Can the Honeymoon be Saved? The Ultimate Relationship Challenge

If someone tells you what love is, do not believe him.

Thus having given you good reason to ignore me, I shall pretend you’re still reading and provide a possible answer.

First, I’m writing about being “in love” and “swept away,” not a sedate, loving, and less ecstatic attachment. More the honeymoon than the place down the road where engines slow and the fire truck in charge of routine overtakes the couple and douses the flames. Here the dead hand of habit makes an unwelcome appearance.

Before I get to how to forestall that undesirable event, let me speak more about it.

Madness describes the state of new love — “the full crazy.”

Some call it obsession. The idea of the other floods your being with face, form, touch, scent, voice, intelligence, and laughter. Sex, too.

Love makes the world new: everything sparkles. Perception is enhanced, like the change from black & white to colorized, 3-D.

One day ago, you were a sleepwalking, beclouded person. With the sunrise of a new romance, each day is broken open the way a child attacks the gift wrapping on his Christmas presents. You come alive to what it means to be alive.

Love is foolishness and wisdom, silliness and joy, slavery and escape. The bewitched circumstance is so perfect that we make the arrangement a 24-hour cohabitation and risk killing it. “More” is not necessarily better. In a world where we adapt, adjust, do the laundry, and pay the bills, the mundane moves in and makes it a threesome.

Love is falling, but believing you won’t hit the ground. Reason plays little part. Friends question your judgment and warn you. Even astute ten-year-olds witness your rolling eyes. They fear for your safety. Unsolicited words of advice make abstract sense but appeal to a brain taking a smoking break.

This state of euphoria is heedless of tomorrow. One cannot imagine the emotion fading, the beloved aging, troublesome relatives, and quarrels over money. Intensity and gratitude are all.

Whenever amour is the real-deal, you are changed, enlarged. The personal, permanent passport of your existence gets stamped with the name of another, a human possessing an addictive flavor.

Thought alters. You conceive anew what is possible in life because you experienced a sliver of the impossible.

Love, when authentic, inflates your humanity, the capacity to give to another, and the knowledge that the world possesses mountain tops of rapture and well-being. No wonder an abrupt end to this journey rips your insides out.

This glorious condition rarely lasts. Time tends to mold the relationship into a different shape of love. The rip-your-clothes-off, rhapsodic fervor becomes more episodic, a tune you notice less often, assuming it is played at all. Heretofore unseen personality incompatibilities intrude.

The arrival of children enriches a marriage, but also stresses it. For most duos, the grinding of frenzy gives way to the rubbing of friction and familiarity.

Sometimes the marital pair discovers a challenge in their conflicting motivations. People live for love, for the kids, for money and objects, for fame, to live-on in artistic or scientific works, etc. Moving in tandem over a lifetime requires lots of coordination, tolerance of the other, and sacrifice.

Being crazy-in-love doesn’t demand much except a shower and a fresh set of clothes. A life together does.

Much writing offers guidance on perpetuating the enchantment. The list of suggestions includes effort, imagination, surprise gifts, date nights, sexual experimentation, playfulness, and remembering why you fell in love. Kindness, apology, and respect are essential, as is an absence of condescension. The therapist, Esther Perel, believes infidelity with the consent of the mate can also enhance the marriage, though I have doubts.

For the candle of courtship to remain lit, both parties must grow and transform. They otherwise offer nothing new to their partner. Boredom out of the bedroom is a killer of passion within it. While renewed love is not so effortless as the new kind, recapturing a time when you were an explorer to an undiscovered country is worth another safari.

Sensitive conversation is required. Some people listen only to fashion a reply. Instead, the husband and wife must hear to understand.

The wise pair benefits from balancing time together and apart, hours without the spouse, and solo interests as well as activities they share.

If the lovers do not bring fresh ideas into their interactions, nearness becomes a dreadful repetition. Each might take comfort knowing every thought before their companion thinks it, but dullness makes an extramarital affair appear enlivening.

I know a magician, a specialist in racing with the moon when not nursing the rabbit in his hat, who conjured a way to keep marital bliss rolling forever. The plan requires the sweethearts to live in different cities and meet every few weeks, traveling back and forth, sometimes to places beyond their homes.

Habit wouldn’t play any part, but a vacation atmosphere of excitement and adventure would. No children were offered a role in the trickster’s equation. He recommended regular phone calls, however. The wizard guaranteed a “Saturday Night Date” aura to every encounter, no matter the place and time.

Of course, few have the resources or vocation to permit this. Moreover, the urge to join together — the want for “more” — still presents an ever-present risk.

Relationships change like everything else in the world. Youthful newlyweds are endowed with a spark but don’t yet possess the history awarded by age alone. Nor do many of us realize the one-we-can’t-get enough-of lacks the magic to make us whole. That heroic task is a never-finished solo assignment.

