Love that lasts a lifetime | Sunday Observer

Love that lasts a lifetime

The survey result isn’t very promising. Over 25 years after their marriage, less than forty percent of married couples describe themselves as really happy while the rest are either somewhat satisfied or living with spouses in quiet desperation, experiencing little intimacy.

One wonders what happens in a marriage that has lasted more than two and a half decades. Is it because the initial excitement about staying in love has begun to wane? Or is it because you talk and work with the same person on the same subjects every day and night?

“It depends on what you mean by love,” says a wife of 15 years of marriage. If you mean that ‘can’t-keep-your-hands-off-each-other’ feeling, then you don’t have that. But, now it’s different. Sex is no longer a priority. You relax and enjoy looking at the growing family. You’re proud to be part of it. You know you’re loved by someone who really understands you and cares for you. Can anybody beat that?”

Five years ago, when Ayesha received a good job offer, she was thrilled. For thirteen years, she was at home looking after her two young daughters and she thought it was a blessing. However, after a week of suspense, she was told that another woman had got the job.

Ayesha explains: “I felt as if somebody had hit me in the stomach. I called my husband and he asked me to meet him for lunch. We talked and talked. I told him things about myself I never dreamed I’d tell another human being. And he talked about us, and about our girls. I felt as if I’d come to him a jumble of broken bits and pieces, and he was putting me back together again, building me up with all the chunks of our lives together. When I came out, I was really proud of my husband.”

Passion

Both ladies are right. The core of love is a sound knowledge of each other, and that knowledge takes years to develop. For husbands and wives who work and stay in touch - who listen to each other, who share what’s going on whether it’s fascinating or not - love becomes a steadily increasing component of the marriage that enhances all other elements.

What frightens many people is the normal fluctuation of passion within the long time-frame of love. When the initial excitement of a passionate love begins to mellow into the gentler security of an established relationship, some partners panic.

To make marriage work, you have to step forward into the territory of familiarity and discover, beyond novelty, the intimate warmth of being together with the person you know almost well as yourself.

Expert advice

Look at Pradeep and Renuka, a couple in their 60s, who appear to be the poster pair for the happy couple category. One is a psychotherapist and the other a relationship expert. Both worked in the Far East and are now spending retirement in their country of birth.

How have they managed to flourish for 35 years of marriage? Pradeep says, “For starters, two important qualities are required: caring behaviour and a proactive approach. You’ve got to change your orientation from the ‘Me’ plan to the ‘We’ plan. If the needs of both people in the relationship are being met, if both are mutually satisfied, there is the real potential for a life of joy and fulfilment.”

He continues: “There are three predictable stages of a relationship: (1) the passionate stage, which, though pleasurable, is not supposed to last; (2) the power struggle stage, where you learn to understand each other; and, (3) the figuring-out stage, when you discover how to live together under one roof, realizing personal vision, as both, an individual and as a couple”.

Anger

“No spontaneous expression of frustration or anger is allowed, ever.” This is a point Renuka emphasizes, calling it ‘dumping.’ She says, “Anger and frustrations should be discussed and settled between a 12 to 24-hour period, so that neither partner has long to wait, yet, has time to calm down. All of us have emotional parts of ourselves that have not been fully developed. On and off, we may push the buttons which activate the triggers. But, good relationships can actually help mature those weak aspects of our personalities.”

Renuka adds, “Instead of getting upset when Pradeep is annoyed with me, I’ve learned to develop more of a curiosity. I get curious about this other human being that I love so much and realize that his intention, though it frustrated me, was not to hurt me. It had more to do with something going on inside him at that moment. Once I understand what it is, it becomes easier for me to respond.”

So, what is the secret to their enduring and satisfying relationship? “A lot of us live in fairy-tale land, thinking that things are supposed to go well all the time,” says Pradeep. “When we have difficult moments, we can look at how we contribute to the nightmare, as well as, how we contribute to the dream. My part in the success of our relationship is not only to look at how I might feel wounded in the situation, but also at how I am wounding Renuka. By taking responsibility for everything I do and say, I am honouring our agreement to be together by being a responsible, accountable partner.”

Facts

Faces wrinkle, bodies get pudgier, energy levels recede, most people face an increasing number of niggling ailments. A long-lasting love accepts all of these less than agreeable facts. It comes to terms with time. What binds the couples together is not what they look like, but what they are.

These are the facts that sustain a marriage, and spouses committed to a long love build-up. It can be easily done by sitting together on a couch in the living room watching how the dawn slowly lightens outside the window, or holding hands under a restaurant table or even coming back home individually in the evening with fresh hunger for each other. 

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