Grown-up love
June 14, 2009 10:09 AM   Subscribe

Can cynical old me still find passionate love? Or should I readjust to some kind of grown-up relationship?

I'm in my mid-30s and I've had quite a few relationships already. More than once, I thought I'd found The One, but after a few years, something hasn't worked and the relationship has ended. I find that with each relationship, I hold a bit more back, at least at first. I have less of the optimistic dreaminess as the years go on, and its hard to imagine ever re-experiencing the truly magical faith that I had with my first love. So, is there any hope for me? In your experienced opinion, is it OK to just accept a more mature form of falling in love, that is slower, more reserved, and more based on sensible choices? Or is it better to just wait and wait and hope to someday find someone who re-sparks a kind of youthful enthusiasm?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (8 answers total) 32 users marked this as a favorite
Personally, I think it's possible to have both. At least, that's what I've always thought an ideal relationship should be -- you have the slow and steady practical moments, where you are gradually building a foundation of love and trust and reliance upon each other, but you also have the giddy magic moments. In fact, I'd say that the more stable and sensible things are, the more you can trust yourself enough to let go and EXPERIENCE the giddy moments.

What I'm talking about is probably rarer than hen's teeth. But I absolutely believe it is really out there. You may just have to know yourself very, very well to know what it is you want.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:24 AM on June 14, 2009 [7 favorites]

Why is this an either/or? Young people manage to have plenty of dreary and unromantic relationships; I have an elderly relative who found true love in his eighties. And passionate love can certainly grow out of a deliberate and slow start.

So I'd say you are asking slightly the wrong question. It's not can you find love; it's whether or not you are doing the things you would need to be doing that will find and nurture love.
posted by Forktine at 10:36 AM on June 14, 2009

and its hard to imagine ever re-experiencing the truly magical faith that I had with my first love.

Why would you want to, you were naive and didn't know a damn thing then?

It's like when you were a kid, you though Return of the Jedi was a cool and exciting movie, then you grew up and experienced better movies yet yearn for the hacked together garbage that was RoTJ. Why would you want?

You've grown up and changed and have different needs, wants and expectations and that's totally natural. Embrace them and you'll find the magic you seek.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:38 AM on June 14, 2009

It might also be worth asking yourself/pondering if you're confusing infatuation with "passionate love."

After a relatively recent split from my partner of 10+ years (and which relationship started out with me being so swept into the maelstrom of intense emotions that I would literally almost pass out whenever he kissed me) I'm now seeing someone who told me six weeks ago that since he wasn't feeling those "in love" feelings with me, he thought the only sensible thing to do would be to end the romantic aspect of our relationship, but continue to grow our friendship because he always had a really great time whenever we were together.

I wasn't exactly feeling those "in love" feelings either but I also wasn't really expecting to since I'd only been seeing this person for a month or so and jeez! It's a month! How are you supposed to know anything about anyone in a month?

Anyway, I responded by saying, I can think of a lot of other "sensible" things to do, as in, we're adults, let's not worry about whether or not we're "in love" but just continue to see each other when we want, do what we want and see what (or what doesn't) happen.

Since then, we've seen each other MORE frequently than before his declaration of non-love, have had some amazing times and he's now telling me he can't wait to see me and misses me when he can't.

I have no idea what's going to happen between the two of us but my point is: I think the guy I've been dating had been wanting/expecting to feel infatuated while I've realized that my outlook is more a variation on this theme: Life (or love, in this case) is what happens when you're busy making other plans.
posted by hapax_legomenon at 11:11 AM on June 14, 2009 [10 favorites]

You can absolutely have both, but for your own personal growth, concentrate on what/how you would like after the infatuation period fades out. Unless you are a swan personality, your feelings are going to change. It's not a bad thing per se. No relationships can be sustained purely on feelings of romantic infatuation that is present in the beginning. Also, see it as a dynamic system if you want: it is also your potential romantic partners who are now more mature, aware of their needs, and quite possibly tired from a series of longterm relationships that ended because the other person was not ready to transition from "madly in love" to a safety and security of a stable, committed relationship. This knowing clearly what you want longterm is a great asset when looking for a partner.
posted by Jurate at 11:30 AM on June 14, 2009

All love begins as a glowing ember. Sometimes it turns into a great roaring fire. Sometimes it smolders. But always you risk burning the piss out of yourself, so be careful.
posted by discountfortunecookie at 3:08 PM on June 14, 2009 [6 favorites]

Screw all that 'in love' jive, it's for kids and fools. And sometimes it happens, even if I don't want it to, and if/when it does happen I do all that I can to sink it, to tear rents into it, as if it's a big ol' hot air ballon loading up to carry off my feet -- nunh-uh.

Nature wants babies. It insures this by giving us this whole experience wherein we feel that 'it's destined' or 'I've never felt this way before!' etc and etc, blah blah blah.

Hint: When someone tells you that "they've never felt this way before!" you know for a fact that they are the 'in love' experience.

