Your first step: know that it’s okay to be a dweeb. Roll with it. Own it. Part of showing love is showing vulnerability, and part of showing vulnerability is the willingness to take risks, open up, expose your nerve endings. Remember, there’s nothing wrong with doing romantic things for your girlfriend every now and then. Being a dweeb and giving her some special treatment is a sign of strength, not weakness.
So, to clarify the title, maybe it’s okay to be a dweeb. You should draw the line, however, at being a tool. Throughout this site, we make a point of skewering Hallmarky Traditions like Valentine’s Day and Wedding Invitations. Those are all stilted, formal, rote.
And the reason we mock the trappings of romance is that, at heart, we like romance. The real stuff. The personal gestures that actually show her you give a damn. Romance isn’t about Valentine’s Day or spending lots of money or buying the requisite quantity of roses. It’s about your continued behavior, your subtle ways of showing your affection, your panache, your gentlemanliness, your enduring courtship. It’s also a good way to get more sex.
Maybe the most important time to be romantic is after Valentine’s Day. To show that it’s not just a one-time deal.
So, 10 ways to be romantic without being a dweeb tool:
1. Break the pattern
Too many relationships slouch into a routine of dinner, drinks, movie, drinks, dinner, movie, dinner, stay home, movie, stay home, dinner, stay home, stay home, stay home, movie, stay home. Break the pattern. Mix it up with off-kilter plays, dances, carnivals, art galleries, orgies, whatever. A corollary to this rule: keep dating. You know when you get to that comfort-zone in a relationship where you don’t really need to ever go on a date? When you feel that way, go on a date.
2. Make her feel like the most important person in the room
Because she is. Always. When she’s your date at a work function, don’t ignore her while you’re schmoozing with clients or your boss. (Douchey.) The little gestures count–squeezing her hand, putting your arm around her waist (when appropriate), heavy and lingering eye contact. Never take this stuff, or her, for granted.
3. Surprise her
This is your main weapon. Use it. When she’s expecting a Tuesday night of take-out and Netflix, surprise her with a candlelit dinner. Sadly, the converse is not true. When she’s expecting a candlelit dinner, it doesn’t work to surprise her with take-out and Netflix.
4. Tease her
No, not in the sense of saying, “You know what, I was wrong, those pants do make your butt make fat! Ha ha, only teasing, Sweet Cheeks.” That will be less effective than you think. But when you’re between the sheets doing…you know, that, spend extra time, slow down, and focus more on her than you.
5. Go small
You don’t need to be John Cusack holding a stereo over your head. It’s not always about the Big Romantic Gesture. In fact, most of the time, it’s the small stuff that counts.
6. Surprise her at work
Sneak into her office, wave all her co-workers over, stand on a desk, and sing her a love song at the top of your lungs. Kidding. Never do this. Or anything like this. Don’t risk embarrassing her. It’s one thing to risk humiliating yourself, it’s another to risk her job. If you’re not sure if you can pull it off, you can’t.
7. Dress up
You know how you like cleavage? That’s how she likes a sharp, well-tailored suit. Every now and then, it’s important to dress up and sprinkle in some glamour. And not just at weddings. Or funerals. (Funerals are less romantic than you’d think.) Especially if you’re not the kind of guy who usually wears suits, this will be appreciated.
When you buy her gifts, don’t just get her Shiny Objects. Also get her little token gifts that reference inside jokes, her hobbies, weird things she told you about her teacher in third grade. These are the gifts she’ll remember. They show you know her, get her. (That said, at times, you’ll still need to splurge for the Shiny Objects.)
9. Compliment well
Notice the specifics. If she’s wearing a new dress, let her know it’s working. Tell her she smells great. (That’s an underused and always appreciated compliment.) As you grow older together, remind her how beautiful she is. This is particularly important when she’s no longer beautiful.
10. Don’t confuse romance with contrition
We can’t emphasize this enough. Most guys only buy flowers for two reasons: 1) It’s Valentine’s Day; or 2) They’re apologizing for something. If you’re only romantic when you screw up, over time, you will nurture a Pavlovian response between, say, Flowers and Cheating.
Other favorite romantic moves? Sound off in the Comments, below: