Remember the incredible euphoria of falling in love? You can’t think of anything else, you smile all the time, and the whole universe takes on a rosy glow. It doesn’t matter whether you are fourteen or sixty-four, new love is an incomparable experience. Neuroscientists have found that the experience of falling in love activates the pleasure centers in the brain much like a drug, which is not surprising to anyone who has had the intense joy of romantic love.
When you fall in love at 50 or 85, you may smile at yourself for feeling so much like a teenager. You do have the advantage of years of experience and wisdom, and (unlike a teenager), you know that some of the glitter will wear off with time. Because of your experience, you also feel a profound gratitude that it is possible to have the champagne-bubble feeling of falling in love at your age. If you have done your homework as far as getting to know yourself, your values, and your goals in life, and you have picked your romantic partner accordingly, hang on and enjoy the ride.
We won’t call this stage “infatuation,” because that somehow implies it isn’t real. It’s very real, and probably one of the most enjoyable things in life. However, that ecstatic feeling, as you know, can’t be the sole basis for making decisions for the future.
What we know, once we are in midlife or beyond, is that people can be deceptively charming in the first stages of a relationship. Even while our hearts are beating away, our brains are evaluating the other person. If you have been hurt in a previous relationship after being sure that you had found “the one,” you are even more likely to want to let time reveal whether that charmer is the real thing or not.
This is where a solid sense of yourself comes in handy. If you know you can not only survive but truly thrive on your own, you are less likely to overlook shortcomings in a potential partner. You can be honest with yourself about the positive and the negative qualities of your sweetie as they reveal themselves over time, and decide whether the whole picture is still what you want.
Sadly, no one is perfect. In the beginning of a thrilling relationship, however, we fall under the spell of attraction and believe that perfection is possible. As time goes on, when you see each other clearly, if you still like what you see, the relationship can evolve into a mature, lasting love. That’s pretty thrilling, too, especially at our age.
Northwest authors Jennifer Y. Levy-Peck, PhD, a psychologist, and her husband Charles Peck are write a weekly column on midlife relationships. They are working on a new book, "Magic at Midlife: Your Relationship Roadmap for Romance After 40."
Previous Magic at Midlife Columns:
To Marry or Not?
Conversations About Death for Midlife Couples
The Couple That Laughs Together, Stays Together
Vacation Time! Leave Your Baggage at Home
Your Place or Mine? Moving In Together
How to Help Your Partner Calm Down
Creating Shared Goals
Having the “Senior Safer Sex” Conversation
Planning Your Wedding (for Mature Couples)
Too Young or Too Old to be Your Partner?
Who Pays for What on a Date
Starting a New Relationship Before Your Kids Are Grown
Why You Need a Relationship Roadmap
Living with Pets and a New Partner
Exploring New Roles
Rowing Through Life Together
Let’ Talk About Sex
Helping Your Adult Children Accept Your New Partner
In Sickness and In Health
Step-Grandparenting Can Be Grand
Enjoy Life Together
Online Dating for the Older Set
Enjoying the Single Life
Sex in Midlife Relationships: Complicated but Wonderful!
Upgrade Your Communication Skills