Has there ever been a human desire fraught with more disappointment and misunderstanding than the art of romance?
The word "romance" itself conjures up vastly different images for men and women.
For us soap-opera-watching, Danielle-Steele-reading, fairy-tale-believing women, "romance" means an adoring man in a white convertible bearing flowers, chilled champagne and diamonds ready to whisk us off to a remote island, or at least dinner and a movie.
For men, the word "romance" is usually code for S-E-X.
And therein lies the disconnect. I don't mean to imply that men aren't capable of romance, in the hearts and flowers sense. In fact, I find that men are often more romantic than women, prone to grandiose gestures of love and affection, happy to drop everything for a night on the town and willing to troll the aisles at Target searching for something to please their beloved.
But as sweet as men can be, my anecdotal research reveals that the male happy ending is when the woman falls into his arms, whispering how wonderful he is.
Whereas many women view that act as only one short scene in the play of romance.
Nowhere do the differing expectations for romance reveal themselves more than during the "Month of Love."
Intimacy expert Patty Brisben, CEO of Pure Romance, which specializes in romance and relationship enhancement products, says, "Women's expectations of what men are supposed to do on Valentine's Day is a romantic, 'Sleepless in Seattle' kind of night. We want an outpouring of 'Oh my God, I love you so much.'"
Whereas, she says, "Men think it's just another d--- holiday that they have to buy something for, grumbling, 'Hallmark, why did you do this to me?'"
However, as tempting as it is to ignore the day, only a foolish man would fail to bring home something.
Brisben - whose company, www.pureromance.com, sells its products via home parties and who has heard more than her fair share of ladies grousing about the lack of romance in their lives - says, "The biggest disappointment for women is no acknowledgement at all; it would be the biggest smack in the face."
Get out your checkbooks, chaps. It doesn't have to be expensive, but we'd really like you to put some thought into it.
Brisben claims she loves to sit in the grocery store parking lot at 6 p.m. on Feb. 14, watching the leave-it-to-the-last-minute men scramble for the leftovers, and suggests that you're better off creating a heartfelt list of five things you love about your partner than you are dragging home the last bedraggled bouquet in the store.
But while men feel pressure to buy the perfect gift, we women often underestimate how much importance a man attaches to our response.
Brisben says, "The biggest disappointment for men is for her not to acknowledge what he got. If it's a piece of lingerie, put it on."
Yes, I know red lace is itchy and you're self-conscious about your body. But don't worry, if he bought it for you, it's because he honestly believes that you'll look great in it. It won't kill you to wear it for 15 minutes.
Which circles us back to the differing scripts men and women have for romance.
It really is a two-act play, and it can be a beautiful story because both parties have put their hearts into writing it.
But if you just show up at intermission and try to fast-forward to the end, you'll miss some essential elements of the plot. And if you spend all your time trying to perfect your partner's lines in Act One, you're likely to miss the satisfying finale he's been rehearsing in his head for you.
So relax and enjoy the whole show. Honoring your partner's role in the production is the secret of fulfilling your own heart's desire.
Snellville resident Lisa Earle McLeod is a nationally recognized speaker and the author of "Forget Perfect" and "Finding Grace When You Can't Even Find Clean Underwear." Contact her or join her interactive blog at www.forgetperfect.com.