The contact hypothesis predicts that positive contact will reform attitudes towards the out-group and lead to less prejudice as a result. In contexts facing ongoing gender inequality - such as South Africa - romance is usually seen as a beneficial point of contact between unequal groups (heterosexual men and women), because of the sense of intimacy it brings. We investigated romantic practices in a discursive-ethnographic study, by recruiting five young, westernised, middleclass South African couples and interviewing them a number of times about romance and their relationships. We found that these couples positioned being-romantic extremely positively, as a means of sustaining intimacy in marriage. However, we also found that they positioned one version of romance as something they needed to engage in, in order to do relationship-work. We have called this the romantic imperative and suggested that it appears to channel these couples into being romantic in a particular way; one which is restrictive in the way it may be performed and which carries a high cost in terms of the effort, time and financial resources required to perform it successfully. This links to critiques of the contact hypothesis, in that positive contact does not always equate to positive outcomes.