Written by Eve Gaal
In my college days of yore, we’re talking the seventies and eighties, couples wrote letters to each other instead of tweeting. We chatted at social events and hugs were actual embraces instead of words followed by happy faces. Waxing nostalgic, I remember the romantic cards, poems and notes that I saved in a special drawer filled with dreams. Dreams of happiness, marriage, children and everlasting love. Don’t laugh, yesterday I had lunch with a friend who was married over fifty years ago and she said it’s possible.
Nowadays, we live in a short message world and our attention span has been narrowed down to 30 second spots and 140 characters. Barraged by technical gadgets we juggle our multitasking lives and forget about the human touch that is so important for relationships to survive. Marital vows insinuate we want our love to last forever and yet our priorities can quickly fall out of balance when we turn to quicker meals, one touch appliances and email. We live in a society that can’t commit to a gym membership and yet we expect love to last forever? Click for agree. We don’t use erasers anymore we just push delete. I remember being thrilled they invented Wite-out, slathering it with abandon on my typewriter like a Midwesterner at the beach using SPF 50.
Don’t get me wrong, technology is great, but we’re talking about feelings here and that means we might want to slow down a bit. Newsflash, our inner wiring, and the circuits inside of us are different than those produced in Silicon Valley.
In my marriage of twenty years my husband and I compromise on almost every issue. Sometimes he chooses the movie, sometimes I do. Sometimes we argue about pasta and whether it should be al dente or soft. Don’t get me started on the different aspects of toilet paper–one-ply, two-ply, quilted and tensile strength–eight pack or giant warehouse bliss? In fact, the more things we argue about, the more I realize he cares. If my husband sat around grunting answers and agreeing with everything, I’d definitely start to worry. I’d probably call an ambulance. What one woman might call ornery, I call love. Truth be told, I’m no Stepford Wife either. After twenty years, he has accepted my firm position as a backseat driver, but still doesn’t like it when I scream something stupid like, “Turn here,” only to find out I’m flat-out wrong. Who can blame him? I never said I was perfect and if we’re all looking for the perfect spouse well then we might as well forget it. Delete?
When I think of balance, and how important that is in marriage, I imagine a tightrope walker above Niagara Falls. He has love pushing him ahead and hateful wind ready to topple him into a certain death and complete failure. Yet somewhere deep inside of his heart, he has the desire to remain focused. He wants to continue to entertain and finish what he started. Holding his head up high he takes another cautious step, moving forward. Difficult? Of course, but definitely worth it every step of the way.
Now I’m on the other side, and the tightrope walker is actually my husband. We’ve taken a vow to meet in the middle and though I’m always scared things could go wrong, I take another step. Thank goodness he meets me in the middle, carrying me back to safety.
Scientists Semir Zeki and John Romaya of the Wellcome Laboratory of Neurobiology at the College of London recently located the circuitry for hatred in the brain, along the same emotional corridor as romantic love. Their research shows that although love and hate appear to be polar opposites, they share the same emotional motor systems for action, with one interesting caveat. Those in love actually shut down most areas of judgment and reason in the cerebral cortex while in love, which explains why lovers are less critical of each other, illustrating in essence, the “fine line between love and hate.” In other words, love is on our side. It’s wired with the best software imaginable. When we’re in love we give each other a break. It’s a little bit like the old saying about wearing rose colored glasses, except these glasses are very important for our romantic relationships. Maybe more like nonjudgmental goggles than glasses because of all the other things we’re up against as a couple. Fortunately, as long as we’re truly in love, hateful behavior can’t sneak out and make things worse.
Real communication can solve many of our problems and bring hope and love back into the equation. Balance and compromise are not just old fashioned, vintage ideas that originated back when apples and blackberries were fruit, but can be borrowed from the past and reconfigured into a modern context. Face to face speaking, hugging, laughing and kissing are still very important—because divorce doesn’t make anyone LOL.