To me, romance comes in intimacy. I don't mean physical intimacy (though that certainly plays a role, especially in marriage) -- I'm talking about emotional intimacy. When someone bares their soul, that's the most romantic thing in the world to me.
DH and I first became friends at 18. We had attended school together since 7th grade, but we didn't run in the same crowds, so even though I knew who he was, we weren't friends. But in college, our first couple of weeks in the dorms, we were reintroduced through mutual friends -- and we clicked right away. We didn't date, BUT there was romance. And the romance came through emotional intimacy.
We used to go to dinner at the cafeteria together, and we'd sit and talk until they kicked us out. We did that every night for most of our freshman year. I honestly don't remember what we talked about, but the thrill of knowing that he'd open up to me -- especially because he's always been a very quiet man -- was delightful.
DH is still one of the few people in this world that I know I can say anything to -- anything at all -- and he'll not only accept it, he'll respond. In our marriage, flowers and candy are unnecessary (though I always like chocolate, of course) -- I'm more concerned about him sharing his heart with me.
Writing that kind of intimacy is just as hard (maybe even harder?) than writing about sexual intimacy. It's private and complex, and allowing any character to become that emotionally naked before another takes not only time but openness on the part of the author. There's no doubt that it's hard for me to do this. And it's hard to do well -- because the author has to show not only the characters' hearts, but they have to make sure that it only happens between the two people who are sharing a romance. Those insights and clarity can't happen elsewhere, or the romance is weakened -- and that's a challenge.
What do you think? How do you share emotional intimacy in your writing? Do you think other things build a stronger romance?