Love is one of the most rewarding aspects of life. Being young and in love is bliss, but as years pass, we might look back on those days of early love and wonder if we’ve changed too much. Communication is key in any relationship. Daphne de Marneffe, author of THE ROUGH PATCH, shares why we must make sure our conversations with our partner are intimate and real.
You are young. You are in love with the person you are going to marry. The physical attraction is intense, of course. But what’s extraordinary, almost magical, is the way it feels to talk. Time feels dense, expansive, precious. You are effortlessly curious and endlessly intrigued. You want to go deeper, to know and to understand the person you now love. When you talk, it’s about so much more than conveying information. There’s cadence, rhythm, intensity, silence. Bursts of laughter, expectant pauses, the enthused tumbling of words. It’s a delicious, delightful whole-body experience.
Now here you are, ten or fifteen or twenty years later. Family life is full of demands. Children, along with their pleasures, limit your time to talk to each other, while adding to the topics to be discussed. Logistics crowd out emotions; bad habits carve conversational ruts. Your tender inner voice that whispers, “Turn toward him,” or “I need her,” is drowned out by the din of frustration or the tasks of the to-do list. It feels almost foolish to continue hoping that conversation might lead to sharing and meaningful connection. You find yourself searching for a story to make sense of what you’ve lost. You look back wistfully on the blissful days of early love, and wonder if you’re just too different.
Time wears on, you feel it passing. Your repetitive, fruitless spousal exchanges start to feel like a drain on the life energy you have left. If this is what talking is going to be, you’d rather garden, or cook a good meal, or watch some football. Do you still even truly desire to talk? Did you both let that desire die? Perhaps. But if you’re honest, you don’t think so. Deep down, you still yearn to find your way back to the nourishing, beautiful conversation you once shared.
All my talk of self-realization and conversational skill is in the service of helping you attain that goal. Throughout these pages, I’ve encouraged us to look within, particularly when things feel urgent, or difficult, or dead. At such moments, if we can allow our defenses to soften, we can find a golden-ring awareness. We each bravely offer our feelings into the shared space of the relationship, and we think together about what’s before us. In this space, we take our emotions more seriously, not less. We don’t try to grow out of, or get past, or get over our feelings; we try to increase our skill at expressing them. I’ve discussed the extraordinary power of self-awareness (“I see what I am doing”) and self-responsibility (“I’m trying to change it”) to shift almost any marital interaction from a standoff to a collaboration. When we cultivate our capacities for compassion, curiosity, and self-control, we can speak, and listen, in a richer and livelier way.
In a good relationship, the early bliss lives on as a wonderful memory and inspirational resource and returns from time to time, unbidden, surprising you with its potency. But what matters most is what’s possible on the other side of love’s first blush: conversations that are rewarding, intimate, and real. It’s not that we come together in electric recognition and pure understanding, then fall away from that through conflict, difference, and the reassertion of selfish needs. Rather, we come together in a rush of passion, then we achieve love through the ongoing conversation we’re able to create, one body to another body, one mind to another mind, one heart to another heart. The conversation by which we engage each other is love.
If you enjoyed this sneak peek, why not start at the beginning? Listen to the Introduction of The Rough Patch audiobook now.
It’s also important to keep the spark alive. Read more about how to keep sex alive in long-term relationships.