Over at NYMag, Heather Havrilesky writes on notions of romance a decade plus into a marriage:
And it’s another thing entirely when you start to grow an alien in your belly, one that makes you sharp-tongued and menacing, and then one day it finally comes out, all covered in white slime! That is next-level romance right there! And then, suddenly, all you do is talk to the hairless alien and feed it with your own body (a miracle!), bragging about how you make food from thin air like a GOD, and then, once the alien goes to bed, you say JESUS I’M EXHAUSTED and OUCH MY BOOBS HURT and then you pass out in a smelly, unattractive heap. That’s survival! Once you have kids, even in a first-world country, you enter a kind of simulation of third-world living. You’re feeding one kid with your body while your husband crouches on the floor of a dressing room at the mall, wiping excrement off the other kid’s butt. You and your spouse are slogging through the slop of survival together.
And it’s romantic. Mark my words.
There’s truth in this article; the daily grind eventually takes us all to the grave, but joy and romance can be found when someone’s willing to walk down that road with you.
While there’s always a place for flowers, going out for a nice dinner, and the other “nice” gestures of romance, once you’ve been with someone for a while, the suspense will begin to go away. You realize this person is committed to you. One of the central ideas of this article is that North American concepts of romance are heavily influenced or based upon the suspense of the unknown. Once you accumulate years of shared experience, a confidence in your togetherness, and the pressures of work, raising a family, and getting old, if the notion that romance is rooted in suspense of the unknown can’t be changed, then of course it will feel like the romance has left the relationship. To be married is to be known. After even 10 years, you will know a shocking amount about your partner (including what they look like when they first wake up when feeling sick, which is never particularly flattering for any of us).
Find romance in the day to day. Find romance in complaining that your body is beginning to ache. Find romance in the transition to a semi-third world squalor that happens briefly after the arrival of a new baby. Find romance not in the unknown, but in the motions of surviving together.
And take your wife out for a fun evening once in a while!