The 4Cs of a Meaningful and Lasting Romance: Chapter 1, Part 2


Whether we choose to admit it or not, most of us routinely seek some form of reassurance from an important individual in our lives. Perhaps from our parents for trying to live up to their expectations; from our children for trying to be the best role models we can be; from our friends for acknowledging their significance in our lives; from our boss for acknowledging a job well done; and especially, from our romantic partners.

Reassurance, by definition, provides an action to remove our doubts and fears. The need to feel wanted and appreciated comes naturally. No one seeks to feel unwanted or abandoned. And certainly no one enjoys rejection or being taken for granted.

We all require different levels of reassurance. Some more than others. On one end of the spectrum we find those who require little more than a pat on the back or a simple “thanks.” On the other end, some people crave constant reassurance to the point where we label them “needy” or “clingy.”

Men tend to run from women who come across as emotionally needy; although, women are not immune from exhibiting the same behavior toward needy men whom they consider desperate. There are degrees of needy, and men out of touch with their own emotions can be quick to label a woman who requires regular open, honest communication as needy.

Somewhere a balance exists, for both men and women, between the requirement for too much or too little reassurance. How we define too much or too little depends on the individual person and their particular needs. Finding the perfect balance can be tricky at times, but siding with one extreme or the other never bodes well for couples trying to sustain a meaningful and lasting romance. As with many aspects of our romantic relationships, and in particular with trying to understand our own core values, we should strive for reassurance within ourselves and not become completely dependent on our partners.

Why does reassurance hold such importance? Because it demonstrates caring, compassion, and commitment to one another. Reassurance affirms our belief in one another. It validates our feelings for one another in a positive way. Reassurance also plays an integral role in maintaining open, honest communication. Without it, the person who no longer receives reassurance starts to feel unwanted, unappreciated, or ignored. Reassurance also provides a powerful tool for building trust; for reminding our partner they feel loved; and for maintaining respect. Reassurance also boosts our self-esteem, defined by the integration of self-confidence and self-respect, and plays an important role in maintaining romance and intimacy in a relationship. Reassurance expands our ability to love and be loved.

Verbal reassurance doesn’t have to be profound or poetic. And it doesn’t have to be lengthy. It simply has to be honest and sincere. The level and specific content of verbal reassurance varies appropriately with the stage of our relationship. If someone craves our verbal reassurance after a first date, it might be a sign of insecurity and some unresolved issues. On the other hand, a woman seeking verbal reassurance after several dates, might be trying to ascertain her standing in the early stages of a new relationship (e.g., Am I his only girlfriend or one of many in his stable of female acquaintances?).

For men who fit the model of the strong and silent type, a warm smile, a gentle hug, a soft kiss, or a note on the nightstand exemplify ways to express reassurance. Men enjoy kissing, but for women, the kiss holds greater value; a form of nonverbal reassurance that requires a higher degree of trust and comfort than say a warm hug or a walk on the beach together. In some ways for women, the kiss represents a litmus test of a man’s affection. Men often interpret a kiss as a prelude to sex. Whereas men expect to see clothes shed post-haste, women crave the sense of closeness and belonging a kiss provides, without necessarily involving sex. Show me a man who believes he can fake sincerity in a halfhearted kiss with his girlfriend or wife, and I’ll show you a man with delusional tendencies. Sooner or later, and chances are much sooner than later, the woman will pick up on the signal like a bright orange flare. By which point the only thing more certain than the man’s delusional state of mind is his partner’s decision to move on.

Regardless of your position on reassurance, we all require some measure of reassurance to sustain a healthy romantic relationship. When in doubt about your partner’s need for reassurance, simply ask.

Some key points to remember about the core value of reassurance:

  1. Reassurance should be reciprocal.
  • Reassurance can be verbal, nonverbal, or both.
  • Everyone craves some form of reassurance on different levels; some of us more frequently than others.
  • Open, honest communication plays an integral role in our efforts to provide reassurance.


“See, the problem is that God gives men a brain and a penis, and only enough blood to run one at a time.” —Robin Williams

“I’m not afraid of death; I just don’t want to be there when it happens.” —Woody Allen

“Right now I’m having amnesia and déjà vu at the same time. I think I’ve forgotten this before.” —Steven Wright

“Have you ever noticed that anybody driving slower than you is an idiot, and anyone going faster than you is a maniac?” —George Carlin

“The next time you buy a new mattress, tell the salesperson you’re haggling with, ‘I don’t know…I’ll have to sleep on it.’” —Jason Melby

Humor represents one of our most important core values. How many people do you know who don’t enjoy laughing? If we can’t laugh at ourselves once in a while, we’re taking life too seriously. Often, we spend our time in a futile effort to make sense of things beyond our control. The weather, for instance, always is what it is. We can love the day’s forecast, or we can hate it. But there’s not much we can do to change it. The same goes for those wacky relatives who drive us crazy, though I’m fortunate not to have any of those in my family tree. Maybe it’s your ex who won’t let go or your boss who’s always on your case. A problem child with a mind of their own or just a bad hair day. Life is unpredictable. Change is inevitable. For some of us, a pint of Häagen-Dazs can heal fresh wounds. Others find comfort at their favorite martini bar or from a riveting novel. But sometimes, when you’re dangling from the last fiber at the end of a badly worn rope, all you can do is laugh.

