This article was published in dr. rosiello’s sedona times psychology column in 2008.
The holidays are a time for thinking about the people who we love, who we have loved, who we wish we were still loved by, or the people who we are just glad to be got rid of and for whom we’re thrilled we no longer feel the emotional tug to love. But, what exactly is love? And how do we know if it’s too late for love?
Let’s first start with the question of what is ‘love’? Love is a very complex phenomenon, one that is full of meaning, and yet, I believe, it’s a word that many of us can’t define all that well. If we define it, I’ll bet the next person has a different definition. So, when one person talks about love, really no one else in the room knows exactly what that person is talking about. I’m going to step out on a limb, seeing if I can come up with a definition that has meaning to you, so that I can hold your attention and you’ll read up to the very last sentence of this article.
Love, to me, is a deep human connection to another person that brings with it aspects of warmth, tenderness, generosity, graciousness, acceptance, and forgiveness. Love is different than romance or infatuation, which is what we feel when we initially "fall in love" with someone, and unfortunately it’s just too short lived. Romance is important though, because it is something we all hold onto during difficult times in a relationship. It has always seemed to me that lovers attempt to emotionally stabilize each other, as well as themselves, by offering creative professions of love and desire. Lovers seem to do this in an attempt to feel similar to each other or maybe it’s an attempt to ward off feeling different than each other.
Lots of us in our community of Sedona experienced romance a long time ago and now that we’re older, we’re more emotionally invested in maintaining our long-term relationship because we feel a deep caring in our companionship with our loved one and a sense of history and a familiarity. This is real love. It’s not a rip roaring let’s yell it out to the whole world that we’re "in love" kind of feeling. It’s a quiet love, a knowing the other person love, a sense of seeing ourselves or recognizing our self in the other person kind of love. It’s a more profound older love, one that is held by two people who have committed to each other for a lifetime.
But, what about those people who have lost their partners and think they don’t want to begin another relationship? Over the holiday, I visited a relative of mine who is in her early 80s and widowed for many years, and she kept repeating "it was too late in her life to meet someone." Initially, I wanted to encourage her to change her mind because research indicates that we live longer when we’re in relationships than if we live alone. On the one hand, I was impressed by my relative’s emotions because she seemed to feel freer since the death of her husband. Still, it was also clear to me she was anticipating her own demise, which she indicated. Her new relationships were limited to those people who kept an eye on her and who helped her perform her daily routine. Does a lack of love in life lend itself to an earlier death? It reminds me of the old adage "dying from a broken heart."
In our Sedona community, I have become acquainted with many people, both old and young, who are falling in love, anew. Two people I know, both of whom are around 60 tell a story about their new love being so evident that when they were walking hand-in-hand the other day, another couple walking toward them, broke out singing "Hello Young Lovers." For this couple and others like them, they speak of their life together as though they’ll both live into their 90s. Is it the energy of the red rocks? Or do lots of us just have rocks in our heads and keep heading into being in love, no matter how old we are just because we love the feeling of love and the sense of future and future health that being in love provides?
In truth, love is key to life and we live life to the fullest when we feel loved or in love and by that I mean, when we feel tenderness, warmth, acceptance, a sense of knowing another and of being known by another. Believing that it’s never too late for love allows a world of emotional health and a sense of future to develop in our lives whether we’re young lovers or not. The holiday season is a wonderful time to consider the possibilities of love in Sedona.