Couples therapist Quentin Hafner knows how to transform the passionate flame of those early days into the warming fire of mature love. Here’s how it’s done.
As days go by and time slowly slips away on our marriage journey, the diminishing sense of curiosity and excitement about our partners can often be replaced by frustration, disappointment, and sometimes even a general dislike for one another. One of the most beautiful and special things about having a fantastic marriage is the ever-changing ebb and flow of our partners’ personalities, temperaments, likes, dislikes, desires, and dreams. When couples report to me that their marriage “just became stale,” I know immediately they stopped being curious about each other. And isn’t that so easy to do with all the busyness of life, and the hustle and bustle that young children bring to our daily routines?
The Honeymoon stage, as it’s commonly referred to, is the first few years in marriage when everything in our relationships seems to be spinning on an axis of relational bliss. All is right in the world. Do you remember those days? I do. I remember my wife and I taking carefree bike rides on warm, summer, moonlit nights. I remember taking road trips to the Sequoia National Forest and talking hour upon hour in the long car ride—always curious and always engaged. However, for me and all other couples actually, the Honeymoon period at some point slowly, or abruptly, crashes into reality with life’s unrelenting demands and the not-so-great parts of our partners’ character. Children too have a way of quickly, but gently, deflating the balloon of our Honeymoon period.
What great couples know, and what separates average couples from those couples we truly long to emulate, is that there is something even better than the Honeymoon period. Believe it or not, it does exist. This stage of relationship is called Mature Love. The problem with the Honeymoon period is that it’s largely an illusion designed by Mother Nature to help us social creatures attach to one another and to procreate. The euphoria produced by large amounts of oxytocin bonds us to one another. But actually, the Honeymoon period of all relationships is an immature type of love with little true intimacy and is mostly founded on idealized and grandiose versions of love. The Honeymoon period isn’t bad, but no couple remains there indefinitely, and all couples need to successfully move out of this stage into Mature Love in order to thrive. Sadly, the overwhelming majority of couples never get to see real, Mature Love. However, Mature Love is available to all that earnestly seek it. It won’t be given easily and will require some work to achieve it, but its fruit is worth the labor. Do you ever wonder what Mature Love looks and feels like? Here are some signposts you’ve touched Mature Love, or that you live close to her garden:
- You’re Smiling Often: Mature Love smashes our anxieties about life because we feel safe beyond measure. We are not free to laugh spontaneously and smile often if we feel unsafe.
- You Really Appreciate Each Other: Mature Love deeply values our partner’s uniqueness, even when it doesn’t complement ours. Mature Love is not competitive and views our partners with great appreciation.
- You Have a Lot of Energy: Mature Love keeps us enthusiastic and enlivened. Mature Love does not zap us of our emotional resources.
- You’re Feel Secure and Confident: Mature Love dominates our relational insecurities with no uncertainty and so you’ll never ask, “Do you really love me?” and you’ll never say “Prove that you love me.” Mature Love respects the individual’s need for aloneness, too, and never feels threatened.
- When You are Together, You Feel Inspired: Mature Love is inspirational and never stifling. We know we are in Mature Love when we are creative and imaginative in our unique ways.
Does finding Mature Love interest you? What if your relationship truly felt this way? Restoring hope in our marriages sometimes requires us to be reminded of what it could feel like, what it could look like, and what are the benefits of changing the game in our marriages. As you review the bulleted list above, imagine and dream about your relationship feeling this way and meditate on the pot of gold at the end of the relationship rainbow.
Originally published on QuentinHafner.com.
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