Laughter builds an instant social bond between two people, and unlike the price of gas, laughter won’t set you back sixty bucks to fill your tank with high spirits and positive vibes that come with acknowledging the humorous side of life.

Humor has a tendency to sneak up on us in ways we least expect. Case in point: several years ago I went through a divorce. At that time, my wife and I knew it was the right thing to do. Although a difficult but necessary decision, my divorce impacted me less as a husband losing a wife and more as a father losing time with his sons. Though my wife and I agreed to share joint custody, the separation of households meant my boys would only be with me half time. As a father who loves his children more than life itself, the prospect of losing time with them brought an emotional pain the likes of which I’d never felt before. But more than my sadness of losing time with my six-year-old sons, came a sense of overwhelming concern about the potentially negative affects the divorce would have on them.

One night, when I was tucking my boys in bed, I noticed one son seemed restless and sort of melancholy. Not knowing what was wrong, I tried to ask him but heard no reply as he started to rock himself to sleep. At that moment, I felt terrible and proceeded to reassure him that despite the change in routine brought on by the divorce, I would always love him. And I would always be there for him.

Motivated by my assumption that his moment of sadness stemmed from the impact of divorce, I proceeded with my monologue of reassurance, hoping my words of love and encouragement were getting through to my son and his twin brother, who listened intently from the bunk above. After a minute or so, I stopped talking and said a final “good night.” Before I could stand up, my son rolled on his side to look at me, his face a portrait of concentration as he pondered what I’d said—or so I thought at that moment in time—and asked, “Can you show me how to fart with my armpit?”

A moment earlier, I wanted to cry. Now it was all I could do not to bust out laughing. I’m not making light of my divorce or the impact it had on my family. I’m simply illustrating one of many examples where a little humor can help put things in perspective.

Another quick aside…this one more relevant to the topic at hand as it involves a first date fiasco. After exchanging sideways glances with one another for the better part of six months during several school functions our children attended, I decided to ask a female acquaintance out for dinner. After all, we were casual friends who shared some common interests beyond our roles as single parents. I also found her attractive with a wonderful personality and a nice sense of humor.

I planned our date for dinner at a low key restaurant near the beach, which turned out to be the only thing that went right on this casual rendezvous.

After leaving work later than I’d planned, I got stuck at a railroad crossing waiting for the southbound CSX locomotive to plod its way through Melbourne. At home, I hustled through my shower, shave, and change of clothes. As luck would have it, I managed to cut myself shaving, an event I rarely encounter, slammed my elbow on the bathroom pocket door hard enough to ignite the not so funny bone, and discovered a once tiny pimple on my chin now loomed like Mount Vesuvius.

With little time to spare, I settled my nerves with a few deep breaths and calmly put everything in perspective. My pimple less threatening than it first appeared, I grabbed a fresh shirt off the hanger and reached for my antiperspirant on the bathroom counter. Unfortunately, this particular deodorant stick was one I’d had for some time. With barely a penny’s width of product still left in the twist applicator, I applied what I could from the only antiperspirant in my possession and experienced the coup de grâce. For instead of applying smoothly, the deodorant crumbled into pieces and scattered on my bathroom rug. Already ten minutes late, I got on my hands and knees to pluck what I could salvage from the carpet.

Fast forward to dinner at a favorite local hangout with a woman who seemed more interested in the casual decor than she did in me. After half an hour of good food and somewhat stilted conversation, I found myself in a quandary and decided to inject a little humor with a quick recount of events leading up to our first date encounter. As dinner came to a close, along with any expectation of a second date, I told her the story about my deodorant shenanigans. With my palms face out, I said, “At least my hands smell good.” I got a good laugh out of it—right up until the end of the evening when my over-priced, pre-owned luxury lemon broke down at a stop sign on the way to drop her home.

If you think about it, there are times when we all experience less than stellar moments in our romantic relationships. One minute we’re happy, and the next we’re sad. One minute we’re embroiled in a heated argument of apocalyptic proportion and the next we’re laughing about our own hypocrisy. Sometimes a little perspective helps remind us of the most important things in life. And the importance of humor should never be overlooked in our romantic relationships. The ability to laugh maintains our sanity in our increasingly fast-paced, over-stressed world. Much like words of reassurance, a little levity goes a long way. Not to say an addiction to laughing would necessarily be a bad thing; although, it might give the wrong impression by implying we’re inebriated, high, or emotionally imbalanced. Oddly, I’ve dated women who exhibit all three traits. Sometimes on the same night.

Humor is often what we make of it. It’s also no secret women love a man who can make them laugh. And vice versa. If John Candy were alive today, I’d date him. Okay, that’s a stretch, but my point is men enjoy women with a great sense of humor as much as women seek men who can make them laugh.

Think of humor as the universal call of the wild. People love to laugh. And for good reason. Studies show laughter can reduce pain, strengthen our immune system, and lessen our everyday stress levels. Studies also indicate laughter plays a positive role in our romantic relationships, where couples appreciate each other’s humor. Or as someone once said, “People with a good sense of humor have a better sense of life.”

Some key points to remember about the core value of humor:

  1. When all else fails, sometimes all you can do is laugh.
  • Laugh with your partner not at him.
  • A sense of humor will help sustain you through the rough times and make the good times even better.
  • You don’t have to be a comedian to appreciate the funny side of life.
  • People who laugh more, live more.

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