I constantly tell the woman I’m in love with how beautiful, smart, funny, talented, insightful, sexy and nice she is, as well as many other things that I can’t say here, and she nervously laughs for a moment before kissing me and saying thank you.
“If you told me any of those things a few years ago,” she said a few nights ago, “I wouldn’t have been able to take them in. I probably would’ve run for the hills.”
“Don’t worry,” I said. “A few years ago, I wouldn’t have been able to tell you any of those things.”
We agreed that we couldn’t have been in love with each other at any other time in our lives except right now, that we’re lucky to have found each other when we did.
It may have taken us a while, but we know who we are and what we’ve been waiting for, and we see it all in each other and that fills us up like nothing has ever done before. I know we’re still in the wild-thing beginning of love, which is always intoxicating and thrilling to the bone. But what’s different for us, something that I’ve never experienced, is a kind of shorthand we share that cuts to an incredible depth of feeling that can only be achieved by people who have, as they say, been around the block. Which is the circuitous way of saying that it rocks to be this old. And that, in a nutshell, is why middle age is the best time to fall in love.
I haven’t been in love all that many times in my life. In fact, the only other time I’ve really, really been in love was with my ex-wife. She was 21, I was 26 and we loved each other before we even knew who we really were. We grew up together, had children together, built a life together — until we finally realized that we would never be happy together.
It wasn’t that we had grown apart so much as it was that we had grown into the people we really are. For a lot of us, it’s not until middle age that we feel comfortable in our own skin. It’s also not until middle age that we figure out what’s important and what we really want in life. So when my wife and I did all of this figuring out, we agreed that what we wanted was something neither of us could give to the other.
After we divorced, I went looking for that person and it took me a few more years to find her. The ridiculous checklist, stored in the back of my head forever, filled with all the admirable characteristics I’ve ever wanted in a soul mate, slowly began to evaporate the first time we kissed. A few weeks later, I knew she was the one and she knew I was the one, and the simple math of love equals game over, we’ve won!
I was talking to my sister the other day, trying to explain what exactly was going on in my heart and mind. I hesitated to call it “mature love” because I hate to think of myself as fully mature, especially given that most of the time I walk around feeling more like a teenager. But what I’m experiencing is a kind of true love that isn’t written about in sappy songs or featured in standard romantic comedies.
The best way I can describe it is that it feels at once effortless and rock solid, unbearably light with unfathomable depth, surprising yet richly deserved, like we first met and have known each other forever, which again is the circuitous way of saying that it rocks to be this old.
I told the woman I love that I was going to be writing this essay and asked her for a quote.
“Once you find true love, it doesn’t matter how long it took to get there because it’s happening right now,” she said. “You feel it was well earned and worth the wait. When you fall in love in your 50s, you feel 19 and 28 and 32 and 45 and you feel so lucky to be the smartest, sanest self you’ve ever been.”
I’m the one who feels so lucky.