Sitting here in Bangkok trying to formulate a quick read on middle-aged love. Romantic love, that is.
Short term love is quick, intense, passionate. Makes your heart stop at times. But the kind of love, of a relationship that has years behind it, is the love that I know best – at least for now. I have no idea what the future holds.
When you said your, “I, ____, take you, ____, to be my lawfully wedded husband, to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part,” you really had no idea – not even close to what you’ve experienced. Yes or no?
For real, all we had as a “Marriage for Dummies” guidebook was what we saw through our parent’s marriage. Yes? We also saw our neighbors who divorced. Or our grandparents who were married over 50 years.
We thought romantic love was what we saw. Some good days and some bad. Raise children. Become grandparents all the while with the spouse you were in love with – your best friend. Together you would fight all odds and have each other’s backs.
I’m not saying all of this isn’t true. It certainly is. However, there is a lot of gray in between the honeymoon and your 50thanniversary, right?
Romantic love has its own life. At love’s “baby” stage our heart pitter-pats at the mention of our spouse’s name, or when your mom yelled that the phone was for you because it was him calling.
Psychologytoday.com writer, Darlene Lancer, JD, LMFT, says, “Our brains are wired to fall in love – to feel the bliss and euphoria of romance, to enjoy pleasure, and to bond and procreate. Feel-good neurochemicals flood the brain at each stage of lust,attraction, and attachment.”
Which explains the infancy of romantic love. How great and powerful and loving it feels to be in love!
But as love grows, and becomes an adult, romantic love takes a back seat to everything else around us. Our kids, the creditors, our aging (or dying) parents, careers, motherhood, and a dwindling sex drive. Romantic love is no longer driving our fire, life is draining it.
It’s at this point that I think it’s critical to making the effort to date your spouse. The only way not to get divorced is to stay married, so you gotta do what you gotta do. And it takes WORK, and nurturing and care. Romantic love was something from when you were in your 20’s or 30’s – back when you were barely alive. Romanic love was EASY back then.
If you want your marriage to work, you have to work it. Yep, you may not be in love with your spouse every single day that you are married, but you have to keep coming up for air. Doing new things, traveling, cooking, anything that brings you together is key. Making the effort. Not taking it for granted. It’s a job, people!
You Have to Work Your Marriage so Your Marriage Works
I am repeating myself. Which means you MUST put romantic love as number one on your to-do list every single day. Force yourself to make that connection. Write a love text or email or poem. Take him out to lunch. Go to a local eatery/bar on a Friday night for “date night” – make the effort. And do enjoy the comfort of familiar sex (if you are still having it!). It’s a no-brainer way to stay emotionally connected.
Thejournal.ie writer, Kate Burke, says, “My research completed with Dr Michael Hogan at NUI Galway, aimed to identify and examine relations between elements of romantic relationship success as described by younger and older adults using a collective intelligence methodology. The top-five most highly rated elements of successful romantic relationships for the older adults were honesty, communication, companionship, respect, and positive attitude, whereas as the top-five most highly rated elements of romantic relationship success for younger adults were love, communication, trust, attraction and compatibility.”
When I read the last part of that excerpt, I nearly fell off my chair. It is highly accurate, my opinion, of course. Look at how romantic love changes through the years, as our priorities change. Mind-blowing because I see that it’s not just me. It’s our age and our stage. I am not crazy.
The article continues, “Notably, honesty was the most highly rated relationship success factor in the older adult group, but was not identified by the younger adult group. Older adults defined honesty as being ‘able to confide in one another in a truthful way’. Honesty is an interesting concept as it involves self disclosure and risks putting an individual in a vulnerable position, and yet the ability to disclose honestly in a mindful, trusting and sensitive fashion can facilitate a deeper level of intimacy in the relationship.”
Romantic love changes over time. Makes sense because we are works in progress. That youthful passionate love turns into “I got you, you got me” (can you hear Sonny & Cher singing?) type of love. Comfort, companionship, familial, that’s what I feel with my husband. We got there slowly, not really noticing, but we arrived. Still very new to us. Treading lightly, slowly, but hand in hand.
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