How Do We Define Love
As a hopeless romantic, love is something for which I have always pined. Most who have lived long enough, would say love is something that gets better with age, kind of like a fine wine. It knows no age limits, it accepts imperfections, and it strengthens over time. The butterflies, maturing love, the super strong feelings, a deep connection with someone is what I always wanted. I’ve defined love differently over the years; when I was a kid, love to me was if a boy checked the box “yes” if he liked me, sometimes I would even settle for “maybe”.
Falling in love is a different experience for everyone. The first time I watched “Sleepless In Seattle” I was fairly certain I had just learned everything I needed to know about magic and romance. Surely my penmanship would need some work if I was going to find love but it would be a simple tradeoff to find my prince charming. It only got worse for me in my teenage years with the awkward hand holding and the dramatics of why he wouldn’t call. Culture doesn’t champion the passion as easily as Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan did in the 1993 flick.
Dr. Michael Hogan at NUI Galway identifies the top-five highly rated elements of successful romantic relationships for older adults as honesty, communication, companionship, respect and positive attitude. Honesty, the most highly rated relationship factor in the older adult group, is defined as being ‘able to confide in one another in a truthful way’. Research suggests that as we age, self-acceptance of our ‘true selves’, increases making honesty a less vulnerable position. Maturity comes with age, so it would only make sense that “falling in love” changes in form. Compared to youth, our outlook on love tends to shift as we age. Kate Burke, a Psychology lecturer examining the importance of romantic relationships for people over 6o says,
“In Western societies, feelings of passion and desire associated with the early stages of a relationship often evolve and transform into feelings of compassionate, committed, and friendship-based love in later life. Older adults may thus drop elements such as attraction from their representations of romantic relationship success as they develop a more mature understanding of relationship success over time.”
Anniversaries are important milestones to celebrate as meaningful time passes. My parents cemented 42 years of marriage this year and with each passing year, it becomes more of a family celebration. We celebrate not only the time they’ve spent together, but the realization that they are the real thing. Their love is envious. Their common narrative and endless stories can entertain us for hours, simply by sharing the lives they’ve had together. Aging has its advantages, and one is the certainty that “till death do us part” can exist.
I personally found true love in my 30’s and I would have waited decades longer to have found the same person. Regardless of when you find your true love, I think many will agree how we define love changes. After all, love should change with age, because we change.