It was one of my worst fears before getting married: what if we fell out of love? What if we stopped “fighting for each other” and instead became complacent and comfortable? What if I woke up years into marriage feeling alone and misunderstood?
I even remember getting into an argument about it while my husband David and I were dating. He made a passing comment about how as time goes on feelings change in relationships, and that made me furious. It seemed like he was just accepting the idea that the longer a couple is together, the more boring their relationship becomes. But that was not what I wanted for our relationship, or for our eventual marriage.
We’ve now been very happily married for seven years, but recently on Facebook I saw a video that made me remember those early fears of mine. The video shows scenes of a couple when their relationship is new, and then contrasts them with scenes of the same couple in a “long-term relationship.”
It’s pretty depressing. The “new relationship” scenes are marked by passion and romance, affection and sacrificing for each other’s preferences (like when the woman agrees to a Star Wars movie marathon, exclaiming, “I’d watch anything with you, baby”). But the scenes of the same couple in a long-term relationship are different: sex is quick and a chore, they argue about what to watch, and gone are the affectionate looks they shared when the relationship was new.
I know it’s supposed to just be a funny video, and, sure, most couples can relate in some ways to that “newness” wearing off. As David and I used to joke, if the feelings of being in love stayed at the same intensity as they are at the beginning of relationships, it’d be impossible to get anything done. When we were dating we spent hours doing nothing but staring into each other’s eyes, and when at work or school we’d be so distracted—all we could think about was wanting to be together. If we still felt those feelings to the same degree today, we joke that we’d probably not be productive at work and we’d probably neglect our kids’ needs because we’d be so distracted by the crazy attraction. Thankfully, we are still very attracted to one another, have great sex, and love each other deeply, but we are past the stage of butterflies and infatuation. (Which I think is a good thing.)
But even though I can relate in some ways to the video, it mostly made me sad. I wanted to shout, “It doesn’t have to be this way!” In my own experience—in my own marriage and in those of people I admire—I have seen that love can grow stronger with time. Love can get better than it was in the beginning.
How? With patience, and forgiveness, and communication, and small (and sometimes large) sacrifices. Over the years David and I have learned more about each other’s needs, and we’ve made adjustments to better love each other.
For example, David knows that I have a hard time unwinding and falling asleep at night. In the beginning of our marriage this led to arguments. I’d be mad that he could fall asleep so early while I lay awake restless, and he’d be mad that I expected him to wait up with me until I could fall asleep. But now, after so many hours of conversations and compromises, we have a routine at bedtime that draws us closer together. While we lay in bed and talk about the day, we turn the lights out and light a candle and David almost always massages my feet and rubs my back with essential oils to help me relax. We try to read something together or pray together, but sometimes we just get caught up in good conversation, too. And sometimes we even find ourselves acting like we did back in the days when all we wanted to do was stare into each other’s eyes. We often fall asleep feeling close and in love.
Our “long-term relationship” allowed us to learn each other’s needs and love languages, and to build the trust required to love each other really well. Time did not weaken our bond, but strengthened it. Feelings of infatuation did fade in some ways, but we don’t miss them because they have been replaced with a more thoughtful love. We are not perfect at loving each other, but we both know that we each want to find ways, big and small, to keep loving each other better. I’d take that over a “new relationship” any day.
Photo Credit: Flickr/ Mike Monaghan