Thursday, February 10, 2011

A Different Kind of Romance

Many of the emotions and internal dialogues I have regarding my chronic pain are contrary to romance. When I feel sad, guilty, frustrated, overwhelmed and/or helpless it can be very hard to then feel sexy or romantic. When I'm really nauseous or in a lot of pain it's hard to even think about anything beyond trying to manage my symptoms.

But romance and sex are so important. Not only is it enjoyable but it also has so many mental and physical benefits. Despite my frequent chronic migraines and muscle spasms I've decided to really make both sex and romance a priority in my marriage. This is not always easy but then again, nothing is these days.

These days it's all about the details. We have made Friday nights our stay date night. We are living in a very small one bedroom apartment with a house full of stuff. Living space is pretty limited so one of the things we are doing without right now is a dining table, which means we eat most of our meals on the couch in front of the TV. Not romantic. But on Friday nights we set up a folding table and chairs to sit down for a proper meal. Then after dinner we play games. We can't afford to do much going out and such but this change up in routine is nice, plus it gives us a nice chance to talk, unwind from the week and starts our weekends off on a positive note. If feels romantic because it is a specially set aside time each week.

We also try to have a date outside of the apartment every week or so. Still watching the spending we do things like go get tea at Panera, take the dog to the park (when weather permits), go downtown to take in free attractions (plenty of those in DC), or eat out (not often).

During the week my husband is very busy and occupied both mentally and physically with his work so we try to carve out a little time each day to watch something together. We have things that we only watch together like 24, SNL, or Big Bang Theory. Even if it's only a little time to veg, it's really nice to snuggle together on the couch and just be entertained together. It's not exactly what we think of when we think romantic but all of this stuff helps me to feel connected with my husband so whenever I'm not in bad pain, or when I can treat my pain, this kind of thing can lead to more intimate contact and sex.

The thing is that even when he or I are just not in a very sexual place that doesn't mean we can't be romantic or close. Having physical contact with someone you're close to always feels good. Holding hands, kissing, hugging, snuggling, rubbing each other's feet or back or even doing a task together like washing the dog or preparing dinner can really go a long way towards feeling close and connected. While planning a candle-lit dinner and covering the bed with rose pedals and toasting with wine in front of a fireplace might be what comes to mind when we think of romance (thank you very much Hollywood) in real life I've found that romance can be found in the most average or mundane times.

Whenever I've tried to choreograph one of these Hollywood romantic evenings it usually was ruined by a sleepless night, a bad migraine, unexpected traffic delays or other annoyances. I've come to believe that this Hollywood brand of romance is really reserved for people who are dating or who have a lot of money. When I was dating it was much easier to plan your run of the mill romantic evening. I was able to prepare for the evening in the privacy of my home and have complete control over the presentation. There was always a sense of surprise and excitement. That's what dating was like for me.

Married couples on a budget need to create romance that is more specific to their relationship. Let's face it, this is not easy to do. For one, we live together so we see each other when we just wake up, messy hair, morning breath and all. When we go out on a date we see each other getting ready and neither of us bother taking a second shower to be at our freshest for the date anymore. The mystery is gone. And afterwards we come home and there is always work waiting for one or both of us - the business of life. When dating it's so easy to put everything else on the back burner for a time but that's not sustainable long-term. And when the business of life gets woven into a couple's time the Hollywood ideal of romance becomes much more difficult to achieve.

It's different now and that doesn't mean that it's worse. We are simply in a different stage with different benefits than when we were dating. Romance is not more effort but the efforts are invested in different areas. Thanks to my migraines right now, most of my romantic efforts are spent preparing my head for our time together. If I have a migraine I'll make sure to treat it early and avoid anything that could irritate it. I focus on just letting go and enjoying our time together doing whatever we want and plan for recovery time afterwards. I imagine someday in the future we will have to again redefine romance.


  1. Good planning around a disabling disorder!

  2. Don't give up on the idea of romance. Even married couples can make it work with a little effort. Even if we have to get control of our own head pain first. Be strong!