Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Will I Ever Fall in Love Again?

Dear Viny,

My husband and I have been enjoying a poly lifestyle for about three years now, and we've both had some wonderful and loving extra relationships. A while back, I was lucky enough to go on a weekend away with my Other Significant Other. Reflecting on this now, it was nice to have a fun weekend away, but I found myself missing my husband and not really actually treasuring the presence of my OSO. I'm not sure I'll ever have a deep committed relationship (the kind I have with my husband) with anyone else. I have some experience with human development, and I was thinking about the idea of sensitive/critical periods recently. Could it be possible that we have a romantic sensitive period? If the brain stops developing in the mid 20's (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8517683), can I still fall in love the same way I did when I was younger?

Thanks for the good reads,
X. Cogitatum


Dear X,

Unfortunately, providing a definitive answer to either of your research questions – 1) “Do human beings have romantic sensitive period that ends around the same time the brain stops developing?” and 2) “Can I still fall in love the same way I did when I was younger?” – is beyond the scope of the current study.

Speaking speculatively, there is some evidence against your theory that there is a “romantic sensitive period”: my own experiences in the past decade or so (I'm 39), plus the personal experience of my two current OSO's, at least two of my ex-boyfriends, my husband's Special Person and several of the OSP's in her life, a bunch of my friends and relatives, and Mona Van Duyn (the author of a gorgeous poem entitled “Falling in Love at Sixy-Five,” which you can read here).

However, it does seem plausible that falling in love and developing deep, committed relationships may be more likely to occur before people reach the age of 30, even though it can and often does happen to people over 30 (e.g., me and the people I listed above, for starters). One of my favorite bits in Van Duyn's poem suggests she's surprised, delighted, and somewhat overwhelmed by the youthful intensity of her late-blooming feelings: “...the jaded heart / might burst into ravished applause for its son et lumiere.” Maybe it isn't just Mona; maybe most of us older folks (ACK! I can't believe I just categorized myself as “older folks”!) have jaded hearts, and it's gonna take a certain je ne sais quoi to get them beating for a Beloved.

But enough of this pseudo-intellectual crappola, X. Let's cut to the chase.

No, you are not a defective human being. You may not have particularly strong feelings for your OSO, and I can understand why you might feel bad about that. But the fact that you don't find yourself “really actually treasuring” time away with your OSO doesn't mean anything except that the two of you don't quite click. It doesn't mean anything more than that about the two of you, and it doesn't mean anything at all about human beings in general. You don't need a theory to hide behind, because there is nothing wrong with how you (don't) feel.

Yes, you are still capable of falling in love.
When you are ready to open your heart again, you will. When you are ready to invest in another committed relationship, you will. My guess is that you are not yet ready – but being not yet ready does not mean you will never be ready. Although I'm neither a scientist nor a psychic, I will go ahead and make a prediction: I hear the sound of ravished applause in your future.

Deep thoughts & bon mots,

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