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Valentines and Autumn Love

February 12, 2010

America is a country of romantics. Don’t let the chastening divorce rate fool you. We both marry and divorce because we believe in love. Yet marriage is sometimes wasted on the young, since our younger selves lack the wisdom and self-awareness that mature love demands. The silver lining to young love is the possibility of later love, with the lessons gleaned from our earlier relationships. My colleague and terrific journalist, Sally Friedman, recently asked for my reflections on the topic for an article.

Love the second time around is grown-up. Grown-up love works because we’re able to more realistically accept differences, to withstand the disappointments and naturally occurring tradeoffs intrinsic to all intimate relationships.  We’re able to truly value what makes a partner happy without “keeping score.” Hopefully we have a true self from which to negotiate what’s fair in love, and what to reasonably expect for what we give. Under these circumstances, giving becomes generous, appreciative, and mutually reciprocal.  We’ve resolved unfinished business, and partners have learned to resist destructive urges, have dealt with guilt-laden obligations and resentments. We’ve made peace with our pasts.   Moreover, we’re no longer in denial about our own mortality. Freud got that one right–because sex is better when you know that the time for love and play is finite.  Now you no longer fret about what body part sags, but instead can revel in the sheer joy of being touched.

While I strive to teach couples these lessons the first time around, I hold out hope to those whose marriages have ended. Autumn love is a gift made sweeter with age.

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