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Try Punctuating Gestures For Improving Romantic Relationships

Nov 10, 2007
There are many kinds of love and romantic love is different from the others. Parental love tends to be more constant and to exert an almost involuntary pull on our emotions, a compelling and ionizing draw toward commitment and sacrifice. In contrast, romantic love goes through stages, starting with attraction, going to a decision-making or elective phase, followed by a stage in which emotions are strengthening, but still conditional, followed by passionate commitment, distinguished by joy in deep emotional union and, usually at this point, a hunger for lifetime commitment.

This is typically the high point, and most couples have a hard time keeping the emotional intensity from dissipating over time. Complementing the way romantic love tends to evolve and change is its tendency to be volatile--much more so than, say, maternal love. For while maternal love can withstand severe bad news about its object, the right kind of adulterous bad tidings can often turn the strongest romantic love into virulent hatred, complete with bloodlust for revenge.

Okay, so this is a lot of information. And stretching it out this way gives it an almost clinical texture. Can we use it for formulating a strategy to strengthen romantic relationships? Maybe. Perhaps by working backwards. The tendency for relationships to run down over time parallels Murphy's law, which says that things left to themselves tend to deteriorate. The trick then is to not leave things to themselves. Instead we plan for things to go well and then execute the plan with high energy. That's a good start, but it's also common knowledge. What about the info on love's volatility?

That reminds us of a property of life that we tend to forget, namely, that living is irreversible. The life once snuffed out cannot be restored. Relationships are delicate and subject to permanent damage by rash acts. Worse yet, we tend to remember and relive the pain in a way that makes it that much harder to forgive.

Hold on. Is there a way we can turn this process around and use it to love's longterm advantage? What if we try that in combination with the planning concept we touched on earlier? Yes, we can, but I'm cheating a bit for putting logic to something that my wife taught me years ago. For want of a better term, I'll call it a way to revitalize relationships through punctuating gestures. These take creative planning, execution, need to be sprung as surprise events, and they capitalize on our tendency to go on being affected by events that move or impress us, in this case, favorably.

How about a real life example to bring clarity? When my wife and I had been married a few years, we were still living love's bloom, but struggling to keep it sweet amidst career, cares, and kids.

One day I was coming home from work in the rain via carpool. As we turned onto my street, the driver let out an exclamation that silenced the chit chat. There ahead, in the rain at the curb, waited a woman, holding an open umbrella. "Is that your wife?" the driver asked incredulously. I don't remember answering because the magic of my wife's gesture was already affecting me. "Why did you do this?" I asked her after we had walked huddled beneath the umbrella's shelter to our apartment. "Because I love you and I thought of you in the rain, both at the same time."

Needless to say, this gesture, so spontaneous, so simple in its parts, has never left my memory, and it has never stopped nourishing my marriage, even decades later.
About the Author
Coinage of Commitment is a love story about the challenges of characters who love at a higher level than the world all around them, a level requiring mental preparation as well as emotional commitment. To learn more, visit Coinage of Commitment
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