“I’ve been married 19 years and I just found out my husband likes mustard on his sandwiches!” tweeted author Sheila Gregoire. I had to chuckle at that but, inspired by her honesty, I asked my wife “Is there anything like that that I should know about?” Thinking for a moment, she politely replied “Well, you do put too much milk on my cereal.” Hmm… I’ve been flubbing the cereal for 28 years? Who knew!

I realize these are small tweaks in the grand scheme of things, but they are indicative of a romantic paradox verified in a study published in the Journal of Consumer Psychology (August 2010). According to the authors “Our results indicate that older couples had lower accuracy in predicting each other’s preferences than younger couples even though older couples in our study had spent an average of 40 years longer together.” They go on to describe many possible explanations for the discrepancy, but, to summarize; it basically comes down to an assumption problem. We assume we know too much about our heartmate. Continue Reading…

"Inside a Toolbox" by SiomuzzzI gave a talk at the men’s breakfast at our church this past February and I have to admit I was both encouraged and horrified. I was encouraged because guy friends I thought would just heckle me sincerely participated in a deep discussion about love and romance. On the flip-side, I was horrified because, rather than enabling the guys to honor their wives more effectively, I felt like so many of the guys left the talk feeling shame and guilt. That certainly wasn’t my intent and I’ll have to make sure I tweak any future talks to make that obvious.

So I hope that in introducing the new “show” category to you that you will see it for what it is… not more reasons to feel guilty, but rather a growing tool catalog of new and familiar tools for creating romantic gestures. Rather than writing yet another “101 Romantic Ideas” list, I want to enable you to create your own personalized romantic moments and gifts.

It is my goal to introduce you to various key elements that I have found in my research that can be overlapped to create lavish, out-of-the-ordinary romantic gestures. Some of the tools I plan to write about include:

  • illusion or surprise – more precisely, the unexpected.
  • allusion
  • firsts
  • bests
  • “returning to the scene”
  • taking risks
  • unique /once in a lifetime
  • the opportunity to laugh
  • excitement
  • sentimentality
  • creating a memory
  • themes
  • music
  • fire
  • water
  • location
  • timing
  • clues/contests/scavenger hunts
  • recruiting friends

All of these can be used to embellish traditional romantic gestures or layered deep for special events like Valentine’s Day, birthdays and anniversaries.

So imagine yourself cracking open the latest catalog from your favorite tool store. Here’s hoping that as the “show” category grows, it will fill you with the same inspiration to create wonderful things.

Remember: Safety First!

“You’re on fire.”

“Ah… Thanks hun.”

“No, seriously, your hair!”

We laugh about it now, but I’m not making this up. She’d had a long day at work, so I’d poured a romantic bath for my Lovely complete with romantic candles around the tub. As she sank into the warm water, her long hair bent into one of the flames and caught on fire! Fortunately a quick dip underwater solved the problem before she got hurt, but it has always been a reminder to me to make sure that I try and ensure my romantic gestures are as safe as possible.


Clearly things can go terribly wrong. Consider these hazards:

1. Fire – The fact that there is a State Farm Ad about using candles safely on Valentine’s Day suggests that our near miss is not as rare as you’d hope. Contrary to what Eminem and Rhianna might want you to think, burning the house down isn’t romantic.

2. Water – One of the most horrific romantic-gestures-gone-wrong that I’ve ever heard of involved a planned marriage proposal on the ocean. In 2008, a bride-to-be was swept out to sea by a “sneaker wave” on the Oregon coast.

3. Lightning – A proposal in the beauty of the outdoors went tragically wrong when the bride-to-be was struck by lightning.


Every romantic gesture comes with risks – some emotional, some physical, some you can plan for, some you can’t. Anything you can do to ensure that your romantic gesture is as safe as possible is surely worth the planning.

Question: Have you ever had a near miss during a romantic gesture with your heartmate?

The “To Know” List

July 26, 2011 — 2 Comments
What follows is a list of information that I’d recommend you know about your heartmate. Having the list with you either in your memory, phone or wallet can help ensure your spur of the moment romantic gestures are spot on.

In so many couples, one person seems to be getting more than enough physical touch, the other partner is starved for more. In both cases, the parties involved often take the demands or rejection of the other very personally.

This got me thinking.

Does anyone know if there has ever been a study that is essentially the other end of the scale of the Harlow Monkey contact comfort experiment? In this study, researcher Harry Harlow effectively showed that physical contact with a soft mother was actually more important to the monkey than food.

However, when viewing the video of the experiment, it should be noted that the surrogate mothers don’t have arms. Does anyone know if anyone has ever tested for what I’d like to call HugMAX? In as much as a mother’s comforting touch is important, it must also be instinctual for animals to flee when trapped. Whether it is a thorn bush or a predator’s jaw, it seems to me that at some point a flight response should kick in to some types of prolonged physical touch, even if no actual pain is involved.

In our house, one child was a cuddler; the other was a squirmer. As a toddler, my son loved to cuddle, whereas my daughter would try to wriggle away from a hug as quickly as possible. With her, it was like trying to cuddle a bobcat.

I wonder if each of us has a different upper end for enjoyment for physical contact where initial contact is needed and craved, but above the HugMAX point it starts to feel threatening and dangerous. If my hypothesis is correct, it would have one very significant implication: Unless both partners have the exact same HugMAX value, there is the potential that one partner will either feel trapped by “too much” physical contact or deprived of sufficient contact in the relationship, depending on whose HugMAX value is honoured more often. This would also imply that the seeds of couple dissatisfaction around physical contact are planted for nearly every couple! Whether it would be possible to change a person’s HugMAX value, and if so how, would also make an interesting study. (My guess is yes, because my daughter is a legendary hugger now.)

One really simple study I can think of would involve having couples comfortably embrace in a non-sexual context, but one partner would be in on the experiment. That partner would hold the hug until the held partner started to squirm to get away. The time, HugMAX, would be recorded.

Try it on your heartmate. I’d love to know how long it takes them to try and get away. :)

Does anyone know of any formal studies related to this? If you have very different physical touch needs than your heartmate, how do you cope? How do you fill the contact comfort gap?