A V-Day Mini-Screed

Here’s my favorite thing about Valentine’s Day: Sarah F., who is one of my bests and favorites, was born today. Happy Birthday, Sarah!

Otherwise, eh. I am in mad, deep, spiritually grateful love with John, but I don’t need a day like this to remember that. And when I was single (for 4/5 of my twenties), V-Day was always a fight against The Big Mope. I knew it was a waste of energy to feel bad just because the card company whipped up a regular old Saint’s Day into a national froth of red-dyed unCool Whip, but how could I not? And that was before, like, a bunch of the Internet happened.

That’s why I much prefer the Parks and Rec-invented Galentine’s Day, which was yesterday and which went unacknowledged in my blog and largely in my life, due to massive work deadlines. I love you, ladyfriends! (Also, I think the men need one of these. How about we declare February 15 Valenguy’s Day?)

In other news, I’ve been seeing a lot of references to the Aziz Ansari interview on the A.V. Club, in which he references the Sonja Lyubomirsky piece in The New York Times (stay with me here) about the supposedly short shelf-life of love. And here’s what I have to say about that: AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRGH.

In case you don’t want to wade through all of the backstory, here’s an Ansari quote from the A.V.:

This Sonja Lyubomirsky essay in The New York Times is well worth a read and discusses a lot of the fears I have about love and marriage that I’ve discussed in my recent stand-up. In summary, research shows when you first get married, you experience the intense longing, desire, and attraction described as “passionate love.” However, after an average of two years, this wears off because of our tendency to get habituated to positive experiences. Then couples enter what researchers call “companionate love,” which is a less impassioned form of love that is a blend of deep affection and connection. Basically, the research shows—love fades.

This makes sense to me even in relationships that aren’t as serious as marriage, though. I’ve seen it in myself, and in friends’ relationships. There are things in that piece that really make me think about relationships, findings like, “Surprise is apparently more satisfying than stability,” and we are “hard-wired to crave variety.” It all goes against the romantic notion of meeting someone and falling in love and being happy with them forever, which is all that’s been ingrained in our heads since we were young.

AZIZ. We need to talk. I read that article, too, and here’s what I thought: AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRGH. Because when oh when oh when will researchers (and everyone else) learn that there is a difference between infatuation and love? And that infatuation, while it is thrilling and wild and heart-thumpingly enjoyable, is not to be trusted or desired and that we should therefore be grateful that it doesn’t last?

Real love does last, and grow, and deepen, if you pay attention and stay connected to your partner. Sure, there is a big caveat, which is that if you have kids, you’re going to struggle a bit, because it’s pretty much impossible to stay connected and process all the conflict when you’re wiping poop off of everything. But if you stay with it, just as the research Lyubomirsky’s article points to shows, that will pass. (And if you don’t have kids, you’re out of the woods on that one.)

Either way, it is NOT a universal truth that “Love fades.” The rewards of long-term, consciously tended love are huge and powerful and exciting and even, yes, surprising. I’m here to testify! 11+ years and more ferociously in love than ever.*

Soapbox going back under the desk now.

*Please may I not be smote with lethal marital conflict for saying that.

4 Responses to “A V-Day Mini-Screed”

  1. Sourfishie says:

    Oh, I love this Melissa! The bit about the rewards of a long-term, consciously tended relationship made me weepy. And I learned what you mean by not hyphenating adverbs too!

    And thanks for the bday shout-out. I’ve had such a good day already!

  2. admin says:

    Aw, you’re the best. And I’m so glad that your day is going well. I told John about the Valentine’s Day shark dropping a package, and he belly-laughed with big appreciation for Nico. Those two definitely need a Valenguy’s Date. Maybe soon. 🙂

  3. Bill E. says:

    Amen, sister. Except I would add that child rearing, amidst all the poop-wiping, is also a rich and mutually deepening experience if you approach it well. Rather than preventing or pre-empting mutual problem-solving, I have found that parenting somewhat enhances it. The reality of the child herself, and the need to make decisions on her behalf, has a way of forcing the issues. Also, parenting provides a lot of joy and pride that you can only truly share with one other person (your child’s other parent), and that can serve as a strong emotional adhesive to your partner.

  4. admin says:

    Even better, Bill! I’m so glad to hear it.

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