responsible for a great deal of unhappiness and an even greater number of divorces. It’s also what I believe keeps a lot of women (and men, too) unsatisfied, searching for that amorous nirvana.

As most of us know or (hopefully) come to learn, this is pure rubbish. Though romance is nifty, it’s not the be-all and end-all of a relationship. And if, as the song bemoans, your man doesn’t “bring flowers” anymore… so what?

He might pay the mortgage, or empty the dishwasher, or offer to take the kids to the mall or the cats to the vet, so you’ll have your own time to write or work or soak in a bath — actions just as meaningful a sign of love as any zirconia and imitation-ruby drop earrings.

I don’t have a daughter, unless you count the furry one with four legs on the back of my chair. But if I did, I’d teach her to separate love and romance as soon as she stopped crawling. To help her clear up the difference, I’d give her my own definitions of each:

Love, I’d tell her, is a permanent, real-life, enduring, reality-based bond. It doesn’t need Tiffany trinkets, or oyster and champagne dinners, to survive. Love allows partners to cherish each other — warts and all — while they face good and not-so-good times: challenges like house alterations, kids, cats, unemployment, death, the changing body, money, hormones, Presidential races, cesspool backups, hair transplants, polyester, aging, and the like.

Romance, I’d say — though thoroughly delightful and enchanting — is ever-so-fleeting. It thrives on rose-colored glasses and calls to mind the stuff of fairytales.

I’d tell my daughter: Romance is a lot like expensive perfume — it’s intense at first, but it evaporates much too soon.

©Copyright, Allia Zobel Nolan    

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