February 2009 Issue
There’s more to planning the perfect getaway than just finding the right inn. Here, some ground rules for the romantically challenged.
“Being romantic is sort of like going to the gym,” says Miriam Carey, author of 52 Romantic Outings in Cleveland (Gray & Company). “Some people are disciplined and keep it up year round. Others shelve it until the last minute, and then wonder why they have lackluster results.”
If you want to get your amorous side back into shape, says Carey, start by changing the way you think. “Chocolate, champagne — those are just things,” she says. “What people really want is time together.”
Relationship coach Kathy Dawson agrees. “The definition of romance is ‘you matter to me,’ ” says Dawson, whose latest book 104 Dates In and Around Cleveland (Gray & Company), was released online last month. “The receiver needs to feel like a priority to their partner.”
According to Dawson, sensitivity, creativity and spontaneity trump material gifts such as flowers and chocolates any day. And if you’re trying to plan the perfect romantic getaway, incorporating the three into your planning is a must. But first, you’ll need to do your homework.
“In the couples I counsel, I always hear one partner say ‘I want you to be more romantic,’ ” says Dawson. “Statements like that aren’t fair. How do you know your partner’s needs unless you ask them?”
For that reason, Dawson recommends that couples complete five statements for each other before they even consider getting the travel guides out. “Each person’s answers will really set the tone for the getaway,” she explains. Try it for yourself:
My idea of a romantic encounter is...
“You have to talk about your expectations ahead of time,” says Dawson. “If you and your partner have opposite ideas of what is romantic, then you’re setting yourself up for a major disappointment by not talking about it first.” Most couples can find common ground, but in situations where you just can’t agree, couples have to learn to take turns and be a little selfless. “You pick something that one person likes this time, then do what the other person likes the next, and realize that just being together is a valuable, necessary thing,” she says.
The most romantic place in the world is...
“If one person says Florence, Italy, it doesn’t mean you have to book two tickets or the relationship is doomed,” says Dawson. “It gives you a theme or a starting point. Maybe you make a reservation at an Italian restaurant, enjoy some Italian wine and listen to Italian music in the car ride,” she says. “Or head to the art museum and see [the works of] the Italian painters.”
The food that puts me in a romantic mood is...
If you’re going somewhere, you’re going to need to eat, says Dawson. “Why not enjoy the food that makes you the happiest?”
The music that puts me in a romantic mood is...
“You don’t have to listen to it all weekend, but maybe play it in the car on the way there to set the tone for the trip,” she suggests. Or arrange for the music to be playing when you arrive at your destination.
My idea of a very romantic gift is...
Walk through any store this month, and you might think the answer is teddy bears and chocolate. This is why it’s better to listen to your partner than commercials, says Dawson. The site www.1001waystoberomantic.com talks about a wife who surprised her husband with a marching band on their front lawn. “You never know — that’s why we gather info first.”
There’s just one rule that’s non-negotiable: “Whatever your partner does, you need to express appreciation for it,” she says.
Once you have the groundwork, making romance a part of your lifestyle isn’t far behind, says Dawson. She tells couples to set a goal of one date night each week, one mini moon (like a honeymoon, but shorter) per quarter and one weeklong getaway each year.
“I always have people who look at me like I’m crazy,” she laughs. “They think with jobs and kids it can’t be done, and they talk themselves out of it before they even consider it.”
But as you incorporate more romance into your life, she says, these escapes will become time together that you’ll appreciate. “I tell [couples] it’s a process. You set aside time and you set aside money all year long. It’s like the Nike commercial — just do it.”