What does romance mean to you in your relationship? Is it flowers? Chocolates? Being whisked away to a romantic city for the weekend? Hours of mind-blowing sex? A pair of white doves released in the air?
Maybe in the movies.
In fact, research finds that when it comes to romance, in reality, it’s the little things that count — and when we asked real-life couples from the Paired community what keeps them together, they tended to agree.
From how one couple stays connected while oceans apart, to how another keeps the passion alive after 20 years together, read on to discover the secret, real-life ingredients to a healthy, happy, and lasting relationship.
Paired: Mercedez (23) and David (24)
Together since: 2021
Mercedez and David are currently in a long-distance relationship after Mercedez moved to Korea for a work placement. “The time difference between us is 17 hours,” she says, “but no matter how far away we are from each other, we always make time to connect – even with our insane time difference and busy work schedules. We’ve been watching a movie together, virtually, every Monday night for the last 10 months!"
“I’d always hated video calls and thought I would never be able to make a long-distance relationship work. But it’s different with David. I don’t mind spending nine hours on FaceTime watching movies or playing online games, just like I don’t mind jumping on a quick 10-minute call just to say goodnight,
“I guess that’s romance for us: consistent communication. I want to share my entire life with David, even when we’re an entire ocean apart.”
Paired: Teddy (32) and Nayara (29)
Together since: 2020
For Teddy and Nayara, who met during the pandemic, romance is all about learning how to make each other feel loved. "It’s finding ways to show them that you care," says Nayara, “all those gooey feelings you have on the inside need to be shown outwardly, in gestures, words, or gifts.”
“We cook each other’s favorite meals and have at-home spa nights,” says Nayara. “Teddy also often picks up something sweet for me on the way home because he knows I have a sweet tooth."
Paired: Nathan (47) and Candi (40)
Together since: 2015
According to Nathan, who’s been with Candi for over seven years, romance in relationships is about creating thoughtful moments to be together. "We organize activities that are unique and adventurous," he says, “we create memories we can look back fondly on and revisit in our minds… which usually prompts us to want to find the next thing that can top it!”
“We’re in love with each other and can’t imagine life without one another,” says Nathan, “we make sure to remind ourselves of that any chance we get.”
Paired: Heather (32) and Amanda (35)
Together since: 2018
“Romance is knowing how to make your partner feel loved without having to say the words,” says Heather, who’s been in a relationship with Amanda for over three years. “When we’re just sat on the couch, relaxing or watching TV, she’ll rub my leg or my feet. Her hands are always close, touching me. It makes me feel cared for and loved.
“Of course, we go on dates. We make time to be with each other every day. But mostly, we just find ways to be close to each other — figuratively and literally.”
Paired: Carol (52) and Jeremy (48)
Together since: 1996
Having been together for over 25 years, Carol and Jeremy know a thing or two about lasting love. “I think being romantic doesn’t have to be difficult,” says Carol. “It can just be telling each other how you feel or doing little things to help each other, like cooking together or doing the dishes when you know your partner has had a hard day. We also make time for fun. We’re open and honest with each other. And we say 'I love you' at least once a day.”
Overall, for Carol, it’s about feeling cared for and supported. “Four years ago, I went back to school to get my degree, which was a bucket list item for me. Jeremy took over most of the household chores, so I could concentrate on my school work.
That would be my advice for other couples. Just care for each other. Laugh a lot. And never judge or try to change the other person. Love each other for who you are,” she says.
Paired: Christi (36) and Brandon (36)
Together since: 2003
For parents Christi and Brandon, while romance is important in their relationship, it’s working together to keep their relationship strong that counts. “It's not always easy, and it’s not always flowers and chocolate,” says Christi. “Some days are more stressful than others, and there’ll be times when you argue because you’re both imperfect people. But we know it’s worth fighting for, and we want to try to be better for each other.
“I feel special that 19 years and four kids later, my husband still desires me,” she says. “I also feel special when he helps me or asks me what I need… or when, on the few times we get to be all alone together, we can still communicate about anything.”
Paired: Ashley (27) and Greg (29)
Together since: 2013
“I think the way we view romance might not be the same as everybody else,” says Ashley, who’s been in a relationship with Greg for nine years. “We rewatch the shows from our childhood together, we tell the same dumb joke over and over just to get each other to laugh.
"He feeds the cats in the morning so that I can sleep in a bit longer or makes me a cup of coffee just the way I like it. He helps me study for my doctoral exams and buys me Pokémon games right as they come out because he knows they’re my favorite.
That’s very romantic for me.
It doesn’t need to be big gifts or big gestures. The same joke is still funny a million times over, because that's your joke.”
Paired: Michael (24) and Breanna (22)
Together since: 2014
“For us, romance means focusing on the little things we can do for each other and paying attention to how we’re feeling in the moment,” says Michael on his relationship with Breanna.
“We go on lots of dates and make sure to set time aside for each other every day. At least once a day, we check in on each other through the Paired app and answer the daily question or find a game that we can play together.”
I love that my partner really listens to me and makes me feel grounded when I get overwhelmed. My advice for other couples would be to try and just be in the moment. When an argument is settled, leave it there. Don’t get stuck on things that happened in the past and bring them up again in the future. Forgive and forget."