St. Valentine’s Day – The Meaning of Romance to Me by Sally Cronin

I wrote this article in 2018 as a guest post on the blog of USA Today Bestselling Romance author Jacquie Biggar

Not everyone celebrates Valentine’s Day and I believe that romance is something that infuses every day of a relationship, but if receiving a card, or some roses, reminds someone of how much they are loved, then this is a good day.

Romance is one of the elements of our lives which is universal, and much sort after. People often ask what the secret to a happy relationship is… darned if I know. All I can offer you is some of the little things I have come to appreciate over the last 50 odd years of dating and relationships. Make that 58 as I had a crush on Peter Birch at primary school age ten which resulted in my first broken heart!

Because many of you who are reading this are writers, I thought you might be interested in a few statistics on the billion-dollar-a-year Romance book industry via Romance Writers

  • The annual total sales of romance novels per year is in excess of a billion dollars.
  • Romance novel share of the U.S. fiction market is approx 34%.
  • 82% of romance readers are women.
  • 84 % of romance writers are women.
  • Average age is 35-39.

What interested me about these statistics is that romance is a hot ticket item. It is also evident that romantic stories are very much sought after by women, but clearly not as high on the list for men. Something that those who feel men are sometimes not as romantic as they might be, would find interesting!

Another statistic is that the average age of those seeking out romance stories is between the ages of 35-39… which begs the question… Do women in their 40s, 50s, 60s give up on romance, or they are simply not catered for by the romance writers?

Like most young girls of my generation, I was infused with the myths surrounding love and romance at an early age. Between fairy tales and my mother’s desire to make the goal of romance clear cut in my mind, I surmised that at some point a Prince Charming, on a white horse, would sweep into my life, whisk me off my feet, and we would ride off into a future of bliss, children and Happy Ever After.

I was encouraged to take the available wisdom to heart, and with hopes and dreams of my own, embarked on my own dating adventures. The trouble with ingrained expectations is that they are not always as revered by others, particularly the opposite sex.

However, after some false starts, at the age of 20, a more mature Prince Charming of 26 did arrive, in uniform and driving a classic American sports car. It seemed that expectations had been met and exceeded, and it was crowned with a spectacular wedding with matriarchal approval on both sides. We drove off into the sunset with clanging tin cans behind the steed… which proved to be tolling bells of doom!

Trouble is what you see is not always what you get! And when compounded with differing expectations of what a relationship is supposed to be, and a lack of commitment of one of the participants, things tend to fall apart. After four years, some interesting life lessons, and an expensive legal intervention which took three years, I finally managed to extricate myself with a vow to never marry again.

Then wouldn’t you know it, six months later, into my life walked a softly-spoken, unassuming guy who took me out on a date and asked me to marry him before the night was over. Five weeks later, without any ceremony, and with just our parents in attendance, we exchanged rings and our own vows.

The last 40 years have taught me that romance is not one-size fits all, is unique to two people who love each other, and is not always about red roses and chocolates.

Some of the elements that spell romance for me.

As Jeremy Taylor quoted ‘Love is Friendship set on Fire’. Of course there is that initial, and amazing firework display of hormonally induced physical attraction, which then evolves over the years into a familiarity that can still be breathtaking. However, without the essential elements of like-mindedness, shared moral code, sense of humour, and appreciation of another’s unique personality, the fire of romance slowly dies down to embers.

An analogy I often use for romance between two people, is that it is like an extended ballroom dance that flows and whirls with two partners in perfect sync. Always staying within the limits of the dance floor, allowing other styles come into play, with fiery tangos and playful sambas as the tempo of the music changes. Even when there is a momentary loss of connection, there is a coming together again, and the dance always finishes in a firm embrace.

Whilst there may be the occasional extravagant gesture when a special event warrants it, mostly it is the small things that keep romance alive and flourishing.

Red roses are wonderful, and we all love to receive a bouquet on Valentine’s Day or an anniversary. But it is the odd flower brought in from the garden and laid on a breakfast tray, a small tree planted in the garden that blossoms every spring, or the paper flower, misshapen and oddly coloured that appears by a bedside, that really help to keep romance alive.

Romance is waking up on every birthday to find cards hand-made from images of sea, sunflowers, cats and dogs, golden sunsets with handwritten verses inside that come from the heart. It is also those few minutes on your wedding anniversary when you sit silently, holding hands and remembering that special day and the people who are no longer there to share the memories with you.

True romance flourishes when you are unwell and scared and a strong hand holds yours and a voice close to your ear, tells you that it will be alright, that you are safe. It is when you suffer a loss and cry together and heal together. It is when you walk through the door and someone says, ‘hi love, how was your day?’

