At this stage of my life, with kids that are teenagers, it just sort of dawned on me that finding love is something society kind of pushes on us. Of course, we all hope to make an exciting and meaningful connection with another person – but there definitely is a human “hype” given to the idea of love – and I’m not sure that it’s necessarily a good thing.
I remember in high school it felt like being a part of a couple was a rite of passage or something. Other kids would sort of give you the nod of approval when they saw you’d paired off with someone. Maybe in some way it said to the world, “see, somebody does want to be with me. I’m good enough.” But for whatever reason, being a part of a couple seemed like validation of some sort.
Then, when you get a little older, not just anyone will do. Most of us are looking for that “sweep me off my feet” kind of love. This is the type of love that the movies love to promote. It’s romantic, passionate and all-consuming. It promotes the idea that there is only one special person in this world for me – and without them I cannot go on another lonely, meaningless day. And while our young hormones do help to keep those new encounters crackling with an exciting kind of electricity, I think if we’re honest it’s all based on pretty shallow stuff. How hot is the other person? What kind of car do they drive? Is he a good dancer, or kisser? It’s almost like part of their appeal is how good they make “us” look. These types of relationships may have some fun and powerful moments but they often die out pretty quickly.
Then we decide we want someone who truly understands us – wants the same things in life – someone who will become a striving partner, as well as a lover and companion. This is a harder role to fill, partly because we’re not entirely sure of what we want – and also because people are always changing. I think most divorces result from this stage of “love” because we may be more in love with our fantasy of the future than we are with the person we’ve chosen to be with. Of course, when we have found the right person – this is probably the time when our love most closely matches the perfect version of love we see in the movies. We’ve moved beyond the surface stuff, have committed to someone, and each new milestone that we experience together adds something tangible to our lives. We’re building a life; we’re building a family.
But then, with more stuff comes more complications – and even though we may still love our spouse as much as ever, we’re often too distracted (and tired) to show it. It’s easy to become irritable and a bit sharp with each other – simply because there’s only so much time, money and energy to go around. Keeping up with all this new “stuff” is exhausting.
Little by little the passion of the relationship starts to take a backseat to a different kind of love – and if we’re not vigilant in honoring our commitments and staying in the game – this is another danger zone for marriages. But, if we can stick it out and just get to the end of the to-do list every day, we’ll find that our feelings for our spouse have changed yet again. Even though we’re still both exhausted, the love has transformed into something bordering on mythical – a combination of admiration, adoration and tried-and-true trust. This new love, while much less exciting than the old one, is also deeper and stronger – it somehow feels anchored in your soul. They say that soldiers who have been in the trenches together never lose that bond – and it’s the same for spouses, if you can just get through the war. To call the years spent raising a family a war somehow seems harsh and unappreciative of all the wonderful things that it can bring – but it definitely does require a fighting mentality to get everyone through it in good fashion.
Yet, those years gift you with still more types of love. As a parent, we discover a fiercely protective, from-the-center-of-our being kind of “sweet” love for our children. There really is nothing else like it and it opens up new areas of our hearts that we never knew existed. For ourselves, we begin to feel a greater sense of self love. We can see that we have succeeded in creating something amazing, and looking back on times when we doubted ourselves seems rather embarrassing from this place in our lives. The love and appreciation for our own parents grows too. We’re more apt to forgive their mistakes because by now we’ve certainly made our share of mistakes as well.
In January, I will celebrate my 25th wedding anniversary with my husband. And although I have yet to see how this story ends, I can tell you that making it this far has given me the incentive to really wrap-up this love story in true Hollywood style. Here’s what I hope to do:
Once we’re truly empty-nesters, I plan to infuse this relationship with the energy it’s had to sacrifice for everyone else for so long. I plan to sincerely heed my marriage vows and “honor” my husband for sticking with all of us through the trials and tribulations, bills and spills, through the laughter and the tears. Marriage isn’t a prison sentence. Nobody’s guarding the door refusing to let you leave if that’s what you choose to do. But he didn’t. And neither did I. So, with the remaining years we’re given, I’m going to make sure that we speak kindly, live more simply (so that we can spend our time, energy and money on things that make us happy) and reinvigorate our relationship with the romance that we had when we were young. I’ll make him feel as if he’s the one special person in this world for me – and that without him I could not go on another lonely, meaningless day. It will be the greatest Hollywood spectacular ever! The End.
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