What Happens to Romantic Relationships
If you weren't born yesterday, you know that time is responsible for a boatload of changes; some of them good, some, not so good.
Recently, I attended a story book wedding. The bride was beaming; the groom was gleaming. They were obviously smitten with each other. She passionately toasted her “amazing, awesome, astonishing husband who makes me feel so good about myself.” He, in turn, ardently toasted his new wife as “loving, caring, beautiful- inside and out- and my best friend. What a lucky guy I am.”
It was a magical evening. The invited guests were marinating in the ambiance of love. It warmed the hearts of all. Almost all, that is. But not Mrs. Scrooge.
One step away from the reception line, she muttered (in much too loud a voice), “Just wait. She’ll wise up soon enough. Marriage is for men’s benefit. Women get the raw end of the deal.”
Her mate took the bait. “What are you crazy? Marriage is a woman’s game. She’ll suck him dry soon enough. I give him six months before he turns into a wuss.”
Everyone rolled their eyes and wished this couple would just shut up. They were spoiling the moment. Magical weddings tap deep, wondrous instincts in those who still believe in fairy tales. Why, oh why was this crass couple intruding on the moment? It was annoying and grossly inappropriate.
Yet, most people in the room knew what they were talking about. Starry-eyed love is nature’s anesthetic. No pain. Only glorious adoration and ardor. And then, over time, as every couple knows, the anesthesia wears off. Damn it!
Many attempt to dodge the change. Still, they find themselves becoming annoyed with traits that they previously found attractive. Her vibrancy now feels like “can’t she ever relax?” His self-confidence now feels like “why does he always think he’s right?” Still, they’re patient with one another, minimizing the differences, apologizing for the judgments.
Discord is evident. But so what? Nobody’s perfect. No relationship is without its crinkles and creases. As time elapses, however, romantic love may recede further from everyday life. The anesthesia is long gone. The pain is felt. Tolerance wears thin. Instead of gazing into each other’s eyes, they sit in silence, gazing at their electronic gizmo as they gobble down their meal.
Nagging differences have morphed into full-blown annoyances. He wants to watch the game; she wants to talk. He wants to doze off with the TV on; she needs quiet. He eats with no regard to cholesterol or cost; she hones in on diet and dollars.
If romantic love has faded from your relationship, don’t panic! All is not lost. Other stages of love can be quite wonderful. But you have to compromise. If you can’t be with the love you had, then love the one you’re with.
You may find it hard to do. You may feel betrayed. “You changed; you’re not the person I thought you were.” And you’re right. But neither are you. Once, you were lovers steeped in the ethos of a romance novel. Now, you’re a real-life couple sketched in a chapter of a self-help book. What a descent! Bummer!
Though the snags in your relationship may be significant, I hope you never become like that crass, cynical couple at the wedding. Sure, you’d just like to whisk away your troubles and return to the days of romantic love. But that’s not going to happen. Yet, consider this possibility.
Perhaps, the relationship struggle you’re experiencing right now is what’s supposed to happen. Perhaps, it’s growth trying to take place. Though it may be the last thing your conscious mind desires, it may be just what you need to develop, renew, expand and flourish as a complex human being.
Linda Sapadin, Ph.D. is a psychologist who specializes in helping people enrich their lives, enhance their relationships and overcome self-defeating patterns of behavior.
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