Click here to read an original op-ed from the TED speaker who inspired this post and watch the TEDTalk below.
I looked lovingly into my husband's eyes as his sweet goodnight seemed to fall from his lips like water. His smile was still my favorite thing about his dark chocolate-colored face. I touched his cheek. Well, not his actual cheek. It was the cheek on the computer screen as we video chatted, separated by about 2000 miles. We had been married for a month and conversations like these were a nightly ritual. This was 12 years ago when we were both active duty in the military. I was stationed in Okinawa and he in South Korea. Our "cam-versations" were the best part of our young married lives.
Today, the technology of our culture advances the conveniences of our lives like lightening. There's never a reason to wait for anything. Not even love and intimacy. What used to be sacred space, like dating, is now replaced with a profile on a website with match-ups and meet-ups and linking ins. Your face can be booked, people halfway around the world are now in your social circle, and the sound birds make is synonymous with authentic communication. Twelve years ago phones were not smart, people were. And you got face time by sitting across from a person breathing their air, not by using a Wi-Fi connection.
While TED speaker Esther Perel dissects and uncovers the secret to desire in long-term relationships, I'm wondering past desire and looking to the long term part. In a social space where cell phone contracts last longer than a committed relationship, I look at my 12-year marriage and marvel at what makes ours work.
We are, after all, a military family. I served in the Air Force for 10 years and my husband is now in his 18th. Our dating, year-long engagement and first year of marriage were either in two different countries or on different continents altogether. We were married for three years before we were under the same roof for one full year. We've seen deployments, short tours, short duty assignments (less than 30 days at a time), and while our story is certainly not an anomaly for military marriages, we are outliers among our civilian peers.
Desire is just the beginning. Ecstasy, eroticism and great sex could all be the icing on a deliciously rich, multilayer cake. If this is so, and since I'm bringing a cake into question let's just go with it, what gives the cake substance? What fortifies it under the pressure to dole out all that passionate soap opera sex over time? In the heat of parenting, working, and creating a life together, what transitions a relationship from growing to thriving to long-term?
I believe it's something hardwired into the human being, and we're so busy doing we're missing it altogether. It is connection and at the same time separation.
Connection must be established, and on its fringes intimacy, in order to sustain separation. I believe connection is born in spirit. There is, at the core of man, a spiritual need to bond, to experience another. We were never created to exist apart from one another or from other living things. Even animals recognize this need. It is why geese hang out in gaggles and wolves travel in packs. Connection is seeing me on the inside, receiving where I am, how I am so deeply it is divine. That is how relationships are richly developed. It begins in spirit, magnetizes your soul and fuses your heart to another.
I believe what shifts a relationship to long-term status is the connectedness of couples and the separation of space and time. -- Lori Bell
So when a separation happens the connection is not broken. It's felt even stronger. The year I lived in Maryland and my husband (boyfriend at the time) lived in Tokyo we missed each other terribly. We felt separation bearing down on our soul-bonded connection. Connection sustains separation. This is why reunions can be so sweet and a couple, friends, parents and children can pick up right where they left off.
I believe what shifts a relationship to long-term status is the connectedness of couples and the separation of space and time. They both insist you look deeper into the heart of not only the person, but the relationship itself.
In my military marriage my husband and I did not chose to separate from each other and certainly not for long periods. However it was during this time where our relationship transitioned from the wonder and curiousness of love into a foundation for future happiness. We learned to disregard pettiness. We discussed only what mattered. We were careful to acknowledge what hurt and what disappointed while taking care to do more of what affirmed and uplifted. We emailed, but wrote letters most often. The best gifts were insignificant in form but priceless in meaning. These times of separation for us were undoubtedly the most precious in our marriage.
This is the cake upon which the delicious icing -- ecstasy, desire, eroticism, and awesome sex -- rests. This is the recipe for long-term love. Getting and staying connected. Experiencing the sweetness of separation and rewards of reunion. Have your cake... and by all means enjoy the icing.
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