Love and Relationships

[Two Pronged] What can I do to make my husband become more romantic?

Margarita Holmes, Jeremy Baer

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[Two Pronged] What can I do to make my husband become more romantic?

Guia Abogado/Rappler

'He is a good husband, and a very good father, but he never has a present for me on any special days'

Rappler’s Life and Style section runs an advice column by couple Jeremy Baer and clinical psychologist Dr. Margarita Holmes.

Jeremy has a master’s degree in law from Oxford University. A banker of 37 years who worked in three continents, he has been training with Dr. Holmes for the last 10 years as co-lecturer and, occasionally, as co-therapist, especially with clients whose financial concerns intrude into their daily lives.

Together, they have written two books: Love Triangles: Understanding the Macho-Mistress Mentality and Imported Love: Filipino-Foreign Liaisons.

Dear Dr. Holmes and Mr. Baer:

What can I do to make my husband become more romantic? He is a good husband, and a very good father, but he never has a present for me on any special days. Sometimes he even forgets to greet me on my birthday. It hurts me.

My friends never have this problem with their husbands. One is even a classmate of his. How can they be so different? It is just a simple thing I ask, why can’t he do it? I have asked him several times, he says he’s sorry, but he still forgets. Only once, when I told him a week before the event did he remember to give me a card. I think he just got it in a store he passed before he came home. Is he really that forgetful?


Dear P,

Thank you for your message.

There is this generalized notion that women tend to be more romantic than men, and certainly this is something that I would subscribe to based simply on anecdotal evidence. Your friends’ experiences suggest however that perhaps this gross generalization is less applicable here in the Philippines, though I have also heard it said that Filipino men are romantic during the courting stage but less so, if at all, thereafter. An internet search however appears to suggest that Pinoys are among the most romantic of men, though whether this is an aspiration rather than a truth is debatable.

Moving from the general to the particular, you say your husband (let’s call him Paul) is a good husband and a very good father, but not a romantic. Many wives would be happy just with those first two attributes but you are nevertheless unhappy because Paul does not meet your standards as a romantic. As just talking about it has not produced the desired results, you clearly need to try a different approach to make him understand why this is important to you. 

Perhaps taking the test developed by Dr. Gary Chapman in conjunction with his book The 5 Love Languages would be a way not only to achieve this but also to take an inventory of your marriage generally. If your primary love language is indeed gifts, the test should at the very least make crystal clear to Paul the importance you attach to gifts and frame it in the context of improving marital communication and connection.

However, in addition to considering the test, perhaps you should try to work out why it is that you are attaching such importance to all this. If Paul does indeed pass your tests as a good husband and father, what does this absence of romanticism actually represent? Does it signify that he doesn’t express his love towards you adequately, or show his appreciation sufficiently, or what? And if it is so, is he in fact the “good husband” that you thought or are you making a mountain out of a molehill?

Best of luck,
JAF Baer

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Dear P:

Thank you very much for your letter.  First, a quick word about Mr. Baer’s suggestion that you both take the 5 Love Languages test to help you out. There is a recent study which debunked Dr. Chapman’s theories such as the existence of five distinct love languages and the idea that couples are more satisfied when partners speak each other’s preferred language. 

Despite the study’s results, I agree with Mr. Baer’s suggestion because I believe the test may come up with some information both of you will gain from. First, the test resonates with many people (or it wouldn’t have been on the New York Times bestseller List for nearly 300 weeks), and thus might resonate with you and your husband. Second, it would be a good way for you to segue into how just as you try to show your love for Paul by responding his love language needs, you hope that he would also try to answer your needs. 

However, I am also aware that you have spoken to Paul many times, still to no effect. An old adage in family therapy is “If something doesn’t work (like trying to talk to Paul), doing more of the same thing won’t work either.”


You follow Charles Duhigg’s 2024 book Supercommunicators: How to Unlock the Secret Language of Connection though, even then, his suggestions may not work for you. What Mr. Duhigg says is that (nearly) every discussion falls into one of three buckets: practical conversations, like making plans or solving problems; emotional conversations, like telling you how I’m feeling, and my need for you to listen and empathize; and social conversations, which are how we relate to each other and the social identities we carry with us. Supercommunicators are effective because they pay attention to what kind of conversation is occurring. And then a supercommunicator (like you, for example, P) tries to mirror that so you and Paul end up having the same kind of conversation at the same time.  

Finally, if even your attempts at supercommunicating don’t work, I suggest you ask yourself whether his not being romantic is non-negotiable or not. I feel Mr. Baer’s suggestion that you ask yourself the reason you attach such importance to this can help tremendously in your asking yourself whether his non-romantic ways are a deal breaker or not?

In other words, is his not being romantic enough worth breaking up your family and leaving him?

I hope this question does not seem judgmental in any way, because I can see how you might feel that, if Paul doesn’t care enough to at least try and respond to your needs, what is that saying about the depth of his feelings for you? And if he doesn’t at least try, why bother to stay?

Wishing you all the luck in the world and sincerely hoping at least one of our suggestions works,
MG Holmes


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