Posted on April 18th, 2019
Most enduring relationships begin with a burst of passionate intimacy we call falling in love, sweeping past our usual defenses against intensely close emotional connection with another person. This heightened experience lasts usually for several months, until one day a change happens. This change is the first complication in the new relationship showing itself, in the form of a change of mood, a slight pulling away, or some challenging new learning about each other arising.
Many potential relationships end at this point, the desires which began them overwhelmed by the challenge of integrating two lives. For those who do go forward from this change, this doesn’t mean love is ending in the face of everyday life. Instead, this is love expressed in a variety of forms, transforming as it spreads into other aspects of the couples’ lives.
We are complex creatures, drawn and pulled and pushed and demanded in many directions, living our lives to fulfill all of who we can be. The first ecstatic throes of meeting a new lover supersede most of our other concerns. But these other needs are genuine, and they start to re-emerge at this point in a developing relationship, requiring us to make room for them. We already have an existing life, with work and friends and family relationships, established ways of being and of doing, paths we are moving on and ways we are stuck, the entire range of human expression. Our new relationship has to accommodate all of that, a complicated, ongoing process.
Some of our larger needs flow from our new relationship itself. We are open to a new lover in the first place because we have desires this new person can fulfill, desires not fulfilled by our existing life. We may not have been conscious of these desires before the relationship begins, but they have been there, crouched inside of us probably for years. As we engage with our new partner, this intention to have a certain kind of life with another person emerges.
But what is this new life going to be? It’s a magical occurrence when we find someone who fits us so closely that we can embark on a lifelong journey with them. But the magic is not all-encompassing. There are also ways in which the actual person we are engaged with does not fit our vision—they understand us in certain ways but not others, their actual way of living doesn’t fit us that well, they come with difficult family relationships, they have hidden depression or anxiety spells.
Building a relationship which includes these other aspects of the person we now love is a necessity, because these are not just obstacles to the rapture of being in love. This can be seen with lovers who decide to totally throw over their old lives in favor of starting completely fresh with each other, new places, new people, new everything. They soon find that their love wears thin. The intense passion of falling in love is marvelous, but its intensity is only one note in the symphony of who we are. Repeat the note too many times without the full range of other notes and it becomes monotonous.
Because of this, the long-term purpose of our first passion for each other is not to crowd out every other aspect of our lives. It is to support and sustain our lives, to be woven through everything we do, particularly as we become more skillful in finding our love in the midst of wherever life takes us. As we do this, the strong passion of this single note develops harmonic overtones and undertones, becoming the rich experience of lasting love, in the background of the way we come to live together. And sometimes in the foreground, when we fall in love with our longtime partner all over again.
Posted in Marriage and Couples