Ro­man­tic love is one for the ages

The Coffs Coast Advocate - - LIFE - DR NEIL FLANA­GAN

IF THE Bea­tles were right, love is all we need and money can’t buy it.

Given that we change and re­la­tion­ships change as we grow older, could it be that love changes as we age?

Singing about love can be eas­ier than try­ing to de­fine it. An­cient Greek has four dis­tinct words for love: agape, eros, philía and storge.

So what’s be­ing asked is whether agape ( a con­sum­ing pas­sion for the well-be­ing of oth­ers) or philía ( a com­pan­ion­able love) re­place eros (a love of pas­sion) as we age?

The love sto­ries we’ve been brought up with are mainly about young peo­ple. Rarely do we hear about the young lovers as older peo­ple.

And the young­ster’s fo­cus doesn’t seem to shift away from each other’s phys­i­cal­ity and what­ever sex­ual de­sire they might have for each other.

The idea of grow­ing old to­gether doesn’t get a jersey.

Older adult­hood is not without its chal­lenges, with this pop­u­la­tion fac­ing tran­si­tions such as re­tire­ment, empty nest­ing and changes in health.

Re­search tells us that five of the most highly rated el­e­ments of suc­cess­ful ro­man­tic re­la­tion­ships for older adults are hon­esty, com­mu­ni­ca­tion, com­pan­ion­ship, re­spect and pos­i­tive at­ti­tude.

(Other el­e­ments in­clude self-ac­cep­tance, in­sti­tu­tion­alised re­li­gious prac­tice, so­cial­is­ing with friends and neigh­bours.)

This means that eros takes a back seat as other el­e­ments fea­ture more promi­nently.

Most aging cou­ples drift into what seems like a com­fort­able at­trac­tion, set­tling into a deep emo­tional at­tach­ment.

They seem to un­der­stand their part­ners more and try to adapt or change in a way that is more com­pat­i­ble and com­fort­able to their part­ner.

Ma­tu­rity (of re­la­tion­ship) tends to lead to com­pat­i­bil­ity.

Any dif­fer­ences seem to get smoothed out as part­ners bet­ter un­der­stand each other.

So, if you’re an oldie and your re­la­tion­ship has changed, that’s fairly nor­mal.

It could even be ar­gued that love be­comes more beau­ti­ful and awe­some as time pro­gresses.

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