I’m sure it comes as no shock, but men and women think of romance differently.

When asked to describe the purpose of romance, a woman will use words such as friendship, relationship, endearment, and tenderness. Given the same question, a man will answer with one of the shortest words in the English language — sex. For him, physical oneness and affirmation of his manhood equal romance.

Can two people with such different perspectives have their expectations met? Absolutely! But creating adventurous romance requires planning and enthusiastic effort. The relationship has to be a top priority. One reason so many marriage beds are frozen over or boring is that couples just don’t have time for romance and sex. Too many husbands and wives try to work sex in between the evening news and the top ten list on the David Letterman Show.

Let’s face it. Many of our activities and other important things get the best of our resources and energy. Jobs get our best. Children get our best. Church work gets our best. But are we saving any of our best for romance in marriage?

When we had children at home, Barbara and I worked hard to save some of our best for each other. Our children learned over the years that Mom and Dad often like to have quiet evenings alone. When the children were younger, we occasionally turned the kitchen into a famous big-time restaurant called the Rainey Rainbow Room and let each child order a special meal from a special menu. Barbara and I served as chef and waiter, and the kids had a great time learning a little bit about how to eat out.

Later in the evening, they knew they were to go to their rooms and stay there, not coming out for anything except bathroom runs. At 8 p.m., Barbara and I turned our bedroom into our own romantic cafe, complete with a small table, candles, and flowers (when I remembered to pick them up). There we would eat, talk, and relax. As we communicated, we were reminded of what attracted us to each other, and romance had an opportunity to ignite. We didn’t have to worry about a baby-sitter and didn’t have to leave the house to get away alone.

To make anything like this work, you must schedule it and then take the time to follow through. If I have learned anything in marriage, it is that romance, our relationship, and sex take time. And they deserve our best.

I have spent the better part of my marriage learning and adjusting this summary of a woman’s romantic needs. The list was developed through much observation and conversation with Barbara and other women. I also have learned a great amount from the best book ever written on romance, passion, and sex — the Song of Songs in the Old Testament. Obviously, a woman has more than five romantic needs, but I consider these to be the top five:

Romantic Need #1: To Be Spiritually Ministered to by Her Man
Are you surprised that something to do with candy and flowers isn’t number one? A woman wants a man eager to be her protector, someone who cares not just about her security and physical needs but also (and even more importantly) about her spirituality, the well-being of her very soul.

A husband can be a spiritual protector and advocate for his wife by praying with and for her daily, putting his arms around her, and saying, “I want to ask God to bless you. I want to take any needs you have in your life right now to the Lord. And I’m going to pray for you throughout this day.” A wise husband takes the lead in sharing Scripture and eagerly initiating conversation on spiritual issues.

A husband can contribute to his wife’s spiritual well-being by giving her some time to pursue her spiritual growth. For example, he might watch their child while she attends an evening Bible study.

I suggest that every young husband who wants to better understand his wife and his job description should read my friend and colleague Bob Lepine’s book The Christian Husband.

Romantic Need #2: To Feel Safe and Secure with Her Husband
A woman needs to feel her husband’s covenantal commitment to stay married and to love her and accept her. Then she feels safe to give him the gift of who she is in the marriage relationship. The Shulammite woman, who was the object of Solomon’s passion, said, “I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine” (Song 6:3). She obviously had a strong sense of contentment and security.

A wife needs to know that romantic intimacy is just between her and her husband, that he will not share any personal details with his friends. She should not feel pressured or fearful, experiencing the love that casts out all fear (1 John 4:18).

Romantic Need #3: To Share Intimate Conversation
According to something I read recently, the typical couple spends only four minutes a day in meaningful conversation with each other. A lot of us husbands don’t realize that for our wives to consider us romantic, we first of all have to be a great friend and a conversationalist.

Grunts and one-word answers to questions just don’t cut it! Too many women don’t feel that their husbands really need them, and bare-bones conversation confirms their sense of low personal value. Many men who were accomplished at romantic, deep conversation during courtship seem to lose this talent later. You can rediscover the groove! Make a commitment to learn to make intimate conversation a priority with your wife. You need to talk and fill her in on the details of your life — not just facts, but feelings.

When a husband sincerely shows his desire for conversation and a deepening relationship — emotional intimacy — he will find that his wife is much more interested in sexual intimacy. Her dreams, hopes, desires, and disappointments then are not divorced from the marriage bed but are a part of it.

Romantic Need #4: To receive a Tender Touch and Hear Gentle Words
Before marriage, two people in love can hardly keep their hands off each other because they find the touch of their beloved thrilling. What happens after the wedding? Some couples married for a while would find a firm handshake a wildly intimate encounter. This should not be the case in a marriage. There is great power in tender touch, even if it’s just a long, full-body hug or a lingering kiss. Or the touch may be a gentle caress of her face that has no motive to make sexual demands but communicates, “I love you, Sweetheart, and I care for you tenderly.”

Gentle words have similar power. I have made a partial list of some things that I think any husband could use in complimenting and praising his wife: charm; femininity; faithfulness to God, you, your children; hard work; beauty; personality; her love, including her receptivity and responsiveness to you as a man; her advice and counsel; character; desirability; friendship and — that’s just a start. What wife won’t respond to a husband who praises her regularly with gentle words for all these qualities?

Romantic Need #5: To Be Pursued and Set Apart by Her Man
A wife wants a husband who will swoop her off her feet, carry her away to the castle, and say, “Let’s spend time together.” Focused attention is like precious gold in a relationship.

One time Barbara and I had a little unresolved argument over a weekend. A couple of days later we went on our customary weekly date. We finally had the time and environment to fully discuss and resolve our differences. It was just several hours away from phones, papers and bills, and the needs of our children. Your wife craves this focused attention from you.

A Great Lover
One of my favorite stories is of an interview with one of Hollywood's biggest male stars, a man known for his prowess with the opposite sex. At one point he was asked, “What makes a great lover?”

“Two things,” he replied. “First of all, it is a man who can satisfy one woman over a lifetime. And it is a man who can be satisfied with one woman for a lifetime.”

That was a great answer! To build a strong marriage where you and your wife are experiencing oneness, you must be committed to satisfying her physical, emotional, and spiritual needs. I hope you both enjoy a lifetime of satisfaction!

Taken from Starting Your Marriage Right © 2000 by Dennis and Barbara Rainey. Published by Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, TN. Used by permission of the publisher. All rights reserved.