Romance is when the last words before you go to sleep are ‘I love you’

Romance does exist after 40 years old, whatever the statistics might say.

Romance and love go hand in hand, and as I watch very old people together, you can tell the ones who still adore and respect each other. It is easy to still see that spark and twinkle in the eyes, the small touches of a hand or brush of lint from a shoulder. That unity has been welded from years of life, laughter, sadness, joy, disappointment, excitement and love. Thousands of cups of tea, breakfasts in bed, dances in the kitchen, date nights, holding hands in the movies and vigils by a sickbed, have gone into the rich tapestry that is romance. There might be a faded red rose pressed between the pages of a diary, or a diamond ring that comes out on special occasions, but it is these small daily gestures that will have kept the romance alive and will continue to do so long after one or both of them dies.

Romance is also about the things we don’t do in a relationship.

We don’t belittle someone we love in public and then say ‘But you know I love you’.

We don’t bully them and then say we are doing it ‘Because you know I love you.’

We don’t marry who we believe is Prince Charming or the fairy princess, and then set about changing them by saying ‘You know it is because I love you.’

We don’t take the actions of those we love for granted, and saying ‘thank you’ for a meal, a wardrobe full of clean clothes or for being a great mum or dad, goes a long way to keep romance alive.

Romance is not about making someone happy or expecting them to make you happy. Your happiness is your responsibility and choice. Putting the onus for your happiness on someone else is a very quick way to lose them.

Here is one of my favourite poems on romance from Elizabeth Barrett Browning courtesy of The Poem Hunter

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of Being and ideal Grace.
I love thee to the level of every day’s
Most quiet need, by sun and candlelight.
I love thee freely, as men strive for Right;
I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise.
I love with a passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood’s faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints, — I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life! — and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.

And I will leave you with one of the most romantic songs to dance to with someone you love I Just Fall in Love Again by the wonderful Anne Murray.

©Sally Cronin
As a writer I enjoy creating romantic relationships across the ages and you can find my short story and poetry collections, novels and non-fiction books with recent reviews: Here

59 thoughts on “St. Valentine’s Day – The Meaning of Romance to Me by Sally Cronin

  1. Hi Sally, thank you for sharing your romance stories. You’re exactly right, romance is not one size fits all. Prince Charming doesn’t always brings happy ever after. Congratulations to your 40 years of true romance.
    I’m happy to say that my husband says ‘I love you’ before going to sleep every night without exception.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Many thanks for posting this. I love what you wrote and it reminds me of how I met my wife Gülden who after only our second meeting we decided to get married At the time I was 72 and Gulden 69. That was eight years ago and we are both still deeply in love. Although due to the virus we are unable to go out and celebrate St Valentine day, we are together and that is all that matters. All being well next year we will be able to celebrate another St Valentine day.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thank you for this post Sally! My mom loved reading romance novels. She always had one going, and traded them on a circuit with a bunch of other women, so they never ran out. She didn’t even know some of them, but there would be paper bags full of these little books on the doorstep, and mom would gather hers up, bag them, and deliver them or leave them on the porch where they would magically disappear. That’s a lot of romance spread around!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. What a perfect post for the day and any day, Sally. I agree that it’s the romantic touches – the unexpected flower, the surprise kiss, the handwritten notes – that catch the heart. And I love your etheree. Here’s to life-long love. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Agreed, with pretty much everything. It’s not about the physical or the gifts you get/give. I love this one you added: “True romance flourishes when you are unwell and scared and a strong hand holds yours and a voice close to your ear, tells you that it will be alright, that you are safe.” I am thankful every day to have a husband who agrees with that.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. You’ve captured the importance of the little things in love that help to underpin a relationship. It’s lovely to be presented with a rose on a special day but perhaps it’s more special to be given some wild flowers out of the blue when it’s not expected. xx

    Liked by 1 person

  7. As many commenters agree, love as you describe it is a many splendoured thing. I recited Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s sonnet at a friend’s wedding. A year later, I married the groom’s best man. And I mean Best Man – ha! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Pingback: Smorgasbord Weekly Round Up – February 14th – 20th 2021 – Romance, Songs 1960s, Chilled soups, book reviews, videos and funnies | Smorgasbord Blog Magazine

  9. I don’t read much romance, Sally. Real life family dramas and relationships yes, like the stories you write, but not much romance per say. I make exceptions for Stevie Turner who writes great books featuring older woman [which I really like] and Jacquie Biggar whose books are a lot more than romance, they have lots of thrilling action too.

    Liked by 1 person

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