Well, here goes. Although my whole blog has been dedicated to the idea that I am going to share my ideas based on external observations and reflection on my innermost thoughts I am really going out on a limb this time. Today I want to provide a definition of mature love.
Like I said in one of my early posts I probably knew more about love when I was 14 years old, or at least I thought I did. As I have gone through almost six decades of life and encountered a variety of experiences I have learned a lot more and in the process gotten more confused. I do know that mature love has to be more than the infatuations we feel at 14 but at the same time some of that has to remain. I think mature love must include four components and that if any of these are missing there is the potential for a problem in the relationship.
The first component I am going to call animal instincts. This gives rise to that feeling you get when you are around someone that you just can’t explain. I have come full circle on this one. This, of course, is what kicks in when we are young but which I eventually learned was an infatuation and not real love. By the way, it seems the more I learned about love the more cynical I got about it so read on at your peril!
The next thing I learned was that romantic love always fades and has to be replaced by a mature love and that at some point staying in love has to be a choice. Well, that took a little luster off the whole thing but it made some sense. Besides, making that choice when there is a whole shared history and a family that has been created is not that difficult.
Of course your relationship partner also has a choice, so it was after my divorce that I really started to think about this whole relationship thing and why they so often fail. Finally I learned that more often than not what we think is love is just unfinished business from our childhood and that really threw me for a loop. My longest post divorce relationship was exactly that but, unfortunately , it was also very intense and the one relationship I miss the most. Since then I have gotten into other relationships, and although they were satisfactory in a lot of ways, I just had to admit to myself that there was no “there” there and they just fizzled.
So like I said I have come full circle. That is why I say there still has to be something that kicks in from the animal side of our being. At this point I really wouldn’t care why I felt something. I just know it is important. That is not to say that we shouldn’t be a little wary about unfinished business from our childhoods, but let’s separate that which is toxic from that which simply creates a little bit of a spark.
Of course a big part of animal instincts is physical chemistry and that shouldn’t just mean sexual chemistry. It should mean that a touch on the arm or shoulder can still create a tingle in the spine or at least a sense of connection.
Some people still romantically cling to the notion that love conquers all and base their long term relationship decisions on having that “feeling”. Sometimes it works out but often it doesn’t so there has to be more to mature love than a feeling.
The second component of mature love is friendship. It simply means enjoying each other’s company and having at least some mutual interests. Knowing that you can share and confide goals and fears without judgement is a critical part of this. I could have called this component intimacy but I think that intimacy comes from the combination of our animal instincts and friendship.
The third component is comfort. Do you just feel comfortable being with and talking to your partner? If you plan on living together or creating a family then this is critical. Although having similar goals and shared values is a big part of this making sure your needs balance is probably more important. If one person needs a lot of space and alone time and the other believes that being in a relationship means being together most of the time there will be constant conflict unless a suitable compromise can be reached. The ideal situation is to have similar needs so that the relationship is naturally comfortable. Given the numerous expectations that each person brings to a relationship, let alone gender differences, skill at resolving conflicts and reaching compromise will be important for establishing a comfortable relationship.
The final component I arrived at only recently and I am calling that admiration. I think there has to be at least some things, and hopefully quite a few things, that you admire about your partner. It creates a sense of pride that your partner chose you. These don’t have to be big things and can be things that only you might notice. I added it because I realized that if you don’t admire someone it is easy for resentment to take its place. Once that happens a relationship can enter into a downward spiral. However, if it is possible to retain admiration then it may just be what pulls you through on those days when you view your partner as a cold, unfriendly and disagreeable waste of human flesh sitting across from you, and every relationship does, and should, have those days.