“Love is born in a glance, and matures in a smile.” ~ Brazilian proverb
I glanced at my husband for the first time in a crowded dance club. I certainly wasn’t hoping to meet my husband on a spring break college trip. But after I asked him if he liked to dance, he was a complete gentlemen. We tried to dance amidst the crowd, but what I remember most is how he carried me over a puddle that was in our way.
As the trip came to an end, I never expected to hear from him again. I had met many interesting young men on our trip, but this one I couldn’t stop thinking about. I was pleasantly surprised to hear from him after we were back in our different Missouri college towns. Although long distance dating was hard, we made dating from different cities work with many mix tapes, phone calls, letter writing, and road trips.
Falling in Love
Most people enjoy being in love, because falling in love is a wild ride. You are at the top of the ride when you fall for someone and the feeling is returned. You feel like you have just one a prize and are on top of the world. Just like a drug, you long for more of them.
We hope this feeling will never end, and when it starts to dissipate we worry. Life is not like the fairy tales I read to my children. Love has seasons that change as the relationship, life, and family changes. But just because love between two people changes, it doesn’t mean it’s gone.
Relationships are always evolving. While change is hard, it doesn’t have to mean something is wrong. Join me in exploring what drives love’s changes and how we can think about the new seasons with more smiles.
Identify Your Season of Love
Helen Fisher, anthropologist and author of Why We Love, shares her thoughts on how love changes so that our species can survive. With a team of scientists, Fisher scans the brains of people who have recently fallen in love. Through her research, she discovers that certain areas of the brain light up when we are falling in love.
Fisher concludes that all animals and humans feel romantic love in the reward center of their brains. In other words, love is much more complex than having a positive feeling, it is a “fundamental mating drive.”
Through her work, she identifies three interlocking drives that primitively speaking help keep families alive. Fisher explains that “drives” evolved to motivate us to reach different goals:
- Lust: “to seek an array of sexual partners”
- Romantic Passion: “to choose one partner to dote upon”
- Attachment: “to remain emotionally engaged with him or her long enough to rear a child together”
Fisher goes on to explore whether or not these drives (or seasons) can occur at the same time. Do you identify with one or more of the above relationship goals?
Twenty years ago on spring break, I was interested in talking to many young men. But by the end of the trip, I had picked one young man that I hoped to spend more time getting to know. We stayed in this romantic love season until some time after our wedding.
I honestly don’t remember when the love started to evolve and reach new depths. I imagine it was a gradual process that changed as we encountered life challenges and milestones.
You gradually start to see your spouse as they are. While you were once blinded by passion and able to overlook their faults, you are now living with their strengths and weaknesses every day.
Changing Marriage Relationship Goals
At this point, do you convince yourself that your spouse is the problem? Many believe they would be happier if they trade in their spouse for a newer model. Or many decide to stay married for the kids but supplement with an affair.
I think how we relate to our spouse is driven by our relationship goals. As your marriage enters new seasons, do your goals change? Your relationship goals will direct your thoughts, actions, and even your feelings.
What are your current relationship goals?
- To convince your spouse he/she needs to meet your needs better
- To feel more positive than negative about your spouse
- To stay married until the kids have launched from the family nest
- To continue getting to know and be known by your spouse
- To make your spouse happy or calm
- To respect differences without thinking your way is better
- To avoid conflict at any cost to yourself
- To speak up more without pressure on your spouse to change
Can you see which goals are more focused on changing your spouse? And which goals are more focused on working on your part. Now imagine what it would be like to live with someone with any of these goals. Which spouse do you want to get closer to?
Marriage Series Begins
This post is the first of several in a series of relationship posts on Embracing Marriage’s Changing Seasons. I will explore how to cultivate your thoughts so you can nurture your marriage’s changing seasons, bring back playfulness and grow your marital friendship. And if the marriage season ends completely, how do you move on when love isn’t returned.
While my thinking is always growing, I will share how I work on my part to embrace the changing seasons of marriage with more smiles. And I would love to hear from those who have been married longer, shorter, and maybe even happier than me. Please share your thoughts on how you embrace the changing seasons of your marriage.
Photo Credit: “In Love” by Hartwig HKD
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