Keep Passion Ignited

winging it on oxytocin

Couples are often determined to keep the passion ignited in their committed relationship, but find it a principle more easily stated than lived by.

Lighting your fire
Photo by Wesley Balter

For one thing, our neurobiological system is a delicately-structured instrument that needs regular fine tuning to play its best music. At the beginning of a romantic relationship, oxytocin levels peak in our blood streams. This happens because couples falling in love open the dam so to speak on the flow of this hormone.  When they hold hands, touch the other gently, kiss, hug, and stroke, the floodgates lift. Oxytocin floods every each of their body and brain. Nothing feels as good as being with this other person.

Other responsibilities, other tasks, even other pleasures often get shoved to the back burners of daily life to make room for being together and being physically close. We know this is true from everyday experience whether we are in love ourselves or not.    But the phenomenon is also backed by careful scientific research.  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3936960/

coming in for a landing
Cooking together
Photo by Sorous Karim

This high state of romance cannot last forever. Once couples set up a household together, whether they marry or not, the multitude of daily tasks confronts them willy-nilly. We get busy with work, school, household chores, childcare, and social engagement. A day can fly by in what seems a minute and the most “romantic” thing we did was kiss our partner briefly on the way out the door.

That’s what can happen. Luckily, it’s not what always happens. Scientific research has also discovered that couple who test for high levels of oxytocin in the early stages of the relationship frequently test high later in their partnership as well. Behav Sci (Basel). 2020 Feb; 10(2): 48. Published online 2020 Feb 2. doi: 10.3390/bs10020048   Interview with these couples revealed high engagement in affective behavior that had continued past the initial stages of their romance.

lots of ways to light a fire
Football players at edge of field
Photo by Mike Benson

In our relationship, Jay and I found many ways to re-ignite the passion that first drew us together.  One of the best ways is also a lot of fun as well.  We go back to school together.  Well, not actually back to the classroom although some couples we know have done that very thing with great success. Jay and I join the myriads of alumni returning each fall to campuses all over the United States for football games.

In general folks may be divided on whether sporting events constitute a romantic venture.  I sit on the fence on this one because although I can thoroughly enjoy a local baseball game and can get really excited at the chance of seeing the Trail Blazers play, only a trip back to South Bend, Indiana, to see Notre Dame engage a foe counts as a truly romantic journey.  For Jay and me, it serves as an almost, literal re-enactment of the days when we first fell in love.

in the beginning

To enhance that feeling, we begin the day by parking on the St. Mary’s College

Tree-lined avenue
Photo by James Beeser

campus. When Jay and I were in college, Notre Dame students were all men and St. Mary’s was a college only for women. It still is although Notre Dame is now coed. By stationing our car at my old alma mater, we can walk down the broad avenue, lined with giant elm trees, which leads from the highway into the heart of the St. Mary’s campus, put our lives at risk by dashing between cars across Highway 190, and proceed down the leafy dirt road that winds past the priest’s cemetery, between

St. Mary's Lake at ND
Photo by Annie Maher

St. Mary and St. Joseph Lakes, and around the Lourdes Grotto and onto the campus itself. This path retraces the one we took whenever Jay came to pick me up at St. Mary’s for a game or another Notre Dame event.  Every step of the way holds memories for us.  We, of course, hold hands the whole way and cannot stop by kiss several times before we actually walk up the stone steps past the Grotto and into the mayhem that is the campus on a game day.

one day’s journey

We wind through the white-stone dormitories and classroom buildings and across the broad green lawns. Even the newest buildings on campus, ones we’ve never seem before imitate the style of the ones we know from our sojourn as students. Outside every dorm, a grill is going and the students, usually still guys, are selling hamburgers and sausages.  They taste even better than they did decades before because they drip with nostalgia. Slowly we make our way east toward the stadium, the same one in the same location.

Along with a knowing segment of the crowd, we veer off toward the library

Notre Dame library
Photo by Cong Wang

rather than continue on to the playing field. We mill around with a restless assortment of folks sporting the green and gold until we hear, “Here they come.” It’s the Notre Dame marching band.  The crowd splits apart, the band passes through. We reform behind them. They play. We sing. “Cheer, cheer, for Old Notre Dame. Ring out the echoes calling her name. Jay and I wrapped our arms around each other waist and let ourselves be swept along in the surge. At the stadium, the band marched down into a tunnel that led to the field and we turned toward the gate to our seats.

different, perhaps better
Notre Dame Stadium
Photo by Alex Mertz

The fact that we were going to sit together diverged from our school days when Jay would have headed off the Notre Dame student section and I would find my seat in the part of the visitor’s section reserved for “St. Mary’s Belles.”  In those days, following the game, finding each other again in the crowd took strategic planning, but now we held tightly together as we pushed through the gates and up the steps to our bleachers. As soon as the game began, it demanded our full attention, but we celebrated every good move of the team with a hug, happy that, though our seats weren’t as good as they’d been in our students, they were together.

We wanted the team to win, of course, we did.  And, unlike in our student days, which had been marred by five losing seasons in a row, Notre Dame usually came out the victor.  But win or lose, we were high on the excitement of reliving a time when life was just opening up for us, when we had found the special someone with whom we wanted to spend whole our life. On the walk

Country road
Photo by Alex Jones

back to St. Mary’s, on the ride back home and many days following our trek to South Bend, we once again ran on high octane (so to speak). The “real” us was still young and in love even if to the world we just looked like a couple of doting grandparents.

while in quarantine

Most of the time, we don’t have a whole weekend to devote to rekindling romance.  For those times, we try fun at home exercises like the ones on “For Better, Not For Worse” page of this website.  You might like them to. https://julewardwrites.com/radicalpromises-2/for-better-rather-than-worse-fun-fill-ins-for-couples

Also, I’d love to hear your special ideas for rekindling romance.

“Have enough courage to trust love one more time and always one more time.”
Maya Angelou

 

I'm hoping my memories stir up some of your own, please share with us.