A number of years ago a guy I knew, was sortof mentoring starts dating some gal he met at parents without partners, tells me after about three days that "I've never felt this way before" and he's all excited and lost in it, and I said yeah, I know about that deal, and he was really excited, asked me about it; I told him he had a hard-on. He got all mad and stuff.

It can happen, hit you like a bus, turn you into a fool. Happened to me about four months ago, maybe six; a gal who I had pegged as a friend, totally, like a sister or what-have-you, and then I notice one day that she's holding her hugs a long time and they are close, warm and close, and she's not looking at me like a sister, and I'm single and I'm lonely and I'm human and I'm a fool so I didn't immediately tear as many holes in it as possible to keep myself -- and her, if possible -- grounded. Jesus. I so know better. Next thing I know I'm thinking of her as I practice yoga, as I shower, as I awaken, probably as I sleep, this thing is in motion. And nothing to do but let it run it's course, like a fever, just shake it out, get the fuck away from her and keep the fuck away from her until lucidity returns.

A horror show.

Peck writes the best I've ever seen on this topic, this whole 'being in love' vs 'growing in love', he writes with real clarity and tons of common sense. An old book, The Road Less Traveled. And Helen Fisher has studied it for a number of years, her two TED talks are absolutely worth your time.

Here's some love: Feeding Kellys cat, and giving it medication, and cleaning up it's shit all over the house, and I hate this cat anyways, but Kelly was away helping her mother cope with some sort of cancer. Going with Kelly to visit her mother, though we probably both knew that our relationship was headed on out the door, and i love her mother but can't stand how she treats Kelly but I went, day after day, night after night. That's love. A friend of mine is twenty years or maybe twenty-two years into a marriage, about eight years in his wife, in therapy, remembers a rape that happened years before, and she hates men now, she tells my friend that the sight of his schlong makes her sick and makes her furious, and he hung in there, sometimes one minute at a time, never knowing if she was going to be back or not, she was gone into it for well over a year, it was essential for her healing, he hung in and hung in -- that would be love. Yeah, it's flowers and vacations and fun walks together and valentines day and reading together -- Kelly and I used to sit side by side cruising the internet some nights, we'd watch movies on her laptop or mine, etc and etc, it was what we enjoyed at that time, on that night, whatever -- but it's damn sure friendship, too, or it's not going to last.

Kissin' don't last; cookin' do." Okay, that's extreme. But it's headed in the right direction. I'm not saying to marry some dirtbag with a pan in her hand. But to marry out of the foolishnesses of that whole jive-ass 'in love' thing...

Admittedly, it is possible that I am just the teensiest bit red-neck on this issue. I've been hit by that particular bus just way too many times and it's not at all fun. Or, rather, it's just all kinds of fun, and then I snap out of it and she's reading me my horoscope -- My horoscope! Jesus F. Christ, this broad is into horoscopes and shit -- and I've got to weasel my way out of it, or she snaps out of it and hears me snoring, or watches me scratching myself, she's seen them a hundred times but for the first time she really looks at the drugs I take every day and she's like "Jesus effing Christ, this mope is mentally ill! And he dresses like a total dope! And he thinks my cat sucks!" and now SHE'S got to weasel on out the door, and I'm laying there with a knife in my heart, or in the first case she's laying there with a knife in her heart, and the whole thng is just gruesome and stupid and it could have been stopped with a bit of discipline there at the start...

I believe that I've gone on, and on, then on some more. Has this turned into a rant? It appears so. Do I post it?
posted by dancestoblue at 6:55 PM on June 14, 2009 [29 favorites]

Um, right. Anyway, if you're holding out for some kind of impassioned high-school puppy-love yearning, it probably ain't gonna happen. When it does happen to people who are older (older than teenagers; I don't consider mid-thirties to be old at all) they are generally labeled as "immature." Another issue: this idea of "The One." Having this concept where there is One person out there for you who you must find to complete you is really going to hold you back. People who think in terms of this concept don't seem to be able to keep from idealizing partners/potential partners who seem like they might be The One. This sets the whole relationship up for failure; as soon as small things go wrong, or things don't seem to be working out, the whole thing falls to pieces because hey, your Soul Mate wouldn't do that shit! Anecdote: I knew a guy who had an absolutely terrible time with relationships because he was convinced he was "meant to be" with one specific individual. He had a lot of great starts with girls who he claimed were absolutely perfect and cool except for one thing; he didn't feel like he was "meant to be with them" and would go into mopey-mode because this girl wasn't The One (and he thought his ex who was married with children was his Soul Mate) and then he'd gradually withdraw from the girl he was dating, not returning calls, standing her up, and so on. And yet he claimed that he really wanted a relationship--but the only thing immediately keeping him from a (potentially great) one was himself.

It's absolutely possible to have passionate relationships as you age and mature, but obviously they won't be like the first couple you had when you didn't know anything else; nothing is. Some people claim they can sustain passion with one person over extended time, but most can't. It's really not clear from your question exactly what you want out of a relationship, but to get anything fulfilling out of a relationship you are going to need to stop holding back and give a little. Note: relationships are a hell of a lot of work.
posted by Polychrome at 11:29 AM on June 15, 2009 [5 favorites]

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