This is the last of my blog post trilogy, and the one that is, in a sense, closest to my heart at the moment. It’s inspired by the movie “Before Midnight”, the third movie about Jesse and Celine, a couple who met for one night and then were reunited ten years later and now, have been together nine years and have twin daughters.
It’s a very different movie than the ones that came before, in that Jesse and Celine now truly know each other–they’re not just two people with an intense attraction, meeting for one moment in time. They’re now two people sharing a life and a family.
And of course, that’s much more complicated. It’s not just about love and romance and idealization anymore. So what does it mean to love in your late 30’s/early 40’s, to weather disappointments with life and each other and the strain of raising children?
I was very excited to see the movie and know how the question would be answered for that particular couple. What struck me as most poignant was the way the couple–away from the kids for a night–tried to recapture their old magic, to sound like their old selves, and it felt forced and a bit sad.
That’s one of the things you don’t know about love, when you’re in your twenties. You don’t realize that love requires reinvention. The way you related to each other when you first fell in love might not fit anymore as the years go by, and the children arrive.
To last a lifetime, love–and the lovers–need to adapt. And what we learn about Jesse and Celine is that in some ways, their love hasn’t quite adapted.
That leads to all sorts of resentments and hostilities that can bubble over at inopportune moments (like when you’re supposed to be having a romantic night away from the kids.)
We can become angry at our spouse for not being who we thought he/she was, as if the whole things a bait and switch. But really, in a lot of ways , we might be turning our anger outward. Because we might be disappointed with who we’ve turned out to be, or with just how hard and complicated life becomes when you need to manage so many elements.
You need to figure out how to be a spouse and a parent and a worker and a friend. The late 30’s and early 40’s, to me, is about juggling. It’s about balancing, and rebalancing. What we learn is that it’s not about finding your way, but about being able to recalibrate.
Couple in an embrace image available from Shutterstock.