In my last piece I had alluded to beginning a journey with you all in search of the “Art of Life”, through remembrances of my own personal narrative. We had begun with romantic love and the beginnings of a long and sustaining relationship. In that vain creating a positive and successful romantic relationship I consider certain attributes essential: chemistry of course gets the ball rolling we all know that. We are attracted to each other, “fall in love,” and then what? They say, “First comes love then marriage then the baby carriage,” “happily ever after and all that.” But what we really know is that over time the statistic remains quite steady, fifty percent of all marriages fail.
If chemistry is the seed of any romantic relationship: how important is it to cultivate that seed? I have found it to be of the utmost importance. After thirty-five years of marriage I can honestly say if it were not for our attraction to each other we would not have made it! When times get especially rough there was always that chemical bond that would not allow us to separate from each other; like a moth to a flame. At times I even felt like an addict often going back when I knew it was not good for me. Over time, I have been glad that it kept me from “throwing out the baby with the dishwater” on those occasions of extreme frustration and anger.
As time has progressed obviously the lusty side of our relationship has waned. The onset of menopause has been especially devastating to me personally. I have met many women whose menopause did not impact their sexuality and for them this blessing cannot be underestimated. I will say that I have been fortunate that my husband has continued to be attracted to me and we have worked with my physician and a therapist to work out the kinks. I think we are over the hurdle and we are working on implementing new strategies and making an effort that will sustain us over the long haul.
I would recommend that any couple at any stage of a relationship, whenever they find themselves in a rut, make a commitment to seek the help they need. We are sexual beings and having based our earliest connection to each other on that attraction it is paramount to a vigorous and long relationship to nurture and care for that key element.
Some of the things I have learned include: spending committed time alone together, that includes weekly “date nights,” and vacations at least once a year alone. It also requires a commitment to stay attractive, not only for your spouse, but also more importantly for yourself. When you do not feel good about yourself, you do not feel sexual. When you go on those weekly nights out, getting “gussied up,” feeling pretty/handsome is as important to you as it is to your partner. I can say to this day, putting on a pretty dress and a pair of heels can do wonders for your self-esteem. Add in a new hairdo and some pretty nails and you feel like a million.
I remember there were times in our relationship we were so broke the idea of buying a new dress, going to the hairdresser or nail salon before going out to dinner was literally a fantasy. Luckily that was in the earlier years in our relationship and working at keeping ourselves attracted to each other was not a problem. A bottle of cheap wine and sitting on the stoop of our apartment was “good times.” As time progressed, I found the gold mine of “thrifting.” I could go to a place, literally where you bought clothes by the pound. I could spend five bucks and get a new outfit and a pair of earrings to match. I could get all dolled up and we could go to happy hour at TacoCabana…. we had moved up!
There is one thing I can say about being young, poor, and in love. You sure appreciate the little things. We went out the other night for our “date night” and the tab was one hundred dollars including tip. We could not get over it! It wasn’t even a birthday or anniversary. But it sure was fun! We reminisced about the past, as we often do on those evenings, thanking heaven for our good fortune and dumb luck to have found each other.
We sure don’t have all the answers but I will say I feel like one of the luckiest women in the world and he says the same to me. Nurture the seed of your relationship, water it, fertilize it and pamper it. Your primary romantic relationship will grow and sustain you in good times and bad. In the pursuit of the art of life, finding happiness is our ultimate goal and sustaining a long and rewarding romantic relationship is one of the greatest ways to find such happiness.
Tara Ubelhor M.Ed., LP