“When my grandmother got arthritis, she couldn’t bend over and paint her toenails anymore. So my grandfather does it for her all the time, even though his hands got arthritis too. That’s love.”
Rebecca – age 8
Congrats, you’ve reeled in the big fish! He’s hot, he’s available, and he is definitely very interested. You’ve gotten under his skin and inside his head. You are giddy with it. When he kisses you, you get that “bottom dropping out” feeling. You think about him a thousand times a day. You have never, ever felt this way before. It is perfect.
You want things to stay this way forever, but you know they won’t. Throughout history, the greatest love stories have often ended tragically. Love that burns with a white hot heat tends to flame out. Could Cathy and Heathcliff have ever been happy together? Doubt it. Would Romeo have loved Juliet when she was 40, perhaps missing a few teeth? Or would he still be jonesing for fourteen year-olds? How to you make it through that “crazy in love” phase and emerge with a real relationship rather than the ashes of spent passion? How do you build something that will last, perhaps even a lifetime?
Next week, my husband and I will celebrate our 25th anniversary. Yikes. He’s a keeper, for sure. I won’t bore you with all the usual suggestions about how to make a relationship last, sensible though they may be:
- Never go to bed angry.
- Pick your battles.
- Set aside time for the two of you.
You can get that stuff everywhere else, in books, magazines, and a thousand different sites online. It’s all true, and important. But I’ve learned some things along the way that have made my married life more enjoyable; better than average, I’d say. Here are the 10 reasons I believe my husband is still crazy about me after all these years:
1. The most important sex organ is the brain.
In the beginning lust is all you need but, over time, the hot sex comes out of friendship and the emotional connection you’ve established. You’ve got to get your brains involved, no two ways about it.
- Talk about the things that are important to you.
- Ensure compatibility in your interests, your values, your priorities, and your senses of humor.
- Don’t be afraid to disagree and debate.
It’s the brain that falls in love, it happens entirely above the waist.
2. Don’t analyze him, ever.
Go with your gut every single time.
- He’s acting weird.
- Who is that girl who wrote on his wall?
- He didn’t text back right away.
Just stop. If there’s a problem you’ll find out soon enough. If something’s missing, you probably already know it if you’re being honest with yourself. Analyzing guys’ behavior is really an attempt to reassure ourselves, and as such it is notoriously inaccurate. It taints everything because it changes your behavior. Which then changes his behavior, and before you know it, you’ve thrown things off with your neurotic obsessing. And asking friends for advice? Doesn’t work, because if they love you they tell you what you want to hear.
3. Maintain your independence.
This is perhaps the most important advice I can give any woman.
- Protect your alone time. What, you don’t want any alone time? Yes you do, because that is just pathetic.
- Invest time and energy in your other friendships.
- Cultivate your own interests.
No matter how in love you are, you need to know that if you were alone again, you would be FINE. You have a life, and he is a part of it. He is not your everything. We all know those women who are so gaga that we say, “Boy, if he effs it up she’ll be CRUSHED.” Don’t give anyone cause to say that about you.
4. Forfeit control of him.
Get control of yourself. You cannot change him. You can’t control events, but you can control your responses and actions. Conduct yourself with dignity and grace. If he screws up, let him know, clearly and calmly. If he keeps doing it, he’s trying to tell you he doesn’t care enough. Let him be who he is, and that may turn out to be someone who loves you.
5. Hold back a bit.
Never surrender every part of yourself to any man. This is related to maintaining independence, but it’s more than that. When you share everything you’re thinking, you rapidly become boring. You want him to be filled with wonder. Wonder that you’ve chosen him, and wonder about who you are, down deep. Wonder about what you’re thinking, and what you’ll do next. The two of you are not meant to become one. You are meant to be a separate, functioning human being with private thoughts.
6. Be prepared for the tough times.
There will be times when he’s incredibly annoying. Or difficult. For months at a time. You will be fine, but something in his life will suck. You’ll be supportive and loving, but over time you’ll want to say, “Enough already!” You will find him unattractive, maybe even repulsive. You won’t be able to stand the sound of his breathing. Ride it out. Look for the moments when he is his real, old self. No matter how disconnected I feel from my husband emotionally sometimes, I love the way he looks when he heads out to work. So spiffy and British looking. (His mantra is Dress British, Think Yiddish.) Focus on those moments and they will get you through.
7. Understand that you will have lots of sex when you don’t want to.
Yes, you have the right to say no. Use it sparingly. Once when I was sick, my husband started in with the spooning, and I said, “Don’t even think of parking here.” (He cracked up.) Right now, you both want to have sex all the time. That can last for years. But seriously? Men want sex all the time, forever! They want it when they have a fever, or a backache or when you wear anything other than a flannel nightgown to bed. No, I take that back. They even want it when you look like a grandma. They want it more than you don’t want it. So have it, pretty much all the time. Oh, and do try to muster up some enthusiasm, but not so much that he’ll want to keep going all night, zzzzzzzzzzz.
8. Go crazy with the compliments.
We all need positive feedback, but men are like little kids. They are so easy to please, just by letting them know how much you appreciate them.
- He didn’t just grill dinner, he produced the best grilled fish you’ve ever had in your life.
- It’s Sunday morning and he looks so sexy doing the crossword puzzle.
- He made an effort with your friends, and you were incredibly proud to introduce him and show him off.
- It’s amazing how musical he is; he knows more about music than anyone you’ve ever met.
We all want to feel special, and it is such an easy gift to bestow on someone!
9. Be the Yin to his Yang.
Your partnership is 50/50 overall. But when you look at each area of your relationship, it might be 90/10 or 40/60 in some ways.
- He gets nervous traveling, so you’ve got the logistics under control.
- He’s a bit reserved with new people, so you make a special effort to bring him out of himself in social situations.
- He’s brilliant, but not political, so you give him your take on what’s really going on at the office.
- He loves baseball, so you learn the language of trades and ERAs and who’s on the DL.
That’s the way it should be. He’s doing the same for you, and it all evens out in the end.
10. Keep growing.
- Challenge yourself.
- Do new things.
- Be memorable.
- Learn about the world around you, so that you will have interesting things to think about and discuss. Doesn’t matter whether it’s health care reform or the latest romantic comedy.
- Make room for interesting people in your life, and let go of the toxic friendships that make you feel diminished.
- Take chances.
It’s easy to get boring. Same old, same old. Don’t let that happen, you’ll have time to be boring when you’re dead. If you’re lucky, you’ll be remembered even then as a character who left her mark on the lives of others.