The clock takes away but also gives. If grating and the sense of imprisonment in a two-person chain-gang are what remains of the dyad’s past ardor, these souls missed a great opportunity.

Yes, long romance always finds its way to conflict. But shared challenges, mutual support, tragedy endured, joyous memories, acceptance of shortcomings, pride and love for offspring, aligned values, and countless moments of tenderness compensate for the diminished presence of the enkindling thing that brought their hearts together.

The lucky older couple has encountered the absurdity of life as a team, sometimes in laughter, sometimes in tears. In the best of cases, their love is now different, in part because of what they lost, in part because they have transcended the honeymoon.

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The images above in the following order: The Family by Gustav Klimt, Upward by Paul Klee, White Line by Kandinsky, the Red Balloon by Paul Klee, and Portrait of Jeanne Hebuterne (aka In Fronto of a Door) by Modigliani.

 

26 thoughts on “Can the Honeymoon be Saved? The Ultimate Relationship Challenge

  1. One of the plus sides of rediscovering romantic love later in life is that there isn’t a lot of time left to get bored with each other. πŸ˜‰

    Liked by 3 people

    • Your comment made me think of my maternal grandfather, Evelyn. He died when I was about two, so I have no memories of him and only a few photos. I was told, however, that he had little appreciation for my grandmother’s intellect. He’d sometimes sigh after she spoke, a kind of descending scale musically, like the air coming out of a balloon at a slow pace. I think I inherited this talent. Neither my mom or dad or any other relative displayed this quality, so there must be a genetic component. My kids, of course, heard me do it from time to time, and they are virtuosi in this department!

      Liked by 3 people

  2. I don’t much about living the life you shared, but I enjoy watching romantic movies, including romantic comedies. I also enjoyed watching a dear friend of mine patch up his marriage through couple’s counseling. It’s strange to read this from the outside looking in, and being middle-aged. I fantasize about what life would be like with a partner. I get glimpses here and there, but it’s nothing like you describe. I’m fascinated when I hear of successful marriages, or partners who stay together to the end. I don’t know much about getting to the honeymoon stage let alone surviving afterward. Thank you for sharing, Dr. S. This was a really sweet post!

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    • You are welcome, glb. There is yet time.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Awe. Thank you!

        Liked by 1 person

      • I identify as asexual, so unless there is another asexual who cannot have sex or does not want to have sex, I will be content being single. I love falling in love for the sake of falling in love with humans who are out of reach intimately. Friendships are compensatory relationships for me, though distal and not sexually intimate. I simply appreciate verbal connections.

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      • There are such people as you mention in your first sentence, you being an example. Friendships are great and often thought by married individuals as more pleasant than their marriages.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Thank you, Dr. S! Your response gives me hope. I love friendships though, and I always found it healthy to maintain friendships when I used to date others in the past. I do not know much about how that changes in marriages, but I have seen healthy couples in movies have their own sets of friends to invite for parties, game watching, a girl’s or guy’s night out, and more, which maybe can help keep the marriage alive and less isolating.

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      • Yes, it does.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Oh, but isn’t the initial stage great fun? Sigh….but what is also great is a partner who who is your biggest supporter in life, love and companionship, financial security, and the joy of experiencing a love that can burst your heart into little pieces.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Both have there place, Nancy. Yes, great fun and more in the birth of love. When you fall in love it does feel like your heart is full to bursting. Thanks for this.

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  4. I love this post, thank you! At my last session I was talking to my therapist about my fear that I won’t have the courage or conviction to leave my husband in future, as I intend. But I need to remember what you said above: “Kindness, apology, and respect are essential, as is an absence of condescension” and keep remembering they are completely absent….
    I’m grateful for the fact that even if I never find another romantic partner, my therapy relationship has taught me and shown me a very great deal about longer lasting, enduring love…

    Liked by 2 people

  5. An interesting topic, Dr. Stein. I’ve read somewhere that the euphoria of physical attraction between the sexes was nature’s way of ensuring the propagation of the human species. Considering “that heroic task” we humans face in keeping “the candle of courtship…lit,” I’ve sometimes wondered if we were intended to be a monogamous species.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I laughed at your last line, Rosaliene. Your argument is persuasive. My take on the question is that our evolutionary function is fulfilled once the kids are launched, unless our presence continues to assist in their survival and procreation. The rest doesn’t matter from an evolutionary standpoint.

      Liked by 2 people

  6. You seem to have a beautiful family and wife, Dr. S. I think you posted pictures of you and your family on your blog. I remember the post with the funny glasses and your grandson. I think you stated that you went out with your wife that day. I am sure that your grandkids also help with marriage, too. Never a dull moment, something to pillow-talk about.

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