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TODAY contributor
updated 2/11/2008 3:24:36 PM ET 2008-02-11T20:24:36

Sick of pining for a really romantic holiday because your guy just doesn't get it? You are not alone. Many women long for romance but are with men who just doesn't have a clue how to be romantic.

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Men and women certainly have differing definitions about what is sexy or romantic. Generally speaking, women's sexual fantasies tend to be filled with more romantic interludes then do men's. Many women find a candlelit bubble bath or spontaneous picnic at dusk to be a great way to get in the mood sexually, as well as a way to express and share their love. This desire for romance begins in girlhood when young women are entranced by the promise of Prince Charming coming to life. For boys (and later, men), their sexual fantasies tend to focus more outrightly on sex without all those romantic frills. So it's not that he loves you less than you love him; it may just be that his expression of love excludes that prelude of chocolate and roses. Another point to consider: Some men have a harder time expressing their deeper emotional feelings, and fear feeling vulnerable if they do.

So now you know why trying to get romance out of your guy is like trying to get blood from a stone. But this doesn't mean you are stuck with that. Most women in this situation never say anything to their guy about their need for romance. They figure it won't help, or they are afraid of expressing their desire for romance, or they fear being rejected or embarrassed in some way. Also, some women think that romance is only "valid" if it's a surprise or if it arrives from him without prompting, and if they have to ask for the attention, then the romance is destroyed. All of these excuses prevent you from improving the situation, and they leave him digging himself a deeper and deeper hole. Romance, like most things, can be taught. We ALL learn things by someone telling us how it works, why it works, showing us how they do it and then offering positive reinforcement for doing it ourselves. Here are some steps you can take to make romance bloom more easily between the two of you.

Spell it out.
He isn't a mind reader, so he may not even know what you find romantic! If you just say "do something romantic," he may feel overwhelmed or insecure and end up doing nothing. Or you could wind up with beer and pretzels, watching football on TV. Be specific — for example, say to him: "It would be really romantic if we could have strawberries and champagne by candlelight while I'm in some pretty new robe that you get me."

Drop gift hints.
When it comes to presents, it is still very reasonable to tell him what you want ("I think a bracelet would be so romantic. I just love turquoise stones, don't you?"). If you can't bear to do that, try putting a little note on his pillow that says: "I really love surprises but am kind of hoping for some earrings this year." If you trust a girlfriend enough, ask her to call him and tell him what you have been pining for. Ask for simple things: Don't ask for expensive gifts or items that are hard to size. And if you have children, don't bring them into it, because they might end up feeling responsible for your romantic happiness — which is not a good place to be.

Be a role model.
Romance is a two-way street. Be romantic yourself all year long if you want him to be, too. Little gestures go a long way: Touch his face tenderly, spontaneously hug and kiss him while you are out, give him unsolicited massages or put love notes in his briefcase. Even reminiscing about wonderful times you have had together is romantic. As he enjoys these gestures, he will be moved to reply in kind.

Be revealing.
If you open up to him, you will create instant intimacy. Try telling him something personal about yourself and your feelings, and ask him then to tell you something in return. This will bring you closer and also decrease his fears of romance. You could trade sexual fantasies, tell each other what you like in bed, or just reveal something that scares you or you have always dreamed of doing. Also, you might try dancing! This a great way to be romantic and intimate at the same time.

Give him positive reinforcement.
He wants to love you and feel close to you, but he needs to see that romancing you will further his goals. So after you tell him what to do, give him feedback. Tell him how much you liked it, what a turn-on it was, how much you appreciate his doing it and how you really hope he does it again soon — hopefully before next Valentine's Day.

Dr. Gail Saltz is a psychiatrist with New York Presbyterian Hospital and a regular contributor to TODAY. Her latest book is “Anatomy of a Secret Life: The Psychology of Living a Lie.” She is also the author of “Amazing You! Getting Smart About Your Private Parts,” which helps parents deal with preschoolers’ questions about sex and reproduction. Her first book, “Becoming Real: Overcoming the Stories We Tell Ourselves That Hold Us Back,” was published in 2004 by Riverhead Books. It is now available in a paperback version. For more information, you can visit her Web site, www.drgailsaltz.com.

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