Loving Differently

Ahhhh, youth

Romantic love in my teens included the requisite racing heart, sweaty palms, and lots of day-dreaming. I hate to admit it, but I used to write my name as Mrs. So-and-So a thousand times in my school notebook. Also, my diary was on fire with detailed descriptions of all that I liked about boy So-and-So.

When I was a fifteen-year-old living in France, I had a German boyfriend. He couldn’t speak English and I couldn’t speak German. We held hands a lot. We weren’t able to communicate at all unless one of our mutual friends who spoke both languages was with us. I’m surprised our relationship lasted two weeks.

I’ll bet a lot of you can relate to those irrational and highly emotional experiences from our younger love-filled years.

Obviously, romantic love changes as we age.

Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s Love in the Time of Cholera tells the story of a young couple that falls in love, then goes their separate ways during mid-life, and finally reunites in love during their later years in life. During my younger years, when I first read this story, I questioned his description of how love changes over time from our youth to our golden years.

It’s obvious that what may have attracted us to one another initially — a full head of hair or a bikini body — eventually fades. Hopefully, what attracted us superficially gets replaced by a deeper, more abiding affection, and our love for one another generates from the inside out. Our once beautiful exteriors are no longer the driving force in the relationship. When this change in love doesn’t occur, when our partner no longer values our intellect, humor, and compassion over our exterior shells, we may face divorce or separation.

How to Enhance Loving Differently

Take away the skin-deep attractions of youth and the stresses associated with mid-life (children, growing career, finances, caring for older relatives) and you have more time and energy to focus on how someone thrills you in more ways than just physically.

One of the most significant ways to enhance loving deeper in our later years is through honesty. Being able to confide in one another in a truthful way involves self-disclosure and taking risks by putting yourself in a vulnerable position. If you are willing to take a chance, a deeper level of intimacy in your relationship is possible. Hopefully, self-acceptance has increased over your years and you are willing to be more vulnerable.

Another way to stimulate more intimate feelings with your partner in the later years is to increase sociability. As we age, our social circles tend to constrict. It takes more effort to avoid being invisible by staying home alone all the time. But making the effort is well worth it because socializing stimulates intimacy and greater communication among friends and acquaintances. These interactions can, in turn, spark closer communication and shared experiences with our partners.

Finally …

Regardless of who we think might be responsible for the waning love in our relationships, it’s not our partners who have to change. It is ourselves. We need to see that love and romance are different as we age, and we need to work with our partners to keep intimacy alive and well. Focus on what you can do to bring about positive change rather than on what your partner might be doing wrong.