In this very rare occasion, I decided to write about romance. It is rather a dangerous change of topic due to the highly subjective nature of the matter. I am, however, writing about it because I have recent discovered a sensible answer for a prolonged question I have had.
Can excitement in love last forever?
If you have been exploring the dating scene for a while, you may have realised the cyclical pattern of excitement. When you first met and dated someone, your world is suddenly filled with desire, hope, mutual chemistry, curiosity and positivity. You looked at their replies and subconsciously smile. You thought about them, the mutual memories you shared, and wondered about what they were doing. You talked with them everyday over texts or phone. You looked forward to the next encounter and had visions and hopes for the future. However, things changed when the honeymoon period is over. After having been with the person for a while, or officially enter a relationship, you realised the “butterflies in your stomach” feelings no longer last. You panicked thinking the excitement is gone. What is love if you are no longer excited about the company?
I, like many others, believe in true love. I, like many others, panicked on several occasions about the loss of excitement as if it was a kiss of death – The death of the hopelessly romantic true love I envisioned. Previously, there were parts of me that believe the true love is to be found – and there is someone out there who is destined for me. The excitement being with him, I thought, should be perpetual as we understand and behave like the mirror of each other, similar to two strings that vibrate in the same frequencies.
Not until recently that my opinion on this matter has changed. A while ago, a monsieur responded to my panic with a profound insight “The excitement is not lost. It simply changes forms.” This statement has got me to challenge my naive thoughts. With the afore-mentioned naïve view of true love, I did not listen when my 80-year-old grandmother told me years ago “Life partner is your best friend with great sex”. (Yes I know – my grandmother is rather liberal!) What she said was more than right. It takes as much efforts and attentions to build a fulfilling love as it does to a friendship. Excitement can last forever – if you keep building it, and realise that excitement changes forms and evolves just as fast as the development of the relationship. As I mature with more long-lasting relationship experiences, I have learnt that true love is built, not found.
In a recent occasion when I panicked of “What is love if you are no longer excited about the company?”, I decided to do something about it. I try to clearly define to myself what “love” is, and try to see for myself if that definition associates with “excitement”. After some introspection (more on how to introspect), I formed a view of my own definition of love. Love, or unconditional love, is “when you put the other person’s interest above your own, in both intentions and actions you take”. My mom, my dad and my siblings love me that way. I love myself that way. I would hope a partner, who is born a stranger and not blood-related to me, will love me in the same way. Love is selfless and probably is the most beautiful thing that happens to anyone, including myself.
As soon as I define this clearly, I found that excitement is more of a “consequence” to love, but not as a “goal” itself. I was excited because I truly cared, and loved. The opinion of “excitement” being a derivative of love was echoed when I stumbled across this interesting question and answer on Quora:
How do people stay in long term relationships? You do everything together, know everything about the person and things are just not so fun anymore.
Answer by Franklin Veaux – Author of More Than Two: A Practical Guide to Ethical Polyamory
If you’re in a long-term relationship and things are not so fun any more, it’s not because long-term relationships are boring. It is because you have chosen to make things be not so fun any more.
Maybe you don’t know you’re making that choice. Maybe you’re not even aware that it is a choice. But make no mistake: you are choosing to let things get that way.
In the beginning of a relationship, when you’re all excited, you make choices that make the relationship exciting. If you have a date scheduled but you’ve had a crappy day and you’re tired, you go on the date anyway–hell, the date might even be an antidote to your crappy day, something you look forward to.
When you’re in the new stages of a relationship, you do things together. You go on adventures. You turn in toward each other.
In a long-term relationship, if you’re like many people, you start making different choices. If you’ve had a crappy day and you’re tired, you take the path of least resistance. You sit in front of the TV watching reruns of old sitcoms instead of engaging with your partner. You forget that engaging with your partner used to be something to look forward to, something that could make a crappy day brighter. You stop having adventures. You stop turning in toward each other and start taking each other for granted.
Then you wake up one morning to realize that the magic is gone. But you don’t think about the fact that the magic is gone because you drive it away; instead, you think “we had magic when we were new, so the solution must be to find somebody new.”
If you want long-term relationships that aren’t boring, don’t do that. Make other choices. Don’t stop having adventures. Turn toward each other.
What Franklin said was extremely insightful: long term relationship is boring not because of our familiarity with each other, but because of our active choices taking it for granted.
So the question of the longevity of excitement, tracing it to its root, quickly becomes, “How can I continuously love this person?”. I have recently discovered the three keys to build a long lasting relationship through observation and my own practice:
Appreciate 1) who he or she is as a person (their “core”) and 2) what he or she does (their behaviour). In the end of the day, this individual has chosen to spend a significant amount of time and share a significant part of their life with you. Be grateful of this company you have been gifted with, because he or she has also treasured your core and your behaviour in the same way. It’s well known in scientific research, e.g. in this article by Harvard University, that constant gratitude and appreciation will make you happier.
When you first started dating, your constant communication and desire for engagement was derived from the needs for connection. You built stronger and stronger connection and bond with him or her in a meaningful way. Overtime, as you settle, the effort to connect is suddenly slacked as your understanding of the person becomes stagnant. We assume we have sufficiently understand the person and pay less and less effort in understanding them further, although the person also evolves and change everyday as fast as we do. Let’s compare this act with friendship. Have you ever felt that a friend became distant after a long period of less engagement and communication? With that friend, did you feel you ran out of topics to talk about? The outcome of loosening connection in relationship is the same. With a lack of connection, you start to feel like the partner become more distant, and that you both ran out of topics to talk about. Where was the days when you can talk on the phone for hours? Here I give you the remedy to such symptoms: Rebuild connections. Connection requires active mutual engagement – don’t slack it.
What does comfort have to do with excitement? In a stable relationship, comfort is the new excitement. Excitement is simply not lost; it just transforms itself. The foundation of this new form of excitement is acceptance and mutual understanding: You are fulfilled with a sense of comfort being with the partner as they accept you. In the beginning of the relationship, you strive for acceptance – the excitement of such process could be thrilling. However, how strange it is – when you have finally be comfortable with the partner’s acceptance and mutual understanding, you panicked because of the “seemingly lost” excitement. You are on the great path of building your life together and upgrade your relationship. There is no reason for panic because the interactions have just “Level 2” itself where the excitement has transformed.
Excitements transform itself. Love, and continue to love, is the key to the perpetual excitement.
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Illustration by my friend Karl –
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Many thanks, What an article:)