The Secret to Good Sex and Happiness in a Long Relationship
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And then, no longer thinking of my mother but of myself, I added another perspective, “Some people who have felt the high of conquests and the drama of ambivalent relationships speak of non-dramatic long-term relationships as not having the highs but also not the lows (the rejections, the chaos, the shame). Spending years recommitting to emotional intimacy with someone you love is to prefer depth, overall, to height.”
I didn’t mention that sometimes I have moments where I’m petulant about my commitment to depth rather than height. When I hear my friend’s stories of biking across Eastern Europe with her new sweetie, or when a single 50-year-old friend of mine falls in love and she is vibrant and glowing, I remember the fun of a new lover, a new relationship. If we didn’t have kids, would I prefer a life of new relationship after new relationship? Daisy chains of 18-month hookups, the fall-in-love periods, the idealization, a life of sexual tension and newness?
These moments of doubt come but the re-falling in love also comes. We are in one of those periods now: Every joke is funny, every flirty text has a charge, and we take a few minutes most mornings to linger in bed and listen to each other’s thoughts.
There are still highs in long and stable relationships — sexual highs, intimacy highs — but also the high of being a whole family snuggled on a couch; they aren’t the razor’s-edge high of getting the attention of the unavailable idealized lover. Depth versus height. Most of the time, I prefer the depths now, the calm and wonder of scuba diving; looking at the coral reef alive with tiny brightly colored fish is similar to lying next to your partner, both of you awash with love, watching your 6-month-old baby nuzzled between you as she, oh yes, falls asleep.
And there are still small dramas in my relationship — fears, stress and loneliness that lead to unnecessary fights — but we end them sooner and get over them faster. These resolutions are nice, but not a high — heartfelt apologies and appreciations, not making out in a bar.
We’ve been through enough to know that depth is a needed blessing when a parent dies, or a child is diagnosed. A high isn’t much use at all then.
I don’t have an answer for Shay about how she may want to live, but I do know that she’s not a type of person who can’t have a long-term relationship with a loving partner and I’m not a type of person who can’t ride a bike.
Shay is building a life with Aaron. And I rode a bicycle, at the age of 43.
We had gone on vacation, by a beach with a perfect bike path. We rented a bike for our son, and a tandem. I was on the back seat, a fearful sack of potatoes when I felt it, a sudden zingy promise of staying up on two thin wheels. A month after we returned from vacation, on a sunny “Sunday streets in the park” (no cars) my partner and I rented a tandem bicycle. After riding for a short time I felt the zingy promise again: I could do this alone. I rented a bike — a turquoise beach cruiser. My partner pushed the bike and ran beside me. It wasn’t easy, but I ignored fear and looked forward and peddled. I got the turquoise cruiser moving. The trees of Golden Gate Park started waving at me. I was flying. I was high. My partner was filming it, capturing my awkward but gentle crash into a curb, recording the first time I got the bike going on my own. We were happy and in love, but this high was also a solo high. I felt independent and magical. There are times we fly alone, even if we nest together.