A stomach with butterflies, a heart skipping a beat, and eyes meeting the moon that looks like a big pizza pie — if you experience these feelings, it's a sign that romance might be in the air!

Icon of Heart with face held by two hands.

But, what exactly is romance? Be it your first time or a hundredth time having such feelings for someone, it can be hard to pinpoint what makes romance unique, as it can be seen as not different from "love." If it's the same, why have romance?

Spiderman pointing at Spiderman; one says

It's a little more nuanced than it appears. While similar, the differences show how diverse and layered the concept of love can be. To understand the difference between love and romance, you need to explore what roles they play in our lives.

What is Love?

Baby don't hurt me, don't hurt me, no more!

Haddaway, "What is Love?"

Three men in a car head-banging in sync.

Love = "strong affection for another arising out of kinship or personal ties".

Love can be seen as an umbrella term for all kinds of love, for various types of relationships can fit under the definition given above.

Relationships often fall into two types of love:

  • Platonic = love for friends and family

  • Romantic = love for a specific person (ex. a life partner)

Romantic love focuses on fostering a unique, deep connection that goes beyond platonic love. While we can have deep connections with friends and family, romantic love reserves more personal responsibilities and expectations for a special person.

Romance is based on this romantic love — think of it as the foundation that romance grows from.

A man and woman having a date at a dinner table.

What is Romance?

So, if romance comes from romantic love, how does it show itself? What does it look like?

Romance is the act that expresses that deep connection or admiration for another person. It usually involves surprise, excitement, and being extraordinary. These acts aim to show passion and desire for another, and how much they mean to them.

There are many gestures that are romantic, such as:

  • Hand-holding

  • Kissing

  • Dancing

  • Dressing up (for fancy dinners or formal functions)

  • Giving unexpected gifts (flowers, food, or a present)

  • Giving nice and affirming compliments

  • Making a painting for them

  • Writing poetry or a song about them

  • Planning a unique date

  • Going on special trips or activities together

  • Seeing or experiencing something awe-inspiring

An eccentric man giving fake flowers to a woman.

We have romantic feelings because we want relationships where we can give our full love to someone. Romantic relationships are an avenue to realize and share our humanity that strives for liveliness, service, and gratitude with another.

What Romance Can Lack

Although romance is great, it's easy to get lost in the excitement of it all and forget about what is actually important for love.

Getting caught up in romance can lead to issues such as:

  • Being in love with the idea of love, not the partner

  • Avoiding tough conversations to always be happy

  • Placing unrealistic expectations on the partner

  • Ignore other responsibilities and family

  • Giving up individual goals and dreams

If love is a cake, then romance is the frosting — without the cake, you just have frosting that is too sweet, isn't filling, and can make you sick in large quantities.

Bill Murray from the movie

Love and Romance

Does that mean romance is bad? Not at all! The idea is that romance can be greater when it's based on a love that works towards building and maintaining affection. What this work looks like is:

  • Communicate needs and issues openly

  • Problem-solve together

  • Have realistic expectations

  • Maintain individuality in the relationship

  • Support each other

  • Be consistent

  • Understand how one person likes to receive love

  • Be okay with imperfection

  • Behavior matching our word

With these, romance can be expressed properly, emphasizing the qualities that make a relationship work rather than vain and superfluous ones.

Carl and Ellie from the movie


What is NOT conducive of healthy love?

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Romance is a type of love that wears its passion and liveliness on its sleeve. When there is a firm foundation of love, romance sparkles like fireworks in the night sky. It reminds couples how it feels to be in love, and what it means to give love.

The perfect balance of cake and frosting puts the whole thing together, and it's the frosting that makes those moments all the sweeter.

Minnie and Mickey Mouse holding hands on a bridge with locks on it.

Think about the difference between love and romance:


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