Falling in love can be a wonderful experience. When a relationship is new, it’s full of the kind of romance you see in movies, complete with flowers, love letters, and promises to be together forever. It isn’t always this way, though.
Maybe you’ve started to see a difference in your own relationship. Maybe the way you used to be together has changed and you’re wondering where the romance has gone. Don’t worry or stress, your relationship isn’t burning out or ending. In fact, it’s getting stronger. The romance is still there, it’s always there. The only thing that’s changed is the meaning. Romance changes the longer you’re in a relationship.
The Nature of Romance
Advice columnist and author Heather Havrilesky best explains the evolution of romance when she wrote about her own experience with romance after 10 years of marriage — What Romance Really Means After 10 Years of Marriage. In a new relationship, you’re still looking for proof that the other person loves you and the other person is still trying to prove their love. This takes the form of classic romance when you want to shout from the rooftops, “I’m in love!” for all the world to hear.
“After a decade of marriage, if things go well, you don’t need any more proof. What you have instead — and what I would argue is the most deeply romantic thing of all — is this palpable, reassuring sense that it’s okay to be a human being.”
After 10 years of marriage, or in any long-term relationship, romance is no longer about proving anything. You already know without a doubt that the other person loves you. Instead, romance becomes the confidence that you can be human and your partner will not abandon you.
Havrilesky talks about how she got sick one night with dysentery. On her way to the bathroom, she passed out and broke her ribs on the side of the bathtub. This moment, of course, led to a much larger mess in the bathroom. Her husband of 10 years came to her aid, took care of her, and took care of the not-so-pleasant situation. His actions in this stressful moment, one of caring and void of complaint, is her definition of romance.
You see, in a long-term relationship, you forego the romance of morning text messages and constant kisses. These things are no longer necessary. You have something much more valuable. You have comfort, grace, and a love without judgment. You have the freedom to be who you are, to have bad days, and to make mistakes without your partner being angry with you or making you feel bad. True romance.
The Evolution of Romance
In her article, Havrilesky goes on to talk about how romance is “survival” and “survival is ugly”. The sad reality of a marriage or committed relationship is that one person will die before the other. The romance shared between partners guarantees that one person will be there for the end-of-life moment. “You are both mortal and you’re both surviving, together, and you’re in this to the very end.”
Your partner will sit beside you, hold your hand, and tell you they love you while signing papers, listening to doctors, and paying for treatment. Doesn’t sound romantic? After a lifetime together, it is the definition of romance.
Romance is finding the person that you can get through life with. All of life. Not just the pretty parts like walking through the park, taking a Caribbean vacation, or enjoying dinners in nice restaurants. It is putting your heads together and taking on whatever life throws your way, be that illness, children, or unemployment. All of these mundane moments actually become exciting and romantic, strengthening your relationship and your love.
Havrilesky further describes true romance as something that develops when,
“Two deluded, lazy people face a bewildering sea of filth and blood and gore together, but they make it through somehow, some way, without losing their minds completely.”
She says it is about realizing that neither of you are immortal, but it doesn’t matter because you’re in this life thing together until the very end. Her point with all of this, and what you should remember, is that marriage doesn’t lose its romance over the years. Don’t be tricked into believing that true romance is in questioning another person’s love for you or in worrying that you might lose that love.
True romance is never doubting the love between you, of laughing at life’s difficulties, and knowing that you two will survive together.