Friday, August 19, 2011

All We Need is Love

My son and his girlfriend recently celebrated their third anniversary as a couple. At ages 18 and 17, respectively, three years together is quite the milestone. At their age it is hard to predict what the future will bring, but there are times when I find myself wondering if they might just go the distance. They have their fair share of the usual teen drama and angst, of course, but at heart they seem to genuinely love and respect each other. They have similar values and visions for their future and the families are compatible, too--all of which are indicators that they could have the potential to see this thing work out long term. Then again, they also argue constantly over how much time to spend together vs. with their friends, and, sadly, both kids already have a lot of baggage: trauma inflicted by divorcing parents and friends who didn't survive their teens.

In my heart-of-hearts, I do secretly hope they'll defy the odds and find their happily-ever-after together (not that I would ever tell them that). They've been friends since they were tweens, who rode bikes and quads and roller coasters together long before the hormones kicked in, and that friendship has always been the core of their relationship. But to teenagers "long-term" is a phrase that doesn't hold much meaning yet--they still think of next month as far away, let alone next year or ten years from now, and both still have a lot of growing up and finding themselves to do before they could even begin to consider who they want to spend the rest of their lives with. 

Watching their relationship play out--enjoying it with them when its good, hurting for them when it's not so good--makes me look back at my own life and my own romantic choices. In hindsight every mistake is glaringly obvious, as is how oblivious I must have been at the time not to see any of it coming! But that is because the world of young love is a minefield, full of drama, emotional meltdowns and unrealistic expectations. Frankly, I'm glad that I'm past that stage in my life. I try to give my son what advice I can, hoping to help him avoid some of my mistakes, but I realize that, like the rest of us, he's mostly going to have to find his way through the minefield by himself.

These days I personally have no time (or energy) for drama of any kind, much less of the romantic variety. I'm not saying I'd rule romance out for the future, but for now, at least, it isn't on my radar. Yet I know many people of my own age, or older, who are still out there playing the game of love, hoping for that happy ending we all dream of. Unlike the kids, folks our age have plenty of life experience which helps us avoid most of the angst and drama (well, some of us do anyway, there are always a few who will be drama queens till the day they die), but dating and looking for love in your 40s and 50s can still be a minefield. Let's face it, most people my age are not going to put on their miniskirt and tube top and head out to the club, expecting to find other people our own age there. Oh sure, there ARE people our age in the club, but they're the creepers that everybody else avoids. There is a time and a place, and a season under the sun for everything, and that just ain't it!

So what should mature adults who want a second (or third, or fourth) chance at love do to find it? Should we do the online thing, try speed dating, or is there some other magic formula for finding our media naranja after age 40? Well, I'm not the expert by any means, but I think it all boils down to this: Be your true, authentic self and get out there doing the things you love. No one person can "make" another person be happy, and if you aren't happy with yourself or your life, chances are finding a relationship isn't going to fix that. The best any of us can hope for is to make ourselves happy, and then share that happiness with those around us. If you do that, if you make a conscious choice to live with purpose and passion and put your heart into everything you do, others will notice.

Nothing is as attractive as somebody who is happy and confident and engaged in life, and that is true whether you are twenty or twenty twice over. Add to that a genuine smile, a sincere interest in others and a ready laugh and pretty soon, I think you'll be beating the suitors off with a stick. Well, alright, maybe I'm getting a little carried away, but in truth you will attract others who mirror those same qualities. When you combine two people who have a positive outlook, shared interests and zest for life, well, you never know, sparks just might fly. And even if they don't, you'll make new friends and expand your circle of contacts. Looking for love is not unlike networking in business, it's all a numbers game. The more connections you make, the more likely you will be to get what you want, whether your goal is to sell a product or make a love match.

At the end of the day, whatever your age, the best thing to do is just love life, love yourself and love what you do, and let the rest fall into place on it's own. After all, love is a gift, one that must be freely given, not chased down and caught with a net. Now, if only somebody could explain that to Sammi from the Jersey Shore . . . .

Evan and Alyssa, Back in the Day :)
Los enamorados in a more recent pic

My grandparents, whose love story spanned two continents and six decades

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