Rose MacDowell

Ah, romance, a word so many of us understand but few can define. What is romance, exactly? Most of us think of it as courtship, tender displays of appreciation and desire that draw us closer to each other. Others believe it's something deeper that grows over years, a true love that goes beyond initial attraction and desire 

Romance is a big topic and everyone has an opinion about it. So let's dive deeper into what romance is and how we can experience it in our lives, even if we're not in a relationship (or don't want to be!). One thing we do know? Romance is for all of us. 

The Definition of Romance

The word romance stems from the word romanus, a Latin adverb meaning "of the Roman style." In the Middle Ages the term referred to epic tales of chivalry and adventure, and wasn't associated with love until the late 1600s. 

These days, the word romance is often used to describe limerence, the intense focus and longing that occurs early in a relationship. Think of limerence also known as infatuation or a crush  as the "new relationship energy" that results in obsessive thinking about someone and craving their presence. Limerence feeds on the dopamine rushes of a new connection, leading to the powerful emotional attachment we call "falling in love." 

Though limerence may feel like love, most of us eventually crash to earth and realize it isn't. Romance, on the other hand, can be an ongoing part of any relationship, new or long-lasting. Romance is as much an action as it is a feeling.  

What Is Romantic Attraction?

Romantic attraction is the desire to connect to another person, or more than one person.  

What Are The 5 Types Of Attraction? 

  • Sexual attraction. Sexual attraction is the desire we feel for another person, the longing to touch, kiss, and express our sexuality with them.
  • Romantic attraction. While sexual attraction can be purely physical and fade quickly, romantic attraction is typically deeper and lasts longer.
  • Aesthetic attraction. We can be aesthetically attracted to anything we consider beautiful, from people to paintings to photographs.
  • Platonic attraction. Platonic attraction can be as powerful as sexual and romantic attraction, but is reserved for friends and others we don't hanker after physically.
  • Emotional attraction. Emotional attraction is the need to be emotionally close to others, and is key in any close relationship. We can experience emotional attraction with just about anyone, including partners, children, and friends. 

What Are Signs Of Romantic Attraction? 

When it comes to romantic attraction, you usually know it when you feel it.

You may feel the desire to be close to the other person, look at them, and talk to them. Or you might feel shy in their presence and feel physical responses like blushing or a faster heart rate. You may subconsciously mirror their gestures or lean in closer when they stand near you. Obsessive thinking about the object of your desire is practically a given.    

While romantic and sexual attraction may seem similar, they are different. The urge to hop in bed with someone you've known for 90 minutes? Sexual attraction. The dream to not just hop in bed but set up house and have babies with somebody you've been dating a month? Romantic attraction.

How Can I Develop Romantic Attraction?

Both sexual and romantic attraction can grow over time. To increase your chances of developing romantic feelings for someone, try "acting as if." Spend time together. Ask questions, and find out what makes your potential partner tick. Make romantic gestures. Focus on things you find attractive in the other person.

Shared experiences are a great way to build a bond and learn about each other. Sports, a weekend away, concerts, and other extracurriculars can bring you together and increase your attachment. 

Romantic attraction also means opening up and allowing a future mate to know you. Choose what to share as the relationship progresses, and reveal more as you become comfortable.   

What Is Romance In A Relationship?

"Romance" is commonly used to describe the many ways we express love. Romance in a relationship often includes gestures that inspire feelings of joy and connection. Romance is also intensely personal, and can be influenced by culture, past experiences, and identity. What is romance to a woman may be different to a man or person of another gender. 

Examples of romance may include:

  • Giving flowers and other gifts
  • Special surprises
  • Taking pictures together
  • Celebrating anniversaries and significant milestones
  • Sex, affection, and intimacy
  • Writing notes, texts, or poetry
  • Enjoying experiences together, such as travel and sports

Romance can also be more subtle, particularly in long-term relationships. Subtle does not mean less significant. Romance in a committed relationship can feel especially loving and important.  

  • Cooking and cleaning
  • Caring for our partner during grief, an illness, or pregnancy
  • Taking care of children
  • Sharing inside jokes, music, or memories 
  • Listening attentively
  • Supporting a partner during a difficult transition, like a move or job loss 

Romance in a relationship can evolve over time, and is particularly meaningful when it becomes part of the "story" of your life together.  

Romance In Pop Culture

Romance is the common thread that binds pop culture together. Music, movies, and books explore all the complex facets of love, from its early heady beginnings to its heartbreaking endings. Though musicians, authors, and filmmakers are all preoccupied with romance, they each explore it in their own unique way.   

Romance In Songs

Love songs -- both happy and sad -- make up the majority of songs written over the last 100 years. Romantic songs can help you experience the highs and lows of love, no matter what the state of your love life. Romantic song lyrics are a must-have in wedding vows and breakup texts, while "romantic songs in English" is one of the most common internet searches. 

Check out our list of the Top 15 Romantic Songs for dedicating, crying to, and just singing at the top of your lungs.   

Romance In Movies

We don't just love to feel romance, we love to watch it. Romantic movies have been perennial favorites since the arrival of silent films, when stars like Greta Garbo graced the screen. Some of the most enduring movies of the last 30 years include romantic comedies and dramas, and many genres of film that aren't strictly love stories include a romantic subplot.  
Here is our list of Great Romantic Movies to watch with a friend, partner, or cozy on the couch all by yourself.

Romance In Novels

Year after year, romance novels are the world's top selling books. These aren't just the bodice-rippers of yesteryear (though some are, and they have a deeply devoted fan base). Romance novels can be simple romcoms or complex examinations of love and family. We love them for their variety and the way they  reflect changes in society and relationships. Here are some of our top picks.

Romance In Real Life

Think romance is the stuff of Hallmark and Hollywood? Think again! We've compiled an inspiring list of some of the most romantic couples in history to prove that love and devotion are alive and well.

Romantic Locations in the US

Location, location, location. Part of romance is the setting where it takes place. Whether you're partial to the excitement of big cities, crashing ocean waves, or pristing mountain peaks, there's a perfect romantic spot for everyone. Here are our favorites.

Romantic Picture Ideas

So you're in love and want to document every moment (or at least the important ones). But how do you take a romantic picture? How can yours stand out from the millions of others on social media? Read on. We've got some tips and tricks to make taking pics with your partner easy and oh-so-